SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Now, time for sports.
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SIMON: The 2019 baseball season heats up the summer - the first unanimous Hall of Famer - joined now by Howard Bryant of ESPN, who gets a vote in the Hall of Fame ballot. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.
HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott. How are you?
SIMON: I'm fine, thank you, sir. I saw two games at Wrigley Field this week. I'm great.
SIMON: Three teams, now with more than 60 wins in Major League Baseball - the Yanks in the AL East, the Dodgers in the NL West, the Astros in the AL West - they're scorching, aren't they?
BRYANT: Yeah, they are. And once again, this is my second-favorite time of the year where you come out of the All-Star break and you start looking at teams and wondering, OK, who's built for the entire season, and who's going to wilt as the dog days of August commence?
And I kind of feel like these three teams are great. They're really, really good. I mean, I - you look at the Dodgers. They're an incredibly hungry team. They went to the World Series back-to-back years. They got beat twice. The Astros got them in 2017. The Red Sox got them last year.
You look at the Astros, who, of course, won the World Series two years ago and then, of course, the Yankees, who have been building and building for this for the last couple years. They sort of surprised everyone a couple years ago. The Red Sox got them last year. And now they are just an amazing offensive team, and they're doing it with a lot of - well, a lot of their best players have been injured. Giancarlo Stanton isn't even on the field right now, and the Yankees are just steamrolling everybody.
SIMON: Washington Nationals have really caught fire, too - haven't they? - without Bryce Harper.
BRYANT: Exactly, and that's the team that - they were, I think, 11 or 12 games under 500 earlier in the season, and now they're in second place. They lost a tough one last night to the Braves. But I feel like this is another team that - they've got something to prove, as well. And especially, you've got those two pitchers - you've got Scherzer, you've got Strasburg - and that's a pretty good start. I think any team in baseball would like their chances when you start the rotation with those two guys.
BRYANT: So - and let's not forget the Twins in...
BRYANT: ...The American League Central. And right behind them is Cleveland. There's - and of course, the team that I used to cover, the Oakland A's, are probably the second-hottest team in baseball. So it's really funny, Scott. You have so many times that people talk about baseball and - oh, there's no salary cap, and no one's got a chance to win. And look at all of these teams that are out there who are - exactly. And by the way, they say it in that accent, as well. They say...
SIMON: I know.
BRYANT: ...It just like that, right? But it's true.
SIMON: NL Central, I just want to mention, 'cause you have a great three-way race between the Cubs...
BRYANT: And I didn't even mention your Cubs. Exactly.
SIMON: ...Who aren't first, but the Brew Crew from Milwaukee and the Cards are close. And even the Bucs have a chance.
BRYANT: Well, and let's not forget that last year, the Brewers were in the NLCS. So they're close, as well. There's a lot of teams that could win this thing, so instead of just talking about baseball being, you know, one team or two teams that can't win - baseball actually has the most parity of all the sports.
SIMON: Baseball's Hall of Fame abduction - abduction (laughter) - Area 51 stuff...
BRYANT: (Laughter) Baseball's induction.
SIMON: ...Induction is tomorrow. I know you get a Hall of Fame vote. Mariano Rivera, the great Yankee, is the Hall's first unanimous inductee.
BRYANT: Indeed. And I had been withholding my vote for a couple of years because I was conflicted about steroids and conflicted about the commissioner and company inducting themselves into the Hall of Fame while allowing us the players - the voters to punish the players. And I hadn't been a fan of that. But when it came to Rivera and also the death of Roy Halladay, I felt like I needed to vote. And so I voted this year.
And Mariano Rivera - I covered Mariano and Mike Mussina, who are both getting in. I covered both of them in the - with the Yankees in the early 2000s. And it should have happened before, but the fact that it's Rivera - you can't argue that. Edgar Martinez - everybody in Seattle would be very happy about that. And, Scott, you should be - what should I say? - ashamed that you've never been to Cooperstown. You got to go.
SIMON: Yeah. All right. Well, we'll go together sometime. Howard Bryant of ESPN. Thanks so much.
BRYANT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.