McAdam: Red Sox-Cubs is much ado about nothing

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McAdam: Red Sox-Cubs is much ado about nothing

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- It's the hottest Red Sox ticket of the season by a longshot -- tougher than any series with the Yankees, or any September series that could well determine the team's playoff fate.

Everyone, it seems, wants to see the Chicago Cubs at Fenway Park this weekend.

Just one question.

Why?

Sure, this is the Cubs' first visit to Fenway since the 1918 World Series, won, of course, by the Red Sox. And sure, the Cubs play in a historic (antiquated), cozy (cramped) and traditional (overpriced) ballpark, just like the Sox themselves.

But the notion that this is some sort of must-see series, a meeting between two tragically star-crossed franchises went out, oh, about seven years ago.

Prior to 2004, when Everything Changed, the Cubs and Sox were indeed united in their misery. No championships for either since World War I. A dedicated but long-suffering fan base. A few oh-so-close calls, falling inevitably just short of The Big One.

That script, however, got thrown out just about the same time that Keith Foullke was fielding a harmless comebacker from Edgar Renteria in St. Louis.

That's when these two franchises took separate paths. And the Red Sox, short on this kind of experience, decided that they such preferred winning to losing that they did it again, three years later.

Who knows? With a healthier Mike Lowell and Josh Beckett a year later, the Red Sox might have been a lot closer to dynasty, with three titles in the span of five seasons, than to the Lovable Losers tag that was affixed to them for 86 seasons.

The Red Sox have happily shed that notion, tossing it aside not once but twice. They're not the jokes you're looking for.

The Cubs' long, futile chase, alas, continues, now stretching out better than 100 years. Hey, the old joke goes: any team can have a bad century.

Upon closer inspection, the similarities between the two were never truly apt.

Both went decades and decades without winning a World Series, but the Red Sox had far, far more close calls than did the Cubs, who haven't won a pennant, for God's sake, since 1945.

Meanwhile, between the Cubs' last trip to the World Series and the drought-snapping win in 2004, the Red Sox went to the Fall Classic four times. Each time, the Red Sox played the National League champion with the best record of that particular decade (the 1946 St. Louis Cardinals; the 1967 Cards; the 1975 Cincinnati Reds; and the 1986 New York Mets). Each time, they extended the misery by losing in the seventh and deciding game.

(And that doesn't count the 1978 one-game playoff game between the Sox and Yankees).

The closest the Cubs came to winning it all was blowing a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five 1984 NLCS, and the infamous Bartman game, when a fan interfered with outfielder Moises Alou and sent the Cubs into a late-game spiral in the 2003 NLCS against Florida.

The Red Sox, for all their collective ineptitude, at least boasted stars: Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Roger Clemens. They had a parade of other Hall of Famers (Doerr, Cronin, Fisk), MVPs (Lynn, Rice, Foxx, Jensen), and pitchers with style (Tiant and Martinez).

The Cubs? They had Ernie Banks, Billy Williams . . . and not much else.

Even the franchise's rabid followers were different. While Red Sox fans tortured themselves with re-tellings of 1972, when Luis Aparicio tripped rounding third base, and 1975, cursing umpire Larry Barnett, Cubs' fans were mostly content to self-medicate with another Old Style and one more drunken version of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame.''

At this point, the Cubs' misery may go on forever. They're no closer to a championship than they were a decade ago, or the decade before that.

The franchise which boasts "Wait 'til next year,'' as its unofficial rallying cry has turned its procrastination into an art form.

Who knows why Major League Baseball waited so long to match up these teams in the mid-season pageant that is interleague play? When the Sox finally got around to getting to Wrigley for a weekend series in 2005, they had already won a Series.

Perhaps the schedule-makers, with knowledge of the team's histories, figured there was no rush in matching the franchises up. Cubs-Red Sox? Nah, let's wait 'til next year.

And now, they've waited too long. The script doesn't make sense any more.

So enjoy the throwback uniforms, and the tales of the last Boston meeting between the two clubs.

But don't make the mistake that this is some sort of cosmic baseball get-together, because it isn't. When it comes to playing Lovable Losers, that part fits only one team at Fenway this weekend.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Ramirez, Leon homer, Red Sox beat Angels 9-4 on Papi's night

Ramirez, Leon homer, Red Sox beat Angels 9-4 on Papi's night

BOSTON - David Ortiz became one of the most celebrated players in Red Sox history during his storied 14-year run in Boston.

On the night he returned to Fenway to have his No. 34 take its place among the franchise's other legends, his former teammates did their part to make sure it was a memorable one.

Hanley Ramirez and Sandy Leon hit two-run homers and the Boston Red Sox beat the Los Angeles Angels 9-4 on Friday to cap a night in which Ortiz's number became the latest retired at Fenway Park.

It was the 250th career home run for Ramirez, a good friend of Ortiz who was also born in the Dominican Republic. Leon finished with three hits and four RBIs.

