It could be worse

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It could be worse

Weve spent the last two days playing the Red Sox blame game.

In fact, thats been the story for the better part of the last of two years. But with the Cubs and Sox set to face off at Wrigley, and Theo Epstein making rounds to every media outlet in New England did you catch his tell-all with Kids on the Cape Magazine? the conversations hit ludicrous speed.

Who do we blame for this year? Who do we blame for last year? Who do we blame for every bad decision of the last nine years?

Naturally, the answers dont matter. Mostly, because the answers dont exist. While everyones allowed an opinion, the dynamics within this organization are and were so deep and twisted that its impossible to retroactively reach a blame game consensus. You want to just say Larry Lucchino? Thats fine. The Weasels more than deserving of that local legacy. But in reality, everyone deserves a slice of the blame pie, and sorting out the portions is more confusing than a conversation with Jim Rice.

Whos to blame? Let's just say everyone: Lucchino, Epstein, John Henry, Tom Werner, Ben Cherington, Carmine, Terry Francona, Bobby Valentine, the players, Linda Pizzuti, Wally the Green Monster, Jerry Remy, Babe Ruth, Bucky Dent, Neil Diamond, the ghost of Nelson de la Rosa, the entire cast of Small Talk, Brian Evans at Fenway.

Blame them all!

Now, how are they going to make it better? Thats the real question

for another column.

Instead, heres what Im thinking today, from the eye of Bostons blame storm:

Can you imagine what Cubs fans would give for our problems?

I mean, it wasnt too long ago that we Sox fans and Cubs fans were one and the same. Baseballs lovable losers. Teams that other fans pitied, and looked to as a source of perspective: Hey, it could be worse. I could be a Red Sox fan I could be a Cubs fan

And it wasnt too long ago when that was all about to change. The fall of 2003 the cusp of unfathomable greatness. The Cubs leading 3-1 in Game 6 of the NLCS. The Sox leading 5-2 in Game 7 of the ALCS. Each eternally-tortured franchise only five outs away from the World Series. A dream World Series. One of the most emotional and dramatic World Series in World Series history

Before Steve Bartman (I know) and Grady Little teamed up to turn that dream into a nightmare. To take a pair of fan bases that were already in hell and thrust two more tons of fire and brimstone up their collective asses. Man, there was so much pain in Chicago and Boston between October 14-16 of 2003. Pain that many folks still havent recovered from, that changed a lot of us forever. Even in the face of all thats happened since.

Whats happened since?

Well, it took the Red Sox one year to make up for everything. It took them three years to do it again. And in the five years since, sure, the team has lost its way. Ownership has lost touch with reality, alienated so many of their real fans and created an atmosphere where there's a whole lot to be angry about. Of course, it's in the shadow of eight seasons during which the Sox have won two World Series, made the playoff five times, finished with 90 wins six times and been in contention each and every year.

So, how are things in Chicago?

What have the Cubs been up to in the eight years since hitting a new low in 2003?

Well, for starters they haven't won a playoff game. No, not a playoff series. They haven't won a single playoff game. They've only been to the playoffs twice and on both occasions they were swept. They've had one 90-win season. Two 90-loss seasons. They've gone through four managers and haven't sniffed contention since 2008.

Honestly, as a Red Sox fan, how long ago does 2003 feel? Not just the year, but the mentality. The pain, the suffering, the helplessness. Wondering why you even care, why you even put up with this, if you're life as a sports fan will ever amount to anything or if it will all be one gigantic waste of time. Can you put yourself back there? Does it even make sense?

Well, it does in Chicago. Cubs fans are still living it every day. And while I'm sure there are a ton of people they'd love to blame for the team's current predicament, I don't think there's enough beer and Zoloft in the world to even get them to that point.

That obviously has nothing to do with how we feel today in Boston. Things have changed. That's not who we are anymore. Reminders of what is was like before 2004 only go so far when you've been repeatedly beaten down by a gang of fools like the ones atop the Fenway Sports Group masthead.

But through all the anger, it's probably worth taking at least one second this weekend to remind ourselves: It could be a whole lot worse.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Pedroia leads Red Sox to 11th win in a row, 3-2 over Rays in 10

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Pedroia leads Red Sox to 11th win in a row, 3-2 over Rays in 10

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Dustin Pedroia used nifty baserunning to score from first base on David Ortiz's double in the 10th inning and the AL East-leading Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 on Sunday for their 11th consecutive win.

Pedroia singled off Eddie Gamboa (0-1) to start the inning. The relay throw on Ortiz's hit to right center beat Pedroia to plate but he avoided Luke Maile's first tag. Pedroia's momentum carried him past the plate and when he went back to touch it, Maile was charged with an error when the ball dropped out his glove on another tag try.

Pedroia hit a solo homer and Mookie Betts extended his hitting streak to 11 games with an RBI single for the Red Sox, who secured at least an AL wild-card spot Saturday night. Boston's magic number to clinch the division title dropped to two.

Joe Kelly (4-0) went 2 2/3 scoreless innings for the win.

Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez struck out a career-high 13 in 5 1/3 innings. The left-hander and Heath Hembree combined to strikeout 11 consecutive batters to establish a major league-record. The New York Mets held the previous mark when Tom Seaver struck out 10 in a row against San Diego on Apr. 22, 1970.

Boston also set a club record by striking out 21 through nine. Kelly added two more in the 10th.

There was a moment of silence before the game for Miami pitcher Jose Fernandez, who was killed in a boating accident early Sunday. Fernandez played high school baseball in nearby Tampa, Florida after defecting from Cuba.

The Rays planned to honor Ortiz before his final game at Tropicana Field but canceled the ceremony at Ortiz's request after Fernandez's death. He had three hits in five at-bats and moved past Frank Thomas for 107th place on the career list with 2,469 hits.

Ortiz has 35 homers and 90 RBIs at Tropicana Field, which is the most of any visiting player. Alex Rodriguez is next with 30 homers and 73 RBIs.

HONORING BIG PAPI

Rays 3B Evan Longoria and RHP Chris Archer informally presented Ortiz with an oil painting of his 500th home run, which he hit at Tropicana Field last season. Ortiz was also given 34 special handmade Diamond Crown Maximus cigars and $5,000 donations in his name to the Miracle League of St. Petersburg, Florida and the University of South Florida Latino scholarship program.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: Ortiz will play at Yankee Stadium for the final time during a three-game series against New York that starts Tuesday night. "Playing baseball in New York is something that is very special," Ortiz said. LHP David Price (17-8) will start for the Red Sox Tuesday night.

Rays: LHP Drew Smyly (7-11) will face White Sox RHP James Shields (3-11) Monday night in the first of four games in Chicago.

© 2016 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.