Major League Baseball's Postseason Teams Set
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Just in case either Chicago baseball team should get close to winning a playoff series, the city is bracing for the apocalypse. Chicago bars near the ballparks agreed to stop selling alcohol if the Cubs or White Sox are near the end of a title-clinching game. Commentator John Feinstein is covering is the story. John, good morning.
JOHN FEINSTEIN: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: Probably a few beers were lifted last night after the White Sox beat the Twins to make the playoffs.
FEINSTEIN: Well, they certainly were. It was really an amazing game. Jim Thome hit a home run, and Ken Griffey, Jr., who is still playing at the age of 38, threw a runner out at the plate, and the White Sox beat the Twins to break the tie in the Central Division and get into the playoffs where they'll now play the amazing Tampa Bay Rays. But it's been since 1906, Steve, back when you were a youth...
(Soundbite of laughter)
FEINSTEIN: A Chicago team has made it into the playoffs. So it's been a while.
INSKEEP: And you mentioned the amazing Tampa Bay Rays who they'll face next. Given that, what are the odds that Chicago is ever going to have to use its possible ban on drinking at the end of a title game?
FEINSTEIN: Well, again in short playoff series, you never know. The first round is only best of five. And everybody's pitching is jumbled because most of these teams have had to fight to get in the position to get into the playoffs, the White Sox being the best example, of course. But the Rays are one of the best stories in many years in baseball. Ten years in existence, they'd never won more than 71 games in a season, in a 162-game season. This year, they won 97. They beat the Red Sox and the Yankees to win the Eastern Division title. They're an exciting young team. And people are actually showing up in that awful ballpark they play in in St. Petersburg because there is actually pennant fever in Tampa, which sounded like an oxymoron until this year.
INSKEEP: OK, so the odds are against the White Sox. But it's a short series, and you're saying anything could happen. Do the Chicago Cubs have a better chance of annoying bar customers at some point this fall?
FEINSTEIN: Oh, they've got a real shot at it. You know, they're 0 for the last 99 years. They're trying to not go an entire century without a World Series title. They had the best record in the National League. That means they have home field advantage in any series they play leading to the World Series. They open with the Dodgers, who had the worst record of any team in the playoffs, but they also have Manny Ramirez now, traded from the Red Sox, as you know. And Joe Torre, their manager, has all sorts of playoff experience from his years with the Yankees. And again, in a short series, the Dodgers have good pitching. They can be dangerous. They can break the Cubs' hearts again. But the Cubs are certainly the favorites given the depth of their pitching and their lineup.
INSKEEP: Also, this fall, John Feinstein, the Red Sox and Angels meet again, and the bars in both cities wide open.
FEINSTEIN: Yeah. It seems as if they meet in the playoffs every year doesn't it? The Red Sox beat the Angels last year. They beat them four years ago. But this time, the Angels are the favorites. They won more games than anybody in baseball. And the Red Sox are banged up. Their best pitcher, Josh Beckett, won't start game one. He won't start before game three. He's been dominant in postseason. They don't have Manny Ramirez, as we mentioned. And J.D. Drew and Mike Lowell, who have been heroes in postseason, last year certainly, are injured. So the Angels are the favorites, but again short series. Now the Red Sox are the team that dominates October after that 86-year drought finally ended in 2004.
INSKEEP: John, we've just got a few seconds. But I have to mention two Chicago teams are in. The Red Sox are in. Not one team from New York in the playoffs this fall.
FEINSTEIN: Mets and Yankees both missed. The Yankees ended a 13-year streak in postseason. They had a lot of injuries. And the Mets had their annual collapse in September, blowing a lead again and losing on the final day to miss the playoffs on the day they closed Shea Stadium. It was sort of an appropriate ending for the Mets.
INSKEEP: You have to be good to do it that way though.
FEINSTEIN: They're in contention, no question about it. They're not the Kansas City Royals by any means.
INSKEEP: I mean you just have to be talented to lose in just that fashion on the last day.
FEINSTEIN: It takes a knack. You have to have a knack for the theatrical and the drama. Sometimes I think Tennessee Williams is writing their plot.
INSKEEP: John, thanks very much.
FEINSTEIN: Thanks, Steve.
INSKEEP: John Feinstein is the author of "Living on the Black: Two Pitchers, Two Teams, One Season to Remember."