Baseball Races Go Down to the Wire

Tight races and great comebacks mark baseball's playoff race. As the Yankees and Indians surge, the Chicago White Sox are on the brink of one of the great collapses in baseball history. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Ron Rapoport offers his thoughts to Scott Simon.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Coming up, the Dixie Cups now without a home.

Time now for sports. Hurricane Rita is denying the Gulf Coast region their beloved distraction, some might even call it a religion. Many college football games have been canceled or postponed this weekend, continuing a season that's already been mightily disrupted by Hurricane Katrina. Ron Rapoport joins us now from Chicago.

Ron, thanks for being with us.

RON RAPOPORT reporting:

Thank you, Scott.

SIMON: The LSU-Tennessee home opener has been moved twice now, first by Katrina and now...

RAPOPORT: Exactly. And...

SIMON: Yeah, when is it gonna be played?

RAPOPORT: Well, they're gonna play it Monday night. You know, they wanted to play it today and LSU made--they suggested tomorrow. Tennessee was talking about forfeiting the game, which as you point out in Southern football as, you know, those two words just don't go together in the same sentence.

SIMON: Yeah.

RAPOPORT: But they've moved it till Monday. And, normally, this would be one of the big games on today's college schedule, the third-rated team in the country against number 10. I think everybody's just hoping that things have calmed down to the point where people can enjoy going to a game with a clear conscience, you know.

SIMON: Yeah, exactly. We'll note here that--let me see--Southern University and Albany State won't play this weekend because of Hurricane Rita's impending arrival and the schools couldn't get together on a time. The game time for Mississippi State and Georgia scheduled--has been changed to 6:45 PM. It's really playing--this is the least of the damage of the storm, but it's really playing havoc with the schedule and certainly the concerns of players, isn't it?

RAPOPORT: Well, it is. I mean, I'm not sure we can--it's been very fluid the last 48 hours. I'll tell you, for instance, when Texas A&M beat Texas State in College Station Thursday night, that was a game that was moved up 24 hours. Scott, they told their fans to stay home and most of them did...

SIMON: Yeah.

RAPOPORT: ...while the traffic from the evacuation from the coast was streaming by outside. They gave away rain checks. That might be a first in college football.

SIMON: Let's talk about the major-league baseball season because we're heading towards the close of the season and there are close races, particularly for the wild cards. Look, ever since we talked about the Chicago White Sox being the best team in baseball, they have been just about the worst. They were once 15 games ahead of the Cleveland Indians, they're now just one and a half games up on the tribe. And the Indians are very hot. Are the White Sox on the verge of what would be the biggest collapse in baseball history?

RAPOPORT: They're driving us crazy here in Chicago. I mean, you know, this is a town that knows what suffering is all about. If they were to blow this 15-game lead, which they had on August 1st, that would be the worst collapsing by any team in baseball history. Nobody's ever blown a lead that big. Now they won last night, finally, but they're still only a game and a half ahead of Cleveland which just seems like they're never going to lose again. Scott, you've been in Chicago, you've lived here.

SIMON: Yeah.

RAPOPORT: I'm not sure the White Sox could open for business next year if they blow this.

SIMON: Well, I was actually in Chicago earlier this week, saw a game--by the way, sitting next to Jerry Springer. I don't mind dropping a name. Together, we brought them victory in the 10th inning, but I tell you, White Sox fans will say, `We're not Cub fans. We don't find losers loveable. We're not going to embrace these guys. Back up the truck, get out of town,' if they can't win this.

RAPOPORT: No, no, they're booing Ozzie Guillen and the players now, and this is a team that's in first place and supposed to be on their way to the World Series. They are not taking this collapse at all well.

SIMON: The BoSox and Yankees are gonna go to the wire, aren't they?

RAPOPORT: It looks like it. The Yankees have now won five straight and they're leading the division by a game and they're leaving Cleveland and Boston to fight it out for the wild card. So the Yankees look tough. They're winning when they have to, and with all the money that George Steinbrenner's paying them, they better win.

SIMON: And isn't it interesting? You can have teams that will just fall--that perhaps will fall a game short of winning the division that have no chance of winning the wild card.

RAPOPORT: Yeah, yeah, well that's what baseball is about at this time. Everybody loves to play the role of spoiler, a team with a losing record to knock a good team out of the playoffs.

SIMON: Well, thanks very much. Ron Rapoport is a columnist for the Chicago Sun Times and our sports guy here on WEEKEND EDITION.

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