SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Time for sports.
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SIMON: Dallas and Houston shuts down New York. That's Dallas Keuchel of the Astros, who won game one against the Yanks. Cubs versus Dodgers tonight. And guess who's not going to the World Cup? We're joined now by Howard Bryant of espn.com and ESPN The Magazine. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.
HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott.
SIMON: New York, Chicago, LA, Houston - I - the first time I can recall the four largest cities in the country, in the United States, have been the four teams in the baseball playoffs. Is Major League Baseball delighted about possible matchups?
BRYANT: Well, I think not only are they delighted about it because you've got those matchups, but they're also delighted with - apologies to our good friends in Houston. No offense because they are the better team, but, boy, you can tell that the executives at Major League Baseball can't wait for the possibility of a Yankees-Dodgers World Series; haven't had that since since Reggie Jackson and Fernando Valenzuela. The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since 1988. Just the possibility of the Yankees and the Cubs in the World Series - one, the Cubs to repeat their championship, and two, the Yankees and the Cubs haven't played since Babe Ruth's called shot in 1932.
BRYANT: So there are all kinds of possibilities. And on top of that, to have the Houston Astros...
SIMON: And we want revenge for that, by the way.
BRYANT: (Laughter) You want revenge, exactly. And the Yankees haven't been to the World Series since the dark old days of 2009. But still, the matchups are unbelievable. The teams are great. And the Astros, as - everything we've seen from them during the regular season and in the postseason when they pretty much destroyed the Red Sox - everybody's good. And I think that the games are just going to be great.
SIMON: Little, quick post-series analysis - a week ago, the Cleveland Indians looked like the best team in baseball. They won 22 straight during the regular season. Why didn't they get past the Yankees?
BRYANT: Because baseball's hard. That's the first reason and because you just never have an idea of what's going to happen when you get out there. And everyone - there's going to be all kinds of postmortems and, boy, do I have a lot of respect for Tito Francona as such a professional in such a difficult, difficult loss. They went out. They won 22 games in a row this year. They lost the World Series in heartbreaking fashion, having a 3 games to 1 lead against the Cubs last year. They lose in game seven at home, and they were on a mission this year. And it looked to me like they ran out of gas.
Corey Kluber, their ace, looked like he was injured, and he didn't really pitch very well in the series at all, either in game two or in the clincher in game five. So heartbreak in Cleveland for them to go another year a game away from winning a series and then losing three in a row - very, very difficult.
SIMON: And the Cubs just nosed past the Washington Nationals.
SIMON: The Cubs, supposedly cursed for 108 years now, seem to have a lot of luck, as they did against the Nats, while people are beginning to suggest the Nats must have some kind of curse.
BRYANT: Well, exactly, and also you talk about heartbreak - very difficult for Dusty Baker, one of the all-time great managers who's just never had that great success in the postseason. You know, they went to the World Series in 2002, lost that in heartbreaking fashion to the Angels. And he's 14th all time - in the all-time managerial wins list. But the postseason has been real difficult for that franchise.
But on the other hand, let's also give some credit to the Cubs. Let's give some credit to the teams instead of talking about curses and everything else. Let's talk about getting out on the field in the tough moments and doing what you're supposed to do. And they came out, and Chicago proved that they're a championship team once more. But Dusty Baker doesn't have a contract, so there are going to be some implications. Hopefully they bring him back because he does not deserve to get fired after winning 95 and 97 games with this team.
SIMON: And quickly, U.S. men's soccer team not going to the World Cup, although the U.S. women's team won the 2015 World Cup. What does this say about U.S. men's soccer?
BRYANT: Well, it says that they've got problems just like in men's tennis. But the biggest thing it says to me is, could we please stop making it sound as if the sport is in trouble? The men's side is in trouble. The women are doing great - three World Cups for the women, and Venus and Serena have done their thing on the American side in tennis.
SIMON: Howard Bryant of ESPN, thanks very much.
BRYANT: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.