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Saturday Sports: LA Dodgers' offseason, holiday feast, NFL and Brock Purdy

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And as it says on the T-shirt, it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: What will the global Economy look like now that the Dodgers have spent all the money? What to do with three helpings of pigskin this Christmas? And has Mr. Irrelevant turned into the most valuable player in the NFL? ESPN's Michele Steele joins us. Michele, thanks so much for being with us.

MICHELE STEELE: Sure. Happy Christmas Eve Eve.

SIMON: I guess it is, more or less...

STEELE: Yeah.

SIMON: ...Christmas Eve Eve. Boy, the Dodgers - they spent a shade over $1 billion on Shohei Ohtani, 750 million - now Yoshinobu Yamamoto, a mere $325 million deal. But haven't we learned, and big teams have learned, that signing big stars doesn't always deliver victory?

STEELE: Yeah. A billion dollars - it's a lot of money. But I've got two words for that, Scott - Arizona Diamondbacks.

SIMON: Yeah.

STEELE: The snakes beat the Dodgers this year at the playoffs. They swept the Dodgers on their way to a World Series appearance. And the D-backs' payroll - I looked it up - $143 million last season. That's like 20% of an Ohtani. In the wild card era, superteams just have not equaled...

SIMON: Yeah.

STEELE: ...Championships. You know, this isn't the NBA where you get three stars together and they go on a run. The Yankees, of course, are the example that everybody brings up, is a superteam that did win consecutive World Series. But that was in the last century. Nobody's done it since. And ESPN did the numbers on this. In the last decade, 14 teams have made the World Series, right?

SIMON: Yeah.

STEELE: Nine different teams have won. Scott, that's more than the NHL...

SIMON: Wow.

STEELE: ...The NBA and the NFL, which is held up as the all-time parity league. So the Dodgers are going to be great, but the odds just aren't in their favor.

SIMON: Christmas Day used to be a time for families, but this year, three games on Christmas Day. I got to tell you, I don't know if I like it. Not only are players not with their families, but families are watching football and not L for the Hallmark Channel. This being said, Baltimore versus San Francisco could be a Super Bowl preview, couldn't it?

STEELE: Yeah, sure. You know, you look at the top two teams of their conferences, San Francisco and Baltimore are right there. We have a chance to preview what could be going down in Vegas in February next year. You know, the Ravens' Lamar Jackson - of course, their quarterback - he was asked about this being a Super Bowl preview. And he downplayed it, saying that he's just focused in on this game. And you know, I hear a lot of players say that - I'm just locked in on this next game. But certainly, these coaching staffs are going to be circling this game on Christmas Day, and it'll be cool to see these teams get a chance to sort of test themselves against each other. I would say the matchup to watch here is Lamar Jackson, who's an elite runner against that Niners defensive line. And what he does running around during games - he's a game plan nightmare. So this is going to be a little bit of a Christmas present for football fans.

SIMON: And, of course, Brock Purdy of the 49ers, Mr. Irrelevant, last in the 2022 draft, now front-runner for MVP. What did so many smart people and analysts and the data miss about Brock Purdy?

STEELE: Yeah. You know what? The scouts saw him come out of Iowa State. It's a good program, not a powerhouse, not in an elite defensive conference. His size and his physical ability didn't necessarily attract scouts. But I'll tell you what he does really well, Scott. He processes things very quickly, and that matters in the Kyle-Shanahan-led offense.

SIMON: Yeah. ESPN's Michele Steele. Michele, happy holidays. See you in the new year. Thanks so much for being with us. I know you'll be working this holiday. Thank you very much.

STEELE: Oh, yes, Scott, thanks to the NFL. Happy Christmas. 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.