RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Sometimes baseball just gets it right. That was the case in the Bronx last night, where shortstop Derek Jeter closed out his 20 season long Yankees career with a game-winning hit in the bottom of the ninth inning. Here to talk about Jeter and the upcoming postseason is sportswriter Stefan Fatsis.
STEFAN FATSIS: Hey, Rachel.
MARTIN: So last night felt like the one unplanned moment in what had become a heavily choreographed goodbye. Did it feel like that to you?
FATSIS: Oh, my God. It was incredible. I mean and the spontaneity was lovely. The entire stadium chanting, thank you Derek throughout the game and then the finale, even the most cynical Yankees-hater had to appreciate the moment.
MARTIN: (Laughter) So I'm a casual baseball fan, Stefan, and I know Derek Jeter is good, but did his departure really warrant all the hype?
FATSIS: You know, I think this is inevitable these days. We're sort of overwhelmed by over-sentimentalizing athletes and over-marketing them, too. We have commemorative Jeter apparel. There was a Gatorade commercial set to "My Way" with Jeter exiting a limo and walking the last few blocks to Yankee Stadium, which he of course never would've done otherwise. But Jeter's career was brilliant and the brilliance was rooted in his consistency and his longevity, and appearing aloof and uncomplicated while the New York fray swirled around him.
When Ted Williams refused a curtain call after homer-ing in his last at-bat in 1960, John Updike wrote, gods do not answer letters.
Well, Derek Jeter answered his texts, certainly from his marketing agents, but also from fans.
MARTIN: So we say goodbye to Derek Jeter but we say hello to the playoffs. The Yankees will not make an appearance in the postseason, but who are we going to see?
FATSIS: Well, in the National League we are all set. Washington, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco. The only question is, who's going to play San Francisco in the dreaded one-game Wild Card playoff? Will it be St. Louis or Pittsburgh? That'll be settled this weekend.
In the American League, Baltimore is in, as are Detroit and the Los Angeles Angels. Kansas City needs to win one game this weekend to make it and either Seattle or Oakland will likely play the Royals in the Wild Card game.
MARTIN: OK so some slots still up in the air. Who, out of those teams, is the Stefan Fatsis pick?
FATSIS: Oh, you can't predict the playoffs. It's impossible.
MARTIN: (Laughter) But who do you want to win, Stefan?
FATSIS: Nothing works in the playoffs. Analytical data doesn't work in the playoffs. Nothing works in the playoffs.
MARTIN: You don't have an emotional favorite?
FATSIS: I've wanted the Oakland Athletics to win for a long time to justify Billy Beane and sort of being at the ascendency of the statistical revolution a decade-plus ago. But in early August, they had one of the best records in baseball and they have since lost 29 of 43 games. They should still squeak into the Wild Card game and if they do, it'll be the first time that a state will have four teams in the playoffs at once. And a playoff treat I think is going to be watching Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, he just posted one of the most dominant seasons in all of modern baseball history.
MARTIN: I also understand that there is an issue right now in the baseball world with the length of games. What's going on there?
FATSIS: They are too long.
MARTIN: Tell me about it.
FATSIS: The outgoing commissioner, Bud Selig, announced that he put together a committee to tackle this problem. In the last 30 years, the length of the average Major League Baseball game has increased by about a half an hour to more than three hours. There are a bunch of reasons for that, from more pitching changes, to batters adjusting themselves a lot between pitches. And that's where baseball is likely to crack down. There are some other suggestions though. Jeremy Blachman, on the baseball website FanGraphs had a few. Here they are - when a player walks, he's shot to first base out of a T-shirt cannon.
FATSIS: Very logical. Wild dogs chase fielders to their positions between innings. And finally, pitching changes are made from the dugout by pushing a button that ejects the pitcher from the mound, directly into the upper deck.
I think that would work great.
MARTIN: Stefan, it's been great to talk to you. Have a good weekend.
FATSIS: You too, Rachel. Thanks.
MARTIN: Stefan Fatsis joins us on Fridays to talk about sports and the business of sports. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.