MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
The Detroit Tigers are in the World Series. The St. Louis Cardinals are close. And sportswriter Stefan Fatsis is with us to discuss baseball's playoff season. Hiya, Stefan.
STEFAN FATSIS: Hey, Robert.
SIEGEL: Let's start with last night's winners. The Tigers beat the New York Yankees 8-to-1 in Detroit to sweep their American League Championship Series four games to none. The pitching - the Detroit pitching, just phenomenal.
FATSIS: Just incredible. Detroit's starting pitcher, led by the incomparable Justin Verlander, were spectacular. They allowed a total of two runs in 27 innings, which works out to two-thirds of a run per game. Coming into the playoffs, the Tigers had the seventh most wins in the American League in the regular season. They made the playoffs because they won a weak Central Division in the American League. But they have peaked at absolutely the right time: 22 wins in the last 31 games going into the World Series.
SIEGEL: And despite their incredible success in the championship series, the Tigers aren't being talked about so much for how well they did, as the Yankees are being talked about for their implosion in that series.
FATSIS: Yeah, and look, the Yankees delivered one of the worst collective hitting performances in postseason history. They scored in just three out of 39 innings. Their team batting average was .157, the second worst ever since the league championship format was started in 1969. This is a small sample size; the Yankees did lose their shortstop, Derek Jeter. But to see a team bench three of its best players - Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, and Nick Swisher - in the season's decisive games, that's just astounding.
SIEGEL: Let's talk about one of those players you mentioned, was it Alex - what's his name again?
FATSIS: Yeah. Yeah. Rodriguez or something?
SIEGEL: Alex Rodriguez, benched, pinch-hit for him; landed on the front pages of the tabloids for reasons other than this terrible hitting. Now what?
FATSIS: Did you see the New York Post today, Robert? Page One is a baseball with script writing on it that reads: Dear Yankees, we don't date losers. Signed, New Yorkers.
FATSIS: And that was a reference to a story that appeared in the Post during one of the benchings. A-Rod tossed the ball to a couple of women in the stands apparently asking for their phone numbers. A-Rod is 37, the Yankees owe him $114 million over the next five years. Before the series ended, there were rumors that they were trying to trade him to the Miami Marlins and would pay the bulk of his salary. A-Rod afterward took the high road, he said he's going to be back.
But New York can afford to eat this contract and move on. At this point, no one would be surprised if that happened. Drama has followed this guy his entire career. There's no reason, I guess, that it should stop now.
SIEGEL: Now, we should just point out here, he is within - assuming that he continues to play reasonably well - he's within striking distance of the all-time home run record. He would be a shoo-in to the Hall of Fame, all sorts of great things.
FATSIS: Yeah, 647 home runs so far, I think. We're talking about one of the great hitters in the game, regardless of what you think about his background, his personality, his performance drug use in the past.
SIEGEL: We hardly have any time left for the National League Championship Series. Last year's World Series champ Cardinals are playing the San Francisco Giants. Cardinals pretty surprising, they've done this year without Albert Pujols.
FATSIS: The way they did last year. They won just 88 games in the regular season this year. They replaced Pujols with a bunch of guys you've never heard of who have delivered almost equal production for about a 50th of the price. And the Giants, they just look like they're running out of steam at the end of what's been a pretty good season, but maybe overachieving a little bit.
SIEGEL: Have a great weekend, Stefan.
FATSIS: Thanks, Robert.
SIEGEL: Stefan Fatsis, who talks with us on Fridays about sports and the business of sports. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.