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

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

BOSTON -- At first, 2016 seemed like the “Year of Xander.” It turned out to be the “Year of Mookie,” with Bogaerts dropping off a little as the season progressed.

The Red Sox shortstop saw his average peak at .359 on June 12. At that point he’d played in 61 games, hit eight home runs, 20 doubles and knocked in 44 runs. Although Mookie Betts had six more home runs and three more RBI in that same span, Bogaerts had six more doubles and was hitting 69 points higher.

The two were already locks for the All-Star Game and Bogaerts still had the edge in early MVP talk.

Then things took a turn after the very day Bogaerts saw his average peak.

Over the next 61 games, Bogaerts still managed seven homers, but only had six doubles and 27 RBI, watching his average drop to .307 by the end of that stretch. At first glance, .307 doesn’t seem like an issue, but he dropped 52 points after hitting .253 in that span.

And in his remaining 35 games, Bogaerts only hit .248 -- although he did have six homers.

But throughout it all, Bogaerts never seemed fazed by it. With pitchers and catchers reporting in less than a month, Bogaerts still isn’t worried about the peaks and valleys.

“You go through it as a player, the only one’s who don’t go through that are the ones not playing,” Bogaerts told CSNNE.com before the Boston baseball writers' dinner Thursday. “I just gotta know you’re going to be playing good for sometime, you’re going to be playing bad for sometime.

“Just try to a lot more better times than bad times. It’s just a matter of trusting yourself, trusting your abilities and never doubting yourself. Obviously, you get a lot of doubts when you’re playing bad, but you just be even keeled with whatever situation is presented.”

Bogaerts level head is something often noted by coaches and his teammates, carrying through the days he finds himself lunging left and right for pitches. That’s also carried him through the offseason while maintaining the same preparation from past seasons -- along with putting on some weight.

“I don’t know how much I put on, but I feel strong,” Bogaerts said to CSNNE.com “I mean, I look strong in the mirror.

“Hopefully, I’m in a good position when the season comes because I know I’ll lose [the weight].”