White Sox, Twins To Clash For Playoff Berth
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
In Major League Baseball tonight, it's win or go home for the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox. Both teams have identical records and tonight's game will break the tie. Either the Twins or the White Sox will go to the playoffs. Buster Olney covers baseball for ESPN The Magazine and he joins us to talk about what we can expect in this showdown and the upcoming playoffs. And Buster, first this White Sox-Twins matchup. What led to this?
Mr. BUSTER OLNEY (Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine): Well, really, two surprise teams. You think about the Minnesota Twins, during the offseason, they traded the best pitcher on the planet, Johan Santana, to the New York Mets. And despite that, they managed to step up with a whole lot of young pitchers, go on and put themselves in position to win. They had a half-game lead going in to Monday. The White Sox had the win on Sunday. And then they had to beat the Tigers on Monday. And so now they're a little bit on fumes as they take on the Twins tonight, but they'll be at home for this game.
BLOCK: And whoever wins this game will be playing the Tampa Bay Rays. First time they've been in the playoffs since the team was formed.
Mr. OLNEY: Yeah and they're really baseball's most enjoyable story, and you know, in going into it, the big question is, is a team with so little experience, can they prevail in the postseason? But I think all those sort of fun little storylines for dopey sportswriters like myself, mask the fact that this team really catches the ball well. They're the best-fielding team in baseball. They have a deep pitching staff and that makes them very dangerous.
BLOCK: Here's the other American League matchup. The Los Angeles Angels, with the best record in the majors, versus the defending champions, the Boston Red Sox, the wild card.
Mr. OLNEY: Yeah, and a lot at stake for the Red Sox. They've won two championships in the last four years, but what's interesting is, despite the fact they have a lot of players who contributed to those two championships, they have rookies playing in key spots because of injuries, and the Angels, they loaded up their lineup during the course of the year specifically to match up better against the Red Sox, and they look like they could be the team to beat in baseball this fall.
BLOCK: Buster, let's jump over and talk about the National League. What are you going to be looking for in those matchups?
Mr. OLNEY: Fascinating matchups, Melissa. First off, with the Cubs and the Dodgers. You have the Cubs, this series for them being framed by history. It's been a hundred years since they last won the World Series. They go in on paper being the big favorite in the National League, but their primary pitchers, Carlos Zambrano and Rich Harden, have had some physical problems down the stretch. That's really served to give the Cubs nation a lot of anxiety. The Dodgers, it really just caught fire in the last two months since the acquisition of Manny Ramirez from the Red Sox. He's doing for the Dodgers what he didn't do for the Red Sox and that's simply to play hard. He's been dominant.
And of course you have the matchup between the Phillies and the Brewers. And what I find to be interesting about this is the Brewers' ace pitcher, CC Sabathia. He's going to be a free agent this fall. He has about $140 million or $150 million at stake, waiting for him if the Yankees make him an offer like that, and yet he basically has told the Brewers, look I'll do whatever it takes to help you guys win this year. They're in the playoffs for the first time since 1982. It's pretty inspiring how much he's been invested in their team.
BLOCK: And Buster, going into the playoffs, what's the big unanswered question for you among all these matchups?
Mr. OLNEY: Well, I think the big unanswered question is whether or not the Red Sox can win their third championship in five years given their history and the fact that, you know, they went 86 years without winning a championship before winning in 2004. If they win this year, then they're going to be able to lay stake to something that, you know, only the Yankees have been since 1976, and that's a dynasty.
BLOCK: Well Buster, enjoy the playoffs. I know you will.
Mr. OLNEY: Thank you, Melissa.
BLOCK: Buster Olney, with ESPN The Magazine.