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Rangers, Reds, Indians Battle For AL Wild Card Spot


And it's so nice to say time for sports.


SIMON: Just a day left to the end of regular baseball season. The Cardinals clinched a playoff spot last night. Of course they were playing the Cubs. But those rampaging Cleveland Indians won their eighth game in a row to move a game closer to a wildcard spot. They're knotted up with the Tampa Bay Rays, trying to keep the Texas Rangers in the rearview mirror.

And over at the National League, the Pittsburgh Pirates made the Reds walk the plank last night to get a game up to host the first game of the post season. For more we're joined by Howard Bryant of and ESPN The Magazine. Howard, this is exciting and it's the wildcard races.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott. This is the end, the end of the baseball season. This is the reason why you play 162 games and now we are at the end.

SIMON: I found a wonderful quote overnight from, of course, Terry Francona, the manager of the rampaging Cleveland Indians. He says, "This to me is the soul of baseball." He says, "I just want to keep playing. I don't want to go home. I just want to keep playing. I don't care where we play, when we play, I just want to keep playing."

BRYANT: Well, it's a great season for Terry, especially come back after being out a year after leaving the Red Sox back in 2011. And the Indians are a great story. This is a thing where when you're in Boston, in New York, in Philadelphia and some of these cities where you expect to win and expect to win, winning doesn't mean that much because all you're doing is what you're supposed to do.

This was a team that stared the season expecting to lose 90 games. Nobody gave this team a chance at all, and they've won 90 games and they've got a chance to go to the playoffs, and as we say these days, once you get as chance to get into that tournament, you've got a chance to win and then start thinking big.

And the Cleveland Indians haven't won the World Series since 1948, and they haven't been to the World Series since '97, so this is a great opportunity for them. You've got the old man, Jason Giambi hitting walk-off home runs, and this is what it's supposed to be. It's supposed to be fun and this is exactly the kind of summer that, I think, the Cleveland fans needed too.

SIMON: Well, I don't want to put my Cubby curse on the Tribe, so...

BRYANT: You already did.

SIMON: So before we leave the American League, Mariano Rivera doffed his cap over his shaved head for the last time at Yankee Stadium, and it was a great thing to see.

BRYANT: Yeah, and very emotional. The last 42 to wear that number in Major League Baseball history. he's the greatest postseason closer, maybe, obviously, the greatest closer of all time. A bit ironic that the greatest postseason closer is going to end his career by not making the playoffs. But he was a great, great source for me, a real inspiration to watch play, and real classy player. He's one of the guys that just did it right.

He's going to be one of those guys, when we walk into the clubhouse, going to miss having him there because he's a true professional, and anybody, whether you're a Yankee fan or a Red Sox fan or any fan, if you're a fan of baseball, watching Mariano Rivera was a real pleasure.

SIMON: Yeah. Let me ask you about the National League quickly. Do you know three teams clinched their playoff spots against the Cubs? You've been saturated with champagne at this point coming from the other locker room?


BRYANT: Exactly.

SIMON: In any event, what do you see the storyline there? Pirates, the Pirates.

BRYANT: It's the Pirates. The Pirates hadn't won since 1992, since Barry Bonds was there. It's a great, great story for them. It's good in Pittsburgh as it's been in Cleveland. And obviously you've got the Los Angeles Dodgers out there. The National League has been set for a while now. You're going to get Pittsburgh and Cincinnati playing for that one game, you're going to get the Dodgers playing the Cardinals in the first round and then the winner of that one game between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati is going to play Atlanta.

Good stories for everybody. Obviously, the return of the Dodgers is big. But I think that individually, if you like the underdog, the Pittsburgh Pirates is the team to watch. And if you're the networks, I don't know if you're really that into a Pittsburgh-Cleveland World Series, but I think for the underdogs I think that would be a lot of fun.

SIMON: Quick college sports question because on Thursday there's a video game maker who settled with student athletes in a lawsuit, said they deserved to be paid for having their likenesses run on the field in video games. They're going to get, players will get $40 million total. Is this a deal that opens some kind of door in college sports?

BRYANT: Well things are changing and they should change, and I was very disappointed with Jim Delaney, the Big Ten commissioner, who essentially tried to blame the players to say, look, go to the minor leagues; we're not a minor league if you don't want to be here. But that's really not the issue. The issues is, is that you can't take the likenesses of these kids and not compensate them, penalize them for having lunch with someone and make a billion industry out of it.

The players deserve better, times are changing. And I have to say, it is about time.

SIMON: Howard Bryant of and ESPN The Magazine. Thanks so much, Howard.

BRYANT: My pleasure, Scott.


SIMON: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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