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Late MLB Trades May Put Big Names In New Colors

SCOTT SIMON, host: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Time now for sports.


SIMON: Major League Baseball trade deadline hits at 4 P.M. tomorrow, little more than a third of the season remaining. Some teams are looking for a last minute roster boost. Others are just looking for a garage sale. ESPN's Howard Bryant joins us from Amherst, Massachusetts.

Howard, thanks for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: We're just a little over 24 hours until the trade deadline. Who might improve themselves?

BRYANT: Well, this is actually my favorite time of the year, believe it or not. A lot of guys like October and September and the pennant races. But this is separation time. I think you're - I love the fact that the Chicago White Sox are always trying to make deals. They already made two trades. And we see the San Francisco Giants got Carlos Beltran to help that anemic offense of theirs.

But I think that the best thing about this period is that you have a pretty good number of teams who feel like they can win.

SIMON: Can the Pittsburgh Pirates last?

BRYANT: It's a great question. I mean, you would like to think that a team that hasn't had a winning record since 1992 would have a little bit of staying power and some motivation to get there. But the bottom line is that they're a tough division and they've never been there. It's the best story in baseball, even though I can still not forgive the Pirates for making money while that team was awful and for really not being a great team management wise.

But if you are a fan of Clemente and a fan of Stargell and a fan of the Buccos and that team, it's great to have a flagship team since 1883 be back in a pennant race. I hope they hold up. I really think that one thing you want when you get to September 1st is to just be within three, four, five games and you've got a chance. So this next month is going to be huge for them.

SIMON: I like following the race in the AL Central.

BRYANT: It's a great race. It's a great race.

SIMON: Yeah. You've got the three Great Lakes team, you know.

BRYANT: Exactly. You've got the Twins what've always been there - perennial playoff team. You've got the White Sox and the Tigers - both have won pennants. The White Sox won it in '05 and the Tigers won the pennant in '06. And you've got the Cleveland Indians, who were great in the '90s and then fell on hard times after losing all their best players. And so you've got a good four-team race.

And the sad part for them is going to be, because of the Red Sox and the Yankees, that only one team is going to come out of there, I think. So whoever wins the division is actually going to be the team that's going to the playoffs, which is what it should be. That's a real pennant race. You've got to win your division to get to October.

SIMON: The Cubs are 19 1/2 games out...


SIMON: ...of the NL wildcard race. Did you say who? Yes, the Chicago Cubs. OK? Now, a losing record for 18 years. Come on. Impress a Cub fan. Obviously they've spent money in recent years. Really, they've spent money all along. Can I trot a theory by you that I just heard the other night?

BRYANT: I'm all ears.

SIMON: All right. A man, an umpire, and he says that umpires have it all figured out. The problem is the combination of Wrigley Field and Rush Street. The Cubs, because they play day baseball, play during the hottest part of the day. That tires players out over a long season. The young players stay out on Rush Street until two and three in the morning, and they have to get into the park by 10 P.M. not 5 P.M. And that tires them out. Anything to that?

BRYANT: That's right. There's no question, Scott, that the baseball calendar, the baseball culture, runs on rhythm. And when you play for the Cubs your rhythm is completely off. Everybody else plays night games. You play day games.

But I think that the biggest problem that the Cubs have had over time is that - I really do think that they have not settled on a specific philosophy. They keep - they've got money. They've got fans. They don't have the passion for winning as much as they do having a good time, which has always been the Cubs reputation. But I still think that there's no real good reason in a money game for that team not to win.

SIMON: Howard, thanks very much.

BRYANT: My pleasure.

SIMON: Howard Bryant from ESPN.com, ESPN the magazine and ESPN the growth hormone. Thanks so much for being with us, Howard.

BRYANT: That's mean. That's a mean one.

SIMON: I just read what they put in front of me, my friend. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.