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Week In Sports: MLB Pennant Chase Heats Up


And speaking of higher education, it's time for sports.


SIMON: Pennant season - the Cardinals on a staggering win streak. How will the Giants end their storybook season? Red Sox, Yankees, wild card (clapping). Finally, vaccine mandates face off with the NBA. Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media joins us. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT, BYLINE: You've got pennant fever, Scott Simon.

SIMON: I do, indeed. Look. The Cardinals...

BRYANT: At least you sound - at least you sound like you do.

SIMON: I do, absolutely. This - I love this time of year. The Cardinals beat the Cubs last night - no big deal this year - 12-4 to win their 14th game in a row. Giants beat the Rockies 7-2 to win their 100th game of the year. What storylines are you watching in this race?

BRYANT: Well, the Giants are the story of the year. No one expected anything like this, never mind 100 wins, the first team to 100 wins. I think it's the fourth time since they've been in San Francisco since 1958 that they've won 100 games. They've been ridiculous. They've been fantastic all year. But there's only one major problem with the Giants, and that is, the way that the playoff rules are set up, they're only a game ahead of the world champion, defending world champion, Los Angeles Dodgers. So one of those two teams is going to have to play a one-game playoff against the hottest team in baseball, which is the Cardinals. You've got that - you've got that story, which is terrific.

You've also got the Philadelphia Phillies in more of the mediocre side of the world. They're only a game and a half behind Atlanta. Even though those teams only have 81, 82 wins, you still could see the Phillies get into the playoffs. You've got - in the American League, you've got the Seattle Mariners. Remember them, Scott?

SIMON: Yes. Yes, I do now, yeah.

BRYANT: Back in 2001, when they won 116 games, well, they haven't made the playoffs since. It's been 20 years. And they're only two games out of making the playoffs. And so they're one of the hot teams in the American League as well; ditto for Toronto. And of course, the Red Sox and the Yankees are playing each other this year. Currently, those two teams would play each other in a one-game playoff if the playoffs started today. So you've got a whole bunch of things happening in the - you know, in both leagues.

And I think one of the things that's going to be really interesting about this is I think this is going to be the last year where you have this ridiculous - and I'm a huge opponent of it - this NCAA knockout thing where you play the entire season and it comes down to one playoff game. I think that's going to be the end. Next year, you're going to see expanded playoffs. But right now, you've got three teams, four teams in the American League trying to get into the playoffs with a week to go - a little over a week to go. And in the National League, somebody - some great team is going to be undeserving of a one-game knockout.

SIMON: Yeah, I've never liked that system, either. Before we go, Andrew...

BRYANT: It's terrible.

SIMON: Andrew Wiggins, who gave headaches to the Timberwolves for years, is now (laughter) giving the Golden State Warriors a serious migraine because the city of San Francisco recently required proof of vaccination for large indoor events. Andrew Wiggins says he won't get vaccinated unless forced to do so. I'm not sure what that is. Does that mean he will miss all his home games?

BRYANT: It's exactly what it could mean, and Andrew Wiggins is by no means the only person. This is going to be a huge issue. It's happening in San Francisco. It's happening in New York. And when these cities are mandating that you have to show proof of vaccination, then that - you're not protected by your collective bargaining agreement. So that very well may mean that you're not going to be able to play. And this is a huge can of worms for these indoor sports. I'm sure it's going to be happening in hockey as well, and another wrinkle to year - almost year three of COVID in American sports.

SIMON: Yeah. I mean, the winner could go to those - the team which has the most vaccinations on the roster. Howard, thanks for being with us.

BRYANT: (Laughter) Like baseball. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.