A Roller-Coaster Ride To The End Of Baseball

NPR's Tom Goldman speaks to host Andrea Seabrook about the end of Major League Baseball's regular season and the playoff picture.

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ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

From NPR News, it's All Things Considered. I'm Andrea Seabrook. Today is the last day of a rollercoaster season for Major League Baseball. And it's still not over. NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman has been glued to a bunch of games, and he's with us now. Tom, drama on the final day?

TOM GOLDMAN: Incredible drama. There's sadness in New York City, elation in Milwaukee. Going into today the Mets and the Milwaukee Brewers were tied in a race for the National League wild card playoff spot, and if they ended today tied, meaning if they both won or both lost, they'd play each other tomorrow with the winner moving on to the postseason. Well, the Brewers won today thanks to their dominant pitcher C.C. Sabathia, and they are in the playoffs for the first time in 26 years. The Mets' relief pitchers failed again. They gave up back-to-back home runs in the 8th inning of their game to the Florida Marlins. Florida won four to two, so for the second year in a row the Mets have broken their fans' hears, missing the playoffs at the very end of the regular season.

SEABROOK: And the Mets are losing their stadium, too.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, that's right. Shea Stadium, one of the oldest ballparks in the National League opened in 1964. They're moving to a new stadium next year just like their cross-town rivals, the New York Yankees. And in both the Mets and Yankees cases, hollow sendoffs to the old ballparks, both teams missed the postseason.

SEABROOK: Now this was supposed to be the end of the regular season, right? But it's going to stretch on for even a couple more days?

GOLDMAN: Yeah, 162 games wasn't enough, apparently. Another very tight race in the American League Central Division still isn't decided. The Chicago White Sox won today, as did the Minnesota Twins. So, Minnesota has a half-game lead over Chicago. Are you going to follow this, Andrea?

SEABROOK: Ah...

GOLDMAN: But Chicago had a game against Detroit canceled earlier in the season. They're going to make that game up tomorrow. If Chicago wins, it will leave them tied with Minnesota, and then Minnesota and Chicago will play a tiebreaker on Tuesday with the winner moving on to the playoffs.

SEABROOK: A half-game lead? OK.

GOLDMAN: Amazing. Yeah.

SEABROOK: Those playoffs do start Wednesday. What's the big story there?

GOLDMAN: Lots of them. You've got the tortured Chicago Cubs who haven't won the World Series in a century. Easily the most surprising team of the season, though, is the Tampa Bay Rays. I would say not just the surprise of the season, they're the shockers of the season. Tampa Bay had the worst record in Major League Baseball in 2006 and 2007, last place in the American League East. This year they won the East, which is considered the best in baseball, with the Red Sox and the Yankees. And they'll host their first playoff game in their 10-year history on Thursday. And it's been such an ignominious history that they face a novel dilemma. They didn't have anyone to throw out the first pitch in the first playoff game. And according to the team president, we realized nobody in the history of the franchise had done anything to be worthy of the honor.

SEABROOK: All right then. Now, Tom, we've got a segment coming up in just a second we do every week. It's called "Homework." And our assignment for next week is to sing your favorite fight song. We're asking our listeners to do that. Can you give us your choice?

GOLDMAN: Oh, wow! OK, all right, if I must. And this was meant to be sung without a marching band, but I - it wasn't meant to be sung without a marching band, but I don't have one handy, so here we go.

SEABROOK: OK.

GOLDMAN: (Singing) Hail to the victors valiant. Hail to the conquering heroes. Hail, Hail, to Michigan, the leaders and best. Hail to the victors valiant. Hail to the conquering heroes. Hail, Hail, to Michigan, the champions of the West.

GOLDMAN: That was in honor of my father, a Wolverine alum.

SEABROOK: NPR's sports correspondent, the dulcet-toned Tom Goldman. Thanks very much, Tom.

GOLDMAN: Thank you, I guess.

SEABROOK: We want to hear your favorite fight song, the cheer that works every time. Call our "Homework" hotline and perform it for us. That's 202-408-5183. Or you can shoot us an email at homework@npr.org.

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