Red Sox troubles all too familiar to Papelbon with Phillies


Red Sox troubles all too familiar to Papelbon with Phillies

KANSAS CITY -- After reaching free agency, closer Jonathan Papelbon doubted he would return to the Red Sox last fall. Papelbon knew that he was looking for a multi-year deal and the Red Sox were philosophically opposed to giving a 30-something reliever that kind of deal.

But the team's decision, two days after the season ended, to not retain manager Terry Francona and general manager Theo Epstein's choice to leave weeks later, essentially sealed the deal and cleared the way for him to sign a four-year, 50 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies.

"To go from having his manager in 2005 to 2011, (returning to Boston without Francona) wouldn't have been easy for me," said Papelbon. "I'd say (Francona leaving) pretty much closed the door. Not 100-percent, but I wasn't going to go there not knowing who I was going to be playing for. I think a manager has a lot to do with how a player can tick.

"Then, Theo bounces . . . Ding, ding, ding, a lightbulb goes off in my head. I said to myself, 'If Theo bounces . . . he created all of this. He wouldn't just leave this behind (if everything looked good). So the wheels started turning. It would have been a new experience and I don't think it would have been one I could handle too well."

Papelbon viewed Francona as a scapegoat and took issue with the theory that some veterans on the 2011 Red Sox took advantage of Francona last September.

"A manager's job is not to babysit," he said. "You're dealing with grown men and grown men should be able to prepare for baseball games in the way they know how to prepare. How they prepare is their own discretion."

In his new setting, Papelbon finds some remarkable similarities between Francona and Phillies manager Charlie Manuel.

"They're actually pretty similar," said Papelbon. "One is a little bit more laid back than the other. Charlie's a little bit more laid back and he lets the game come to him a little bit more. But they both let their players go out and do what the players know how to do.

"That says a lot because a lot of managers want to control so much. And when you try to do that, you don't let the player go out and be himself and that player isn't as successful. There really isn't much difference (between them)."

Papelbon believed he was going to a winner since the Phils had won the last five National League East titles and won two pennants in that span.

But like his former team, his present team has been decimated by injuries. The Phils lost second baseman Chase Utley and first baseman Ryan Howard for almost the entire first half of the season and have been without ace Roy Halladay for the past seven weeks.

The parallel has not been lost on Papelbon.

"I'm sitting here looking at what they're going through (in Boston)," said Papelbon, "and what I could have gone through if I stayed, and it's like we're kind of going through that now in Philadelphia . . . We've kind of weathered the storm half-way decent. I think it's still too close to start dealing players. Now, if we lose 10 in a row after the break, that's a different story. If we come back and win 10-of-12 . . ."

He keeps close tabs on his former team and was asked if he felt the Sox could make a successful run at the post-season in the second half.

"I would hope they think that," said Papelbon. "You're a year removed from the situation Tampa Bay was in (to stage a second-half comeback). Do they need a little bit of luck and some teams beating each other up in the division? Yeah. We need the same thing over in Philadelphia. But it's definitely possible to make a run.

"Whether those guys think that in the clubhouse or not, I don't know."

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.