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Saturday Sports: Minnesota Twins, Santa Anita Horse Deaths


I look forward all week to saying it's time for sports.


SIMON: Homers a-poppin' (ph) this baseball season. And for the first time, four teams have reached 100 wins. Yeah, guess who wasn't one of those four. Meanwhile, racing resumes in Santa Anita after more than 30 horses died there last season. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us. Good morning, Tom.


SIMON: And I was astonished to discover this week that apparently baseball season is going on for some clubs. I mean, I thought after that Cubs-Cardinals series, they would just call the rest of the season off. But...

GOLDMAN: Let it go. Let it go.

SIMON: There - (singing) let it go. There's been a record number of homers this season. The Minnesota Twins became the first team to hit 300 in a season. Yankees overtook them last night. Is the ball juiced, or is just everybody taking that supplement Frank Thomas advertises?

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) And he looks great, doesn't he?

SIMON: He does look great, yeah.

GOLDMAN: He really does.

You know, not too long ago, we would be wondering about supplements and more powerful substances, but we're told the so-called steroids era in Major League Baseball is over. Testing is rigorous. Science and a lot of pitchers, Scott, say it's the ball's fault - not enough drag on the balls, so they're flying out. And there's growing concern that all these home runs are bad for the game - less action on the field when guys are doing a home run trot around the bases while everyone else on the field watches.

There's speculation change is coming. The balls may be altered, perhaps adding more drag.

SIMON: I wonder - I shouldn't ask you without - I wonder if anybody stole home this year. I don't remember seeing it. Do you?

GOLDMAN: I don't remember seeing it, but I did not see every game.

SIMON: Yeah, all right.

And all the talk about the Astros, Dodgers and Yankees. What a season for the Twins. My gosh. They beat Kansas City last night for their 100th win, 6-2. And this is a small-payroll team in a modest but wonderful market.

GOLDMAN: It is. And the only other time the Twins did this was in 1965. And this time, it's history. First time there have been four teams with at least a hundred wins in a season. Now, at the same time, way at the other end of things, there were four teams that lost at least a hundred games, and that ties a record of most teams in the season with at least a hundred losses. That was back in 2002.

So you have this situation of haves and have-nots causing more fretting in baseball, which prides itself on parity in recent years.

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: The baseball rulers don't seem too worried. They say these kinds of extremes are cyclical, and they work themselves out.

SIMON: Santa Anita Park is up and running again after an array of reforms designed to make racing safer. A 23-day autumn meet is underway now. Track officials say that they've made changes for the safety of the athletes, who happen to be horses. What kind of changes?

GOLDMAN: Well, here are a few. All racing entries have to have a pre-race form signed by a veterinarian saying there are no known problems with a horse that should keep it from racing. Veterinarians are also expecting - inspecting all horses scheduled for training. Santa Anita track has a new drainage system that's supposed to help with the track surface - making it safer for horses.

There's a lot of scrutiny as this fall meet opens, Scott. Santa Anita can't afford to have another spate of horse deaths like before. And there's a lot of optimism that the troubles are behind. But we should note just 10 days ago, a horse had to be euthanized...

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: ...After a training injury, making it 31 fatalities since last December.

SIMON: Oh, my word. Well, NPR's Tom Goldman, thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on