RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
And it's time now for sports.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
MARTIN: It's the playoffs - the baseball playoffs, where heroes and goats are made, or so I'm told. Mike Pesca of "The Gist" joins us from the studios of Slate in New York. Hi, Mike.
MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Hi. The goats - let us talk of the goats.
MARTIN: The goats. OK, truth be told, I'd never heard of this expression until hours ago, but everyone tells me this is a thing. I don't even understand what it means. Heroes and...
PESCA: ...A goat? Yeah...
MARTIN: ...I understand what a goat is, but I don't understand the relevance in baseball.
PESCA: Oh, there's so much relevance we can't even get into. Like, there's this curse...
MARTIN: ...Oh, we can't even get into it.
PESCA: There's this curse of the goats with the Cubs. And GOAT is also an acronym for Greatest of All Time. But we're going to talk about the goats who are the heels, the guys who let their teams down.
MARTIN: OK, so there's two pitchers who are getting a lot of attention right now. Who are they?
PESCA: Yes, David Price and Clayton Kershaw, two of the best pitchers. I should say that Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers is just the best pitcher in baseball. He's 28 years old. He's going to the Hall of Fame. Right now, he'd probably make the Hall of Fame, actually, even if he quit tomorrow. And David Price is also a great pitcher. To give you some idea of how great they are, Clayton Kershaw gets paid $34 million a year, David Price $30 million a year.
And yet when it comes to the big stage both of these guys, to varying degrees, are disappointing. And it happened in the first game that each of them pitched in the playoffs. Especially David Price, a guy getting paid $30 million dollars a year, you'd hope he could get out of the fourth inning. But he couldn't, once again letting his team down. Whereas Kershaw just wasn't his normal dazzling self. But he does have a history in the playoffs of sometimes getting bombed.
MARTIN: So is that just 'cause it's the playoffs and there's a lot of pressure? I mean, but - what's the deal?
PESCA: OK, I think there are two different guys, two different explanations. I think first of all, Kershaw is being compared to his usual regular-season self. And here's a guy who has, you know, 170 strikeouts in a year and 11 walks - just spectacular. So if he pitches only pretty good in the playoffs in his first game - seven innings, three runs - that's pretty good. We're going to say a little disappointing. And the couple of games where he was really bad, which were a couple playoff games against the Cardinals - gave up big home runs - you say, what's up with Kershaw?
Price, on the other hand, I do think something's going on. It's very hard to prove, but if you listen to interviews with other players or ex-players they say he's maybe playing - trying too hard, gripping his balls a little hard, trying to be perfect. And when you try to be perfect and you aim instead of throw, bad things can happen. I think that there's maybe enough evidence to say that David Price is mentally taking himself out of games.
MARTIN: And, I mean, these guys - just higher stakes - right? - compared to the hitters. The pitchers have to be good all the time, every time.
PESCA: Well, that's a good - that's a good thing to think about. A pitcher starts off with an ERA of 0 and can only get bad from there. A hitter starts off with a batting average of 0 but can only get good from there. So one swing of the bat can rehabilitate or make a hero in terms of a batter, but a pitcher has to be very good and consistent throughout. But to be fair or to be honest with David Price, he just has been a bad playoff pitcher. Although, you know, they're down two games to nothing. If the Red Sox come back he could, you know, rewrite history. I just doubt we'll see that. Kershaw can rehabilitate his image without any miraculous comeback. They're up in their series.
MARTIN: Mike Pesca. He's our own GOAT. He also hosts "The Gist."
PESCA: Wait, the good kind, right?
MARTIN: That's a compliment. The good kind.
PESCA: Yes, OK, thanks.
MARTIN: Greatest of All Time. Thanks so much, Mike.
PESCA: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.