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Saturday Sports: End of baseball season; major NBA trade; remembering Brooks Robinson

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: A blockbuster NBA trade - gives me a chance to yell a certain slogan. Baseball playoffs set to begin. And remembering a legend of third base. Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media joins us. Howard, thanks for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott. How are you?

SIMON: Fine, thanks. Fear the deer.

BRYANT: It's not even basketball season yet. And yet the pipes are already there.

SIMON: Oh, the pipes are - the Portland Trailblazers are trading their great point guard Damian Lillard to the Bucks. It's a triple-team deal, includes the Phoenix Suns. The Bucks are just two seasons away from having won the NBA - does this trade make the Bucks the favorites this year?

BRYANT: Of course it does. You've got Dame Lillard. I mean you lose a little bit - you lose a lot defensively with Jrue Holiday, but he was going to - he was thinking about retiring anyway. I think that this is the sort of blockbuster deal that certainly changes the balance in an Eastern Conference that is already stacked. You've got Boston.

SIMON: Yup.

BRYANT: You've got Philadelphia. You've got Miami. Damian Lillard wanted to go to Miami. And pretty much everyone figured - conventional wisdom is that in the NBA, where the players have all the power, he was going to force a trade to the Heat, which would have made them - they've already been - they were already at the - in the NBA finals. And so that was going to make them even better. And then that didn't happen. So - but it's a great trade. It's a big trade. Phoenix has a better team now. They've got a better bench.

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: And so the Western Conference just got a little bit stronger. This is why the NBA is such a great league, because there's so much movement, you can't just say from year to year that things are going to be the same because they're not. If you're the Boston Celtics, you just signed Jaylen Brown. And are you still - are you a better team? You've got Porzingis and Brown and Tatum, but now Milwaukee's got Giannis and Dame Lillard. And Dame Lillard had been waiting his whole career to play at a championship level, and he's there now. He is going to be the favorite on his team to go to the NBA finals for the first time.

SIMON: Yeah. Major League Baseball's regular season ends tomorrow. By the way, the Milwaukee Brewers kicked dirt on the Cubs last night, 4-3. They're out of the wild card race. All pennant races are wrapped up except Rangers, Astros and Mariners, who can still win the AL West. What do you see?

BRYANT: Correction, Scott Simon, Rangers, Astros, Mariners who can still win the NL - I'm sorry - the AL West, but also, let's not forget the Toronto Blue Jays, who have not yet clinched a wild card. They are still alive, even though they're 11 games out. In the American League...

SIMON: You mean there other teams get to play for the wild card, not just the Cubs? I know it's a different league. Yes. Go ahead.

BRYANT: Who knew?

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: And so, yeah, there's a lot of baseball to be played. I think this is the up and down of the new rules where, sure, you've got a lot of teams that are still in it for the last week. And that AL West, the defending champions are kind of on the ropes, but they're a game out. That's Houston. So it looks like Houston, if they can win one of their last two games, they're probably going to get...

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: ...Either the wild card, or they can - and they still have a shot at the division with Texas. Seattle made the playoffs last year for the first time in more than 20 years. And so it's really, really good stuff. The downside, of course, Scott - the downside is that, meh, how many of these mediocre teams really deserve to make the playoffs after 162 games? But it's the excitement. If your city's in it, you got a chance. But all eyes right now are on the American League West. And then also for the teams that didn't make it, all eyes are also on their teams that got fired. For example, Gabe Kapler, San Francisco. They win 107 games two years ago. And now after four years, he's out. And so that's what happens in the cruel business of sports if you don't win.

SIMON: Let's say goodbye to Brooks Robinson, legend at third base for the Baltimore Orioles - Hall of Famer, 16-time Gold Glove winner, two-time World Series champion, 86 when he died, often called the human vacuum cleaner. God, he was amazing, wasn't he?

BRYANT: Amazing. And not just amazing, but for that generation of baseball fans in Baltimore, Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell, Frank Robinson, Cuellar, Jim Palmer, really the golden age of Baltimore baseball. And he was the gentleman. My favorite story about Brooks Robinson is that he always kept a magic marker in his coat in case he had to sign an autograph for the fans. What a legend. Total baseball.

SIMON: Oh, my gosh. What a gentleman. I hadn't heard that before. Well, thanks so much. Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media. Talk to you later. Bye-bye.

BRYANT: Thanks, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.