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Baseball Playoffs, U.S. Open: The Week In Sports


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Where BJ Leiderman writes our theme music and now, including this one - it's time for Sports.

September has snuck in through the swelter in the pennant race heats up, especially in smaller markets. Howard Bryant of and ESPN the magazine joins us from New York, where he's been covering the U.S. Open. Howard, thanks for being with us.



HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: Morning. Tennis in a minute, my friend. But first...

BRYANT: (Laughter). I love it.

SIMON: ...Baseball. The American League, Baltimore, who got their last in 1983 and Kansas City in 1985, are looking pretty good for the postseason, aren't they?

BRYANT: Yeah, back to the future. Kansas City is a good team. I mean, it's only taken 25 years for them to become a better team. But think it's fantastic for baseball. Let's not forget that last year we did the same thing with the Pittsburgh Pirates. They hadn't made the playoffs since 1992 and they came through and won.

This year - you know, Kansas City made a run last year - didn't quite get there. This year, they've got a two-game lead over the Tigers. And this is September. And you get into your pennant races and you start looking if you can be within three or four or five games, you can make a run out of it. And now the Orioles, I mean, they've got a nine-and-a-half game lead. So Kansas City is going to have to hang on if they can. And Baltimore is pretty much cruising to the postseason.

SIMON: In the National League there are more than a dozen teams in playoff contention. But, I wonder, is it good because some of them don't even have winning records?

BRYANT: That's right. You think that the Miami Marlins deserve to be in the pennant race? They're 68 and 71, but they're only five games out of a playoff spot. I don't like it, Scott. And you and I have talked about this for a couple of years. This is what happens now that baseball has decided to try to turn the game into the NCAA tournament into the NFL playoffs. I think that baseball's a very special sport where if you're going to play 162 games and we're going to go the whole year, then the best team should win. I don't think that teams should be rewarded for being mediocre but having a one-day shot at making the playoffs. And I can sense one day it happening, you know the team gets hot at the end. They were not very good all season. And then all of a sudden, you've got an 82-win team making the playoffs. And I just don't like that, but it's the way it's going. Baseball wants every team to have a chance.

SIMON: Quick answer to this - Serena Williams, who won yesterday, looks like she's poised?

BRYANT: Highly motivated to win. Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert are waiting with 18 Grand Slam championships. Serena's got 17. The pressure of catching those two has been on her all season long. Here's her shot. She plays Caroline Wozniacki. I think she's a huge favorite.

SIMON: I want to wind up this, all right. We so often talk about the boorishness of sports. The Cincinnati Bengals cut Devon Still from their team. He hadn't been playing well, but they re-signed him to the practice squad so he can have health care coverage. His 4-year-old daughter has cancer. In an often brutal game, this is a classy move.

BRYANT: It's a huge move and I think what it comes down to is, for all the stats and for all the news stories we talk about, it goes back to what Joe Torre, the manager - the old manager of the Yankees - used to say all the time, there's still a beating heart to this game. And I think this is the best example of that.

SIMON: Howard Bryant. Thanks so much for being with us.

BRYANT: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.