RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
With college basketball and the Masters behind us, many sports fans are turning their attention to baseball. We are through the first weekend of the Major League regular season, and already there are some early surprises. NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman joins us to talk about that.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Renee.
MONTAGNE: Let's start with the city of New York, where the two teams are doing a bit of a role reversal.
GOLDMAN: Yes, they are. For the first time since 1985, the Mets are 3-0, and the Yankees are 0-3. That's great news for the Mets, obviously, a team that's best known in recent years for late season collapses and money problems related to the Bernie Madoff scandal. Last night's winning pitcher Jonathon Niese said we're going to surprise some people this year, and so far so good.
Now, not so much for the Yankees, but there is no panic in the Bronx. It is a sluggish start. It happens. In fact, it happened last in 1998, and the Yanks ended up winning 114 games and the World Series.
MONTAGNE: Well, when you talk about the Yankees, though, the Red Sox aren't far behind. And Boston is having a rough start this year.
GOLDMAN: Yes, it is. The Sox are 0-3. Last night, they lost a heartbreaker for them and a thriller for Detroit. The Tigers catcher Alex Avila hit a homerun with two outs in the bottom of the 11th inning to give Detroit a 13-12 win.
Now, a diehard Red Sox fan sent me a link to an erroneous write up on Yahoo sports that had the Red Sox winning the game. And this fan titled his e-mail: Dewey Defeats Truman.
In Boston, Red Sox games are often as important as presidential elections. Bostonians are trying to remain calm, but of course the wounds still are fresh from the disastrous ending to last season. And they're wondering: Is this more of the same?
Now, Renee, it should be noted for both the Yanks and the Red Sox, they got swept by really good teams. Tampa Bay, which beat up on New York, is considered a contender in the powerful American League East division. Detroit was very good last year, almost made it to the World Series, got even better in the offseason when the Tigers signed free agent slugger Prince Fielder.
MONTAGNE: Well, Tom, it would seem the biggest offseason moves were by the L.A. Angels of Anaheim, who signed baseball's best hitter Albert Pujols, away from the World Series champions St. Louis Cardinals. How is that working out for the Angels?
GOLDMAN: Well, Pujols has three hits in 10 at-bats. The Angels are 1-2. Today, the other big free agent acquisition, pitcher CJ Wilson, has his first start. You know, it's a bit of a slow beginning, but the Angels are considered World Series champion material.
And their toughest competition will be in their own American League West division, from the Texas Rangers. Texas lost in the last two World Series, then spent lavishly on free agents like the Angels and got what Sports Illustrated calls the most-hyped Japanese import ever, pitcher Yu Darvish. So the new balance of power, many believe, is in that American League West.
MONTAGNE: So, Tom, any other early surprises?
GOLDMAN: You know, the San Francisco Giants are 0-3. Arizona swept the Giants and beat one of baseball's best collection of starting pitchers: Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain. But the Giants have their star catcher, Buster Posey, back from injury, which is why they're expected to rebound and contend for another World Series title. They won just two years ago, with Posey anchoring that team.
MONTAGNE: And finally, Major League Baseball will have a different look, come playoff time many months from now. What's the change?
GOLDMAN: Yeah, they're adding a second wildcard team in each league. The wildcard teams are the teams with the best records after the division winners. So it means two more Major League teams will make it to the playoffs, and overall, more teams should be engaged at the end of the regular season battling for those two extra spots. So it should mean more excitement.
MONTAGNE: Tom, thank you very much.
GOLDMAN: You bet.
MONTAGNE: NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.