SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Now it's time for sports.
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SIMON: Not so fast there, Yankees. The Houston Astros forced a Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. They defeated the Yankees last night 7-1. Tonight's winner will face the Los Angeles Dodgers in the - what do they - oh yeah, the World Series. We Chicagoans can forget this year. Joined now by Howard Bryant of espn.com and ESPN The Magazine. Good morning, Howard.
HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott. Is that energy in your voice? Is that forced? Are you trying really hard...
SIMON: I'm just going through the motions, my friend, just going through the motions.
SIMON: Justin Verlander was masterful on the mound last night, just as B.J. Leiderman, who writes our theme music, is masterful. And Houston's hitters came out of hibernation. They're a great home-advantage team, aren't they? Who has the edge tonight in Houston?
BRYANT: Well, I think Houston has the advantage. But I think that in a Game 7, it's winner take all for the right to go to the World Series. The Houston Astros have been a great team all season long. They're a hundred-win team. And then you've got this Yankee team that is suddenly finding itself in the postseason and reminding people about the power of the New York Yankees. I think that, obviously, starting pitching is everything. If C.C. Sabathia comes out and gives you one more turn back of the clock, it could be a great battle for the Yankees. But I think you're going to see runs tonight. But more than anything else, this is what baseball is all about - to have a winner-take-all Game 7 for the right to play the Dodgers, who haven't been in the World Series since 1988, since the Kirk Gibson home run. It's been a pretty remarkable postseason.
SIMON: The Dodgers were conspicuously the best team in baseball for much of the year. Then they had this losing streak. They sure looked like the best team in baseball again in defeating the world champion Chicago Cubs. What's your take on those five games we saw?
BRYANT: Well, I think to start with the Dodgers, I think that it's one of the things that I really enjoy about sports - when you sort of recognize - let's not forget that the Dodgers have been knocking on the door last year against the Cubs in the NLCS. They were up two games to one at home and ended up losing three games in a row. So they know that they were close. And so this year, very much like the Cleveland Indians, to know that you were close and then to finish the deal - Cleveland didn't get it done.
But the Dodgers played with purpose all season. They overcame losing - I think it was 15 out of 16 games - at one point back in August. And everyone was saying, oh, the Dodgers are going to Dodger again. And here we go. And they've turned it around. And they're playing with the type of purpose that they know they're the best team. And now they've got to go handle business. As for the Cubs, you know, the Cubs - we talked about this last year. We talked about it all season long. It's very, very difficult to repeat as a champion.
I have no problem with what the Cubs did this year. They battled. They fought. They showed unbelievable courage in September in, you know, the challenge against Milwaukee and. And they just weren't that good this year. They weren't as good as they were the year before. And so no reason to hang their heads. They've went to the NLCS two years in a row. They won the World Series last year. But this is the reason why you haven't had a National League team repeat as champions since 1975 and '76 Cincinnati Reds. It's not easy.
SIMON: Another defeated ballclub that's beginning to talk of curses, of course, the Washington Nationals. And they let Dusty Baker, their manager, go after all he did was lead them to back-to-back playoff appearances. Dusty Baker has won - is it over 1,300 games? Is it wise to let him go?
BRYANT: It's a terrible move by the Washington Nationals to let him go. It shows you sort of where baseball is today. Dusty Baker, Scott, has has won 1,863 games as a major league manager. He is 14th all-time in terms of managerial wins. And all he did was win 95 and 97 games with the Nationals. And so he did everything he was supposed to do except win in the postseason. And you're playing great teams. And I think that this is a very bad sign for the Nationals. I think they have terrible ownership. They've proven that they really do not want to pay that position. And I think that the fans are going to suffer because baseball's hard. You don't go out there and expect to win every year. And it's a bad move.
SIMON: Howard Bryant of ESPN, thanks so much.
BRYANT: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.