The Latest In Sports
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
And now it's time for sports.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
SIMON: Maybe I should have said other sports. Baseball has a wild-card race and an experiment in women's basketball. We're joined now by NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman.
Tom, thanks for being with us.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Thanks for having me. That was a great interview, wasn't it?
SIMON: Wasn't that a wonderful interview?
GOLDMAN: That was wonderful, yeah.
SIMON: Yeah, terrific. It's the WNBA postseason.
GOLDMAN: It is?
SIMON: Last night, Minnesota and LA both won, 2-0 leads in their semifinal series, the top two teams in the league. Maybe they'll meet in the final. How have the WNBA changed their player form - their playoff format? And is the NBA watching?
GOLDMAN: Well, yes, we hear the NBA is watching. The biggest change this year - just since the playoffs have been going for about a week, 10 days - at the end of the regular season, they're now taking the top eight teams in the WNBA and ranking them one to eight based on their regular season won-loss records. And they're creating the playoff bracket that way.
In the past and the way it's still done in the NBA, they take equal amounts of teams from the two conferences, the Eastern and the Western, regardless of their won-loss records. Now, this has led to good teams being excluded from the playoffs, maybe some weaker teams getting in. And it's also meant sometimes your best teams haven't faced each other late in the playoffs, which you want to happen.
This is happening right now in the NBA. As you mentioned, Minnesota, the defending champ, and LA, two top teams during the regular season, are on a collision course for the finals.
One WNBA executive told me everybody loves the new ranking system. We'll see if it has any impact on the NBA going forward.
SIMON: Baseball - wild-card races - a bunch of teams who want to wind up playing the Cubs (laughter). So in the American League, you have the Orioles, the Blue Jays, Tigers and Mariners battling for...
GOLDMAN: Oh, my.
SIMON: ...two wild-card spots. Oh - oh, that's a good - oh, I hadn't thought about that, and I just uttered the phrase. Thank you. And in the National League, the Mets, Giants and the Cards battling for two spots. Any clear favorites?
GOLDMAN: Oh, gosh, I don't know. You know, they're all separated by about two games...
GOLDMAN: ...so it's going to be crazy. I know tonight, tomorrow and maybe beyond, if the weather doesn't cooperate in some of the cities, it'll - it should be a wild finish, which is what we love, although teams involved, not so much. They work 162 regular season games, and then their fate is decided in one anxiety-filled elimination game.
SIMON: Yeah. Should we remind ourselves, though, that not infrequently, a wild-card team has gone on to win the World Series? Which doesn't seem fair when your team has won 102 games, but I digress.
GOLDMAN: (Laughter) You do digress?
GOLDMAN: And, you know, as recently as two years ago, when San Francisco went from one of those harrowing wild-card elimination games all the way to the title - you know, it may be the psychology of being a wild-card team - which, to remind people, the wild-card teams are the teams that didn't win a division. So they're the next-best teams after the division winners. But the psychology - you know, the wild-card team may have a what-the-hell attitude - nothing to lose. You're going to go against division winners throughout the playoffs. Conversely, the division winners might tend to tighten against an apparent weaker opponent in the wild-card team.
SIMON: Golf. By the way, go to our Facebook Live page. You can see you and me playing golf with Robert Siegel as our windmill. The Ryder Cup is underway. U.S. team has a 2-point lead over the European team, which still includes Great Britain. What should we look for there?
GOLDMAN: You know, we hope more thrills like yesterday. This is an Olympics of golf, where you have countries going against each other - the U.S. team against the European team. And it's wonderful nationalism as long as it doesn't lead to war. You've got great - you know, fans are loud. They chant. They cheer. The players are doing awkward chest bumps and missing high-fives. They're out of practice because they never do that stuff. And the U.S. is trying to break a long string by the Euros. The Euros have won the last three Ryder Cups.
SIMON: Tom Goldman, thanks so much.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
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