Baseball Season Hits Halfway Mark at Full Speed

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As Tuesday's All-Star game approaches, a review of the first half of the 2006 baseball season reveals several great storylines. How will the rest of the year play out? Ron Rapoport and Scott Simon discuss the prospects.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Time now for sports.

The All-Star Game will be played Tuesday at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. Ozzie Guillen, and seven of the Chicago White Sox, face Houston manager Phil Garner, who has six New York Mets on his side. The winning league gets home field advantage in the World Series. But really now, is there any question which league is better? American League teams have won 154 games in interleague play this year to the National League's 98. The American League hasn't lost an All-Star Game since 1996 and has won six of the last eight World Series. It's getting to be like Lennox Lewis versus Mickey Rooney.

Speaking of Mickey Rooney, Ron Rapoport joins us from California.

Ron, thanks for being with us.

RON RAPOPORT reporting:

Thank you, Scott. I think Mickey's on the line and he resents that remark.

SIMON: Oh, I - I'll apologize immediately thereafter. Look, does interleague play take any of the magic out of the All-Star Game?

RAPOPORT: No. No. Not at all, Scott. And I'm a big fan of the All-Star Game. It's always a lot of fun to see the top players in the game get together at the middle of season. But even most of the people who are skeptical about interleague play originally, they've been turned around. And it provides a jolt of excitement at exactly the time when the game needs it, during the dog days of the summer when the season can start to drag. And in terms of both increased attendance and publicity during the season, it just can't be beat.

SIMON: We've heard so many theories about why the American League seems so much stronger. What's your own half-baked theory?

RAPOPORT: That's very simple, Scott. It's the Cubs.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAPOPORT: I mean...

SIMON: They drag the whole league down, do they?

RAPOPORT: Well, I mean, playing six games with the White Sox - against the White Sox doesn't help. And the poor darlings are four and 11 over all so far in interleague play. But I kid a little. I mean there are some other embarrassments too. The Dodgers, the Pirates, the Phillies, the Braves, they've all been awful. And how do you explain the Cardinals? They lead their division...

SIMON: Yup.

RAPOPORT: ...but they're five and 10...

SIMON: But they're leading the minor league...

RAPOPORT: ...in interleague play.

SIMON: ...at the moment, which is...

RAPOPORT: They just can't get it together, Scott. There are only two teams in the National League that are over .500 in interleague play this year, the Rockies and the Giants. Go figure.

SIMON: Now, the Detroit Tigers, the Chicago White Sox, the Boston Red Sox are the best teams statistically in baseball. Finally you get to the New York Mets who are having a wonderful season. But you have to go a little bit into the order to get to a National League team. What are you looking forward to most in the second half?

RAPOPORT: Some really good pennant races, Scott. Some good teams are not going to make the playoffs. The White Sox are playing great, but they can't catch the Tigers. Boston, New York, Toronto, some very good teams in the American League, at least, are not going to make the playoffs. So it's going to be fun to see how it all shakes down.

SIMON: Just out of curiosity, Ron. Call the All-Star Game for us.

RAPOPORT: I think the American League, Scott.

SIMON: Yeah. I guess that's an easy call. But you know, you can never tell, on any given Tuesday.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Thanks, so much.

Ron Rapoport is our sports commentator here at WEEKEND EDITION, and speaking this week from California.

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