SCOTT SIMON, host:
Can you smell it? The fresh cut grass of center field? There's still a chill in the air, but the sun's rays are strong. The promise and heartbreak - or if you're a Cub fan, the promised heartbreak - of yet another Major League Baseball season.
Anything is possible as the 2007 season starts Sunday, at least for a few weeks. We're joined in our studios for a look ahead at the baseball season by our friend Howard Bryant, staff writer for the Washington Post and author of "Juicing the Game." Howard, welcome back.
Mr. HOWARD BRYANT (Washington Post): Good morning, Scott.
SIMON: First of all, it's going to be harder than ever to watch games on television, isn't it?
Mr. BRYANT: It's going to be virtually impossible to watch games on television if you don't have a satellite dish, thanks to the Direct TV/Major League Baseball exclusivity deal where baseball is essentially following the NFL with their Sunday Ticket. And all of the games this year out of market are going to be only on satellite instead of cable. So about - I think baseball estimated that 300,000 homes will not be able to watch the games.
SIMON: Is this such a good deal economically, it's worth the sacrifice of audience?
Mr. BRYANT: What baseball is doing is that they're trying to pressure the cable companies into making a better deal, because baseball is launching its own network in 2009. So what you have here is, you've got a leverage deal. You've got these two sides trying to force each other to make a favorable deal, and the person who loses, as always, is the consumer, because if you have cable, you can't watch a baseball game unless it's on ESPN or unless it's a game that's already in your market. And so once again baseball has really chosen more money over what's good for their fan base.
SIMON: Look, you wrote the book on steroids in the game in "Juicing." Is there joy in your heart as Barry Bonds approaches his record?
Mr. BRAYNT: No, I think it's going to be very, very sad. And I think for most people outside of San Francisco it's going to be sad. And the commissioner hasn't committed to being there when Barry breaks the record, 21 to tie, 22 to pass. And I think what it is, I think the sadness isn't the fact that Barry Bonds can be a reprehensible character as much as it is that baseball had an opportunity to police itself on drugs and didn't do it, and now you can't put the toothpaste back in the tube. It's too late.
SIMON: Tom Glavine can set a rather happier mark, right?
Mr. BRYANT: Ten wins to 300, and Randy Johnson eats 20 for 300. And I think that's that thing that's amazing in this era of offense and muscles and drugs and steroids and everything else. You're going to have four pitchers - Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson and Tom Glavine - all hitting the 300 win mark, which is really an amazing feat.
SIMON: I have to ask about Lou Piniella and the Cubs.
Mr. BRYANT: Oh, Lou, I love Lou. I saw Lou down in Arizona just a few weeks ago. And once again I talked to his predecessor, Dusty Baker, who was fired in the off-season. and these are the Cubs, a hundred years without winning, and...
Mr. BRYANT: I'm sorry.
SIMON: Let's not exaggerate.
Mr. BRYANT: Did I say 100?
Mr. BRYANT: They could do it this year. And you've got Lou coming in, and no-nonsense Lou, who's going to get tough with everybody. He wants these guys to play for him, and he's got the passion back after taking the year off. And so what happens to him, his two best pitchers, Pryer and Wood, neither one is going to start the season with the big club. And so once again, it's the curse of the Cubs.
SIMON: Hey, Howard?
Mr. BRYANT: Yes?
SIMON: Anyone can have a bad century.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SIMON: Howard Bryant, author of "Juicing the Game." Thanks very much.
Mr. BRYANT: Thank you.
(Soundbite of music)
SIMON: Play ball. You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.
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