Giants Tower Over Series; Giant Names Go Free

The World Series ended this week, with the Giants bringing San Francisco their first championship. Also, free agency kicks off Sunday, so let the games begin! Host Scott Simon talks about the week in sports with Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and ESPN the Magazine.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

And it's time now for sports.

(Soundbite of music)

SIMON: The World Series ended this week with the Giants bringing San Francisco their first championship. Free agency kicks off tomorrow, so let the games begin.

Joined now by Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and ESPN the Magazine. He's at member station WFCR in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Morning, Howard.

Mr. HOWARD BRYANT (ESPN): Good morning, Scott. The Giants won. The Red Sox have won. The White Sox have won. What about your Cubs and what about the Indians? They're the only two left.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Oh, I'm so glad you brought - and good morning to you too, my friend. Yes.

Mr. BRYANT: Starting off with a bang.

SIMON: I wouldn't have realized that if not for your help.

Listen, World Series got in the way of trick-or-treating this year and, arguably, campaigning in the midterm elections. Is Major League Baseball seriously interested in getting the season over before they start running into Santa's reindeer?

Mr. BRYANT: Well, supposedly they are. Changes are coming. Next year's World Series will end before Halloween. And there's a great deal of conversation about what to do and how to do that. Do you - the season is going to start next season a week early - March 31. They're going to talk about more doubleheaders and getting rid of some off days and to try to condense the season without contracting the season.

The owners are completely against cutting the season back to 154 games. So you've got to find some way to play more games with the same amount of days actually.

SIMON: Yeah. Well, the math didn't seem to work. But...

Mr. BRYANT: Well, the math doesn't work because it's a weather sport. How are you going to play in March in Minnesota?

SIMON: Yeah. Exactly. March 31st, my gosh.

Let me ask you before - I mentioned that free agency is beginning. So Cliff Lee just gets sucked up the New York Yankees? Is that what happens?

Mr. BRYANT: Well, you have to look at the number of teams that are going to be able to pay him the 20 to 25 million dollars a year it's going to cost to keep him. The Texas Rangers say they're going to be competitive. The CEO, Chuck Greenberg, told me during the World Series, we're not going into negotiations with a pea shooter.

But let's face it. The Yankees are one of the only teams that are going to be able to afford that type of money. They're going to be able to offer him six or seven years at 20 to 25 million dollars a year. There aren't a lot of teams that can offer that kind of cash.

SIMON: Derek Jeter becomes a free agent, right?

Mr. BRYANT: Derek Jeter's a free agent. And Derek Jeter is in a very interesting position. He's a very interesting character right now, because he is the face of the New York Yankees. He's the face of Major League Baseball right now, especially coming out of steroids. He's supposedly the clean guy. And adamantly the clean guy.

He's also a 36-year-old shortstop, which you aren't going to have that many on a championship team. And he's also 72 hits away from the golden 3,000 hit club. So someone's going to have to blink here.

Derek supposedly wants a five to six year contract for a 36-year-old. And the Yankees aren't really willing to pay that. But how on Earth can you imagine, can anybody imagine, Derek Jeter not being in a New York Yankees uniform next year?

SIMON: I have to ask you while we're talking about Derek Jeter and the NL East, we have - excuse me, AL East, of course.

Mr. BRYANT: Oh, boy.

SIMON: We have - Major League Baseball's winter meetings are just a few weeks away. Do you hear of any surprises lurking there?

Mr. BRYANT: Well, the big surprise is going to be the playoffs next season. There is a conversation - I wouldn't say proposals on the table right now - but conversation and ideas about adding another wild card team. And the wild card -we already have one wild card, but now there's talk about next season having one wild card team play a second wild card team in a one-game playoff.

And the reason behind that is to stimulate competition in September between two teams that are in the same division that have already made the playoffs under the old system. And you don't - so you're not that wild card team that goes the whole way and then has to play one more game to make the playoffs. It's to keep teams playing.

I think, actually, what it really does is it virtually guarantees the Red Sox and the Yankees - the two biggest teams in baseball - to consistently always have a chance to be in the playoffs.

It's a very controversial thing, considering that under this system - if we did the system for next season, you'd have the Red Sox and Yankees playing a one-game playoff, when one team was six games better than the other. And I'm not sure what that means for fairness. But, believe me, things are moving in that direction for next season.

SIMON: Howard Bryant, senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN magazine, thanks so much.

Mr. BRYANT: My pleasure.

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