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Saturday Sports: World Series


And now it's time for sports.


SIMON: And let's make this one all about baseball - OK? - because we're on the cusp of the World Series. Pleased to be joined by Howard Bryant of ESPN. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: The Yankees won last night - I don't have to tell you - 4-1. But the 'Stros are still ahead, three games to two. How do you see the series wrapping up?

BRYANT: Well, a lot of people thought that this series would have wrapped up last night considering that the Yankees had won the first game of the series and then lost three in a row and looked like they were going to get swept at home because you had Justin Verlander on the mound. But the Yankees had other plans. It was great to see, actually. This was the series that everybody wanted to see. This was supposed to be the two best teams. You had the hundred-win Yankees against the hundred-win Astros, and this was the titanic matchup. And it was really starting to look like a blowout. It's been a dud until last night. James Paxton went on the mound and went and actually revived the Yankees a little bit and so now you've got a game tonight and maybe even a game seven tomorrow night. Winner take all.

SIMON: Let me come clean about something. Seven years ago, I was critical about how the Nats handled Stephen Strasburg, their star pitcher. They benched him with an injury rather than pitching him in the postseason. Seven years later, they're in the World Series. Strasburg is a big reason. Is this just another example of why I've never been hired to be a big league manager?

BRYANT: Well, you know, Scott, there are a lot of reasons why you've never been hired as a big league manager.

SIMON: (Laughter) Yeah.

BRYANT: This is just one of them. We need more time...

SIMON: All right.

BRYANT: ...To continue...

SIMON: Yeah, all right.

BRYANT: ...With all the list. But you know what, Scott? I think you're too kind. I really do. I think that in 2012, the Washington Nationals had the best team in baseball. I really do, even though I know the San Francisco Giants won the pennant that year coming out of that league. But Stephen Strasburg was great. You know, he was injured. They had decided they were not going to pitch him even though he was healthy at that time and ready to pitch even in a limited duty. They decided not to pitch him at all. And I do think it cost them a pennant. And their arrogance, to me, has haunted them until now when they finally won their pennant. They could have done this a few years ago, I believe. I don't think that this was part of the great master plan to go out and lose in crushing fashion for the last seven years and then somehow win now the way they did it. This is a magical team this year in Washington. This team was 19-31. They were about to fire their manager, David Martinez. He had about a week left. And then all of a sudden, they go on this incredible run. They win 93 games. They go out - on top of that, they're a game away from losing to the Dodgers in the division series. They're down 3-0 midway through the game. They're down 3-1 in the eighth inning. And then, suddenly, here they come. And they haven't lost a game since. They come out, and then they sweep the Cardinals. So this reminds me a lot of that 2004 Red Sox team or the 2007 Red Sox team where all of a sudden you get hot, you get inside the playoffs, and anything can happen when it suddenly comes together in a short series. And they can pitch.

SIMON: A question America wants to know - World Series schedule is out, D.C.'s first home game, game three, is going to be next Friday night - who do you choose to throw out the first pitch at that game? We, of course, suggest B.J. Leiderman, who writes our theme music.

BRYANT: Of course, he deserves it. This is the hard thing with the Nationals considering, what do you view Washington baseball to be? Do you view the Nationals to be a continuation of the baseball legacy of Washington, which is the Senators which moved to Minnesota to become the Twins and then the other Senators which moved to be the Texas Rangers? Or do you view these Washington Nationals as an extension of the Montreal Expos, which was their original team?

SIMON: Let me throw in the name the Homestead Grays.

BRYANT: And the Homestead Grays, the Negro League team, as well, absolutely, where you - do you use this moment as a way to recognize and celebrate the baseball history of Washington, or is it the Montreal Expos history? I think you bring out Ryan Zimmerman. He's the guy.

SIMON: And, of course, an active player. That'd be a nice touch.

BRYANT: It'd be fun.

SIMON: ESPN's Howard Bryant, thanks so much.

BRYANT: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF CORY WONG'S "MAXIMA '91(LIVE IN MPLS)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.