Winners And Losers In Baseball's Playoffs

If it's October, then it's baseball playoffs time. NPR's Scott Simon talks with Howard Bryant about Friday night's face offs in Tampa Bay and Los Angeles.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

Now time for some real sports.

(Soundbite of music)

SIMON: Last night, the Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Chicago White Sox. Ouch! And the Boston Red Sox won their playoff game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Now the Rays and the Red Sox lead their best of five division playoffs two games to none, as do the Phillies, as do the Dodgers, who have been playing and so far besting - wow! - the Chicago Cubs. Howard Bryant joins us now. It's been a tough couple of days for me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HOWARD BRYANT: For you, Scott. You know, I was thinking about you. You even interrupted my dinner last night in our lovely little hamlet here. I was having dinner at Elmer's General Store and I was speaking with my friend, Bob Nylan(ph), and I said, what do you think of the Cubs? And he said, The Cubs? Doomed.

SIMON: Look, I have to...

BRYANT: What do you mean, Scott? It's over.

SIMON: I have to confess. The last game, which, of course, you know, was on opposite the debates - it was my fault. The Cubs' defeat was my fault. I watched the debates for 90 minutes out of a sense of duty, hosted this little old noon show, and by the time I turned in they were six runs down. It's my fault.

BRYANT: Well, you bet you, Scott. That'll get you some extra credit.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Could there be a sweeps in all those series?

BRYANT: Well, obviously, the Cubs are in a lot of trouble, and the problem is when you have a team, as we saw up in the City of Boston for how many years, it's in their heads. They don't believe. You want the bases loaded. You give up a grand slam in the first game, you're down six nothing with your big guy on the mouond in the second game, and you could just see the enthusiasm and all the energy. It doesn't just pour out of the fans. You could see it on the faces of the players. And a lot of people say that all of that stuff is nonsense. And you know what? It's not.

I remember specifically back in 2004 that the Red Sox got beat 19-8 in Game 3 against the Yankees. I couldn't give my tickets away to Game 4 for all these great diehard fans. You need something to happen to break this. You have to have that seminal moment where it all goes away. And the Cubs haven't had that moment yet because deep down they believe that when something bad happens, they're in trouble, especially when you get to the point where they are right now, where you have this amazing season and now you're down to one game and then it's all gone.

SIMON: What about the White Sox? Because they just came off of winning three make-or-break games.

BRYANT: Against three different teams. The White Sox, I think, are a different story. I think they're a tough team. I think they're a scrappy team. They're a very mercurial team. You know, they say they take their cues from their manager, and I wouldn't be surprised at all if the White Sox won three in a row simply because that's the kind of team they are. They're a weird, weird team, and I think that the Rays, on the other hand, are just a good team. The Rays are just very, very good. They do a lot of things well, and they're fast, they're athletic and they can pitch.

The only thing about the Rays that I didn't like, and it was the reason why I actually picked the White Sox to win this series, was because at the back end, I just don't know if Dan Wheeler and Chad Bradford, if I see them at home or at Fenway or anywhere else finishing the last game in October. That's the I'll-believe-it-when-I-see-it moment for the Rays.

But everybody else - I'm not surprised at all. The Boston Red Sox, they were in the same position. The Angels are in the same position as the Cubs, where you go through this entire season to get to this moment, and now it's irrelevant because the Red Sox are in your head. I watched their game last night and I'm thinking to myself, it must be October because the Angels can't beat the Red Sox. Everything you do this season is being undermined because you can't beat this one team.

SIMON: Howard, how do you get that eye of the tiger? I mean, you Red Sox fans did it, not to mention the team.

BRYANT: How do you get it?

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: You've got to have a lot of luck, but you need a bunch of guys - you really need a bunch of guys out there who are just totally fearless and that they don't quit. You have to keep playing. It's not over yet. They can win three in a row. Keep playing.

SIMON: Yeah. Red Sox won three in a row in 2003.

BRYANT: Red Sox don't lose anymore.

SIMON: Howard, thanks so much. Talk to you later.

BRYANT: Have fun, Scott, tonight.

SIMON: Tonight! Howard Bryant, senior writer for espn.com and soon, coming ESPN, the commercial bank. You're listening to Weekend Edition from NPR News.

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