Haggerty: Sunday's win a reminder of what might have been


Haggerty: Sunday's win a reminder of what might have been

CLEVELAND When the Red Sox season is over and every last statistic has been recorded, parsed and analyzed in the big book of MLB numbers, most may remember Sundays wipeout 14-1 win over the Indians as the last wide smile of the season.

No matter how good that Sunday afternoon drubbing felt,the Sox are still a far sight away from the playoffs and simply treading water.
Despite urgency being the name of the game, the Sox havent gained a single game in the Wild Card playoff standings since the July 31 trade deadline, and they sit 5 games back in the middle of August. They're going nowhere fast with David Ortiz still missing in action with a balky Achilles, and the wonderfully energetic rookie Will Middlebrooks is likely gone for the season.

In a way, a blowout win like Sunday's can be disappointing for the Sox because it is a reminder of how talented this ballclub really is. Its also a harsh reminder of how much theyve truly underachieved.
Sure there are injuries. The Sox have had the most disabled players (25) and DL stints (29) in franchise history since the 1971 season.But theres still oodles of talent on a 180 million payroll thats second only to the Yankees in MLB this season. They should have been better despite all the adversity.
Watching Jon Lester dominate Tribe hitters to the tune of 12 strikeouts in six innings showed that nothing is wrong with the 28-year-olds stuff. He should have been that guy all season for the Sox rather than a mega-talented hurler trying to recover from a bloated 5.20 ERA that will probably look like an aberration when his career is over.

The numbers are so bad that Lester admits hes had to stop paying attention to his stats in a sport where every player knows every one of their own back-of-the-baseball-card breakdowns backwards and forwards.Things could have been much different for this Sox team if Lester had pulled it together before August, but he didn't.

Watching Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Dustin Pedroia singe a Cleveland rookie hurler is similarly maddening. Ellsbury and Crawford were both MIA for long stretches of the first half, while both Gonzalez and Pedroia never played up to their potential.

Sure, the Sox lead the league in runs scored. But thats like being the prettiest girl at a beer goggle dance contest. Those stats were inflated by a handful of blowout wins in the first few months of the year. Gonzalez was a gloried singles hitter masquerading as a cleanup guy and Pedroia was essentially a .260 hitting second baseman with a good glove when the Sox were at their worst. Now that the season is beyond salvage, Gonzalez has turned back into a home run hitting monster, and Pedroia has pumped his batting average up to .278 for the first time since early June.

Watching the Red Sox lineup do the rumba around the base paths while wearing out the gap in right-center field at Progressive Field was impressive on its face. But it was also a stark reminder that Boston should have been doing this all year, and they should be a team pushing the New York Yankees near the top of the AL East.

Its a season full of coulda, woulda and shoulda and theyll now be four years removed from their last playoff game win, and three years away from even qualifying for the postseason.

Instead theyre sending out feelers to deal veterans like Mike Aviles and Kelly Shoppach before the waiver trade deadline at the end of August. Maybe they're figuring which of John Lackey and Josh Beckett if not both has to find the door this winter. Perhaps theyre even thinking of mercifully shutting down Crawford, who needs elbow surgery and is now starting to feel soreness in his surgically repaired left wrist.

Call it trending downward.

Call it moving in the wrong direction.

But call it also a team that's serving out the final months of its hardball death sentence. Each and every efficient or eye-popping victory moving forward is an example of what this team might have been under different circumstances.

It was feel-good win on Sunday for the Sox, but that just makes it all a bit worse today as the Sox get ready for six games against the Orioles and Yankees.

NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945


NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945

CHICAGO -- Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton KershawAnthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.

Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon's team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven't won it all since 1948 - Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

"This city deserves it so much," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this. We're going to the World Series. I can't even believe that."

All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal "wait till next year" is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure - the future is now.

"We're too young. We don't care about it," star slugger Kris Bryant said. "We don't look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We're enjoying it and our work's just getting started."

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.

"Chicago!" shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn't allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game's first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days' rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant's single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo's fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.


Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

"Kershaw's pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don't feel like we're losing anything on defense," Maddon said. "I know Jason's a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too."

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs - 1 for 16 in the NLCS.


Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the "Play Ball!" call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.