SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
And I look forward all week to be able to say - time for sports.
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SIMON: Broken bones and trade deadlines and all baseball bonanza - here's Howard Bryant of espn.com and ESPN The Magazine. Good morning, Howard.
HOWARD BRYANT, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott. How are you doing?
SIMON: I'm fine. How am I doing?
BRYANT: How are you doing? (Laughter).
SIMON: Well, let's take a look at the National League standings. Phillies and Braves in the East all bunched up; the Brewers and Cubs in the Central; Dodgers and D-backs - don't forget the Rockies - in the West. We've got some exciting few weeks ahead, don't we?
BRYANT: Yeah. This is great. This is exactly what baseball season is supposed to be. And we talk about the dog days of August, and this is where we're going to find out the contenders and the pretenders. This is that separation time. And one of the things that drives me crazy about sports is when - especially baseball - when we say, oh, well, you know, no one's going to chance in baseball. The season's over from opening day. But look at the National League. You've got eight teams in the wildcard hunt. The league's only got 15 teams. And half of them are - half of them are within six games of a playoff spot. And to me when, you get to September 1, if you're within five games of the division or of a wildcard, you've got a shot.
BRYANT: So to me, there should be a lot of teams out there keeping their players, trying to add to what they've got to really try to make a playoff push. Obviously - obviously - you've got the Cubs. They're a great team. They just went out and got Cole Hamels. The Dodgers went out and got Manny Machado from Baltimore. So the big boys are doing what they do. But at the same time, there are a lot of teams - look at Pittsburgh. They went out and won 10 straight games.
BRYANT: And they're in the playoff hunt as well. This is going to be a fun August. And I think what's really interesting to me is to look at the teams that are actually going to say, hey, we've got a shot to win this against the number of teams who kind of pack it in.
SIMON: Looking to the American League, the Yankees got a bad break - fracture actually to the wrist...
SIMON: ...Of Aaron Judge. He was hit by a pitch. They're five games behind the Bo Sox - going to be tough to catch them.
BRYANT: Well, it's going to be tough to catch them, except that they play each other several more times during the season. And those head-to-head games mean everything. It's essentially a two-game switch in the standings. But the Yankees are on top of the wildcard, so they're in the playoff hunt. I think that - not even in the playoff hunt - they're going to be fine, I think. And I think that they're good enough, and they've got enough prospects. And who knows? They might make a deal. They may end up with Bryce Harper next week, knowing the Yankees.
SIMON: Yeah - well - or he could go to the Dodgers is what I read.
BRYANT: Or the Dodgers or whatever. I mean...
SIMON: Of course, he's only hitting .200. So like, who cares? All right.
BRYANT: They are the Yankees. But you know what, Scott? My favorite team in all of this is the Oakland A's, the money ballers. They're back.
BRYANT: They've only got a $61 million payroll, but they've got one of the best records in the league. They've won 35 games on the road. They're only a game back in the wildcard hunt, behind Seattle. And they're only six out of the division behind the defending champion Houston Astros. This is a team that wasn't supposed to do anything. They weren't supposed to be. It's a testament to Bob Melvin, a testament to Billy Beane. And all those guys out there who like to look at that squad and sort of laugh at them because they hadn't gotten to or haven't gotten to a World Series under Billy Beane, this team is really good. Chris Davis is an MVP candidate as well.
SIMON: Sixty-one million dollars, we should note, is I think what Manny Machado leaves...
SIMON: ...In the cushions of his sofa. Trade deadline coming up.
Howard Bryant, espn.com and ESPN The Magazine. Thanks so much for being with us, Howard.
BRYANT: No, my pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.