Ramirez said he played with Ortiz on his mind.

"He's my mentor, my big brother. He's everything," Ramirez said. "Today when I saw him on the field crying, it made me cry."

He said his home run was in Big Papi's honor.

"Definitely, definitely, definitely," he said. "I was going to do his thing (pointing his hands in the air) but I forgot."

The homers helped provide a nice cushion for Rick Porcello (4-9), who gave up four runs and struck out eight in 6 1/3 innings to earn the victory. It was the 13th straight start Porcello has gone at least six innings.

"It was vintage Porcello," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "A couple of pitches that cut his night short, but he was crisp throughout."

This could serve as a needed confidence boost for Porcello, who had been 0-4 with a 7.92 ERA in his previous five starts, allowing 47 hits and 27 earned runs.

He had command of his pitches early, holding the Angels scoreless until the fourth, when a catching error by Leon at home allowed Albert Pujols to cross the plate.

Porcello said he isn't sure if he has completely turned a corner yet after his slow start, but he has felt better in his recent starts.

"Today was a step in the right direction," he said.

Alex Meyer (3-4) allowed five runs and five hits in 3 1/3 innings.

Los Angeles scored three runs in the seventh, but cooled off after Porcello left.

Boston got out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, scoring on an RBI double by Xander Bogaerts and then getting two more runs off wild pitches by Meyer.

Ramirez gave Porcello a 5-1 lead in the fourth with his two-run shot to right field.

Ortiz: 'A super honor' to have number retired by Red Sox

Ortiz: 'A super honor' to have number retired by Red Sox

BOSTON —  The Red Sox have become well known for their ceremonies, for their pull-out-all-the-stops approach to pomp. The retirement of David Ortiz’s No. 34 on Friday evening was in one way, then, typical.

A red banner covered up Ortiz’s No. 34 in right field, on the facade of the grandstand, until it was dropped down as Ortiz, his family, Red Sox ownership and others who have been immortalized in Fenway lore looked on. Carl Yazstremski and Jim Rice, Wade Boggs and Pedro Martinez. 

The half-hour long tribute further guaranteed permanence to a baseball icon whose permanence in the city and the sport was never in doubt. But the moments that made Friday actually feel special, rather than expected, were stripped down and quick. 

Dustin Pedroia’s not one to belabor many points, never been the most effusive guy around. (He’d probably do well on a newspaper deadline.) The second baseman spoke right before Ortiz took to the podium behind the mound.

“We want to thank you for not the clutch hits, the 500 home runs, we want to thank you for how you made us feel and it’s love,” Pedroia said, with No. 34 painted into both on-deck circles and cut into the grass in center field. “And you’re not our teammate, you’re not our friend, you’re our family. … Thank you, we love you.”

Those words were enough for Ortiz to have tears in his eyes.

“Little guy made me cry,” Ortiz said, wiping his hands across his face. “I feel so grateful. I thank God every day for giving me the opportunity to have the career that I have. But I thank God even more for giving me the family and what I came from, who teach me how to try to do everything the right way. Nothing — not money — nothing is better than socializing with the people that are around you, get familiar with, show them love, every single day. It’s honor to get to see my number …. I remember hitting batting practice on this field, I always was trying to hit those numbers.”

Now that’s a poignant image for a left-handed slugger at Fenway Park.

He did it once, he said — hit the numbers. He wasn’t sure when. Somewhere in 2011-13, he estimated — but he said he hit Bobby Doerr’s No. 1.

“It was a good day to hit during batting practice,” Ortiz remembered afterward in a press conference. “But to be honest with you, I never thought I’d have a chance to hit the ball out there. It’s pretty far. My comment based on those numbers was, like, I started just getting behind the history of this organization. Those guys, those numbers have a lot of good baseball in them. It takes special people to do special things and at the end of the day have their number retired up there, so that happening to me today, it’s a super honor to be up there, hanging with those guys.”

The day was all about his number, ultimately, and his number took inspiration from the late Kirby Puckett. Ortiz’s major league career began with the Twins in 1997. Puckett passed away in 2006, but the Red Sox brought his children to Fenway Park. They did not speak at the podium or throw a ceremonial first pitch, but their presence likely meant more than, say, Jason Varitek’s or Tim Wakefield’s.

“Oh man, that was very emotional,” Ortiz said. “I’m not going to lie to you, like, when I saw them coming toward me, I thought about Kirby. A lot. That was my man, you know. It was super nice to see his kids. Because I remember, when they were little guys, little kids. Once I got to join the Minnesota Twins, Kirby was already working in the front office. So they were, they used to come in and out. I used to get to see them. But their dad was a very special person for me and that’s why you saw me carry the No. 34 when I got here. It was very special to get to see them, to get kind of connected with Kirby somehow someway.”

Ortiz’s place in the row of 11 retired numbers comes in between Boggs’ No. 26 and Jackie Robinson’s No. 42.