McAdam: Red Sox-Cubs is much ado about nothing

191542.jpg

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

Felger: Crazy can be good, but Sale needs to harness it

Felger: Crazy can be good, but Sale needs to harness it

Chris Sale brings with him to Boston some attitude. He also brings a measure of defiance and, perhaps, a little bit of crazy.

All of which the Red Sox starting staff just may need. And if Sale pitches as he has for much of the past five years, he'll probably be celebrated for it.

I still wonder how it will all play here, especially if he underachieves.

What would we do to him locally if he refused to pitch because he didn't like a certain kind of uniform variation the team was going with? What would we say if he not only refused to pitch, but took a knife to his teammates' uniforms and the team had to scrap the promotion? Sale did exactly that in Chicago last year, after which he threw his manager under the bus for not standing by his players and attacked the team for putting business ahead of winning.

All because he didn't want to wear an untucked jersey?

"(The White Sox throwback uniforms) are uncomfortable and unorthodox,'' said Sale at the time. "I didn't want to go out there and not be at the top of my game in every aspect that I need to be in. Not only that, but I didn't want anything to alter my mechanics. ... There's a lot of different things that went into it.''

Wearing a throwback jersey would alter his mechanics? Was that a joke? It's hard to imagine he would get away with that in Boston.

Ditto for his support of Adam LaRoche and his involvement of that goofy story last March.
 
LaRoche, you'll remember, retired when the White Sox had the nerve to tell him that his 14-year-old son could not spend as much time around the team as he had grown accustomed to. Sale responded by pitching a fit.

“We got bald-face lied to by someone we’re supposed to be able to trust,'' said Sale of team president Kenny Williams. ``You can’t come tell the players it was the coaches and then tell the coaches it was the players, and then come in and say something completely different. If we’re all here to win a championship, this kind of stuff doesn’t happen.”

On what planet does allowing a 14-year-old kid in a clubhouse have anything to do with winning a title? In what universe does a throwback jersey have anything to do with mechanics? If David Price had said things that stupid last year, he'd still be hearing about it. And it won't be any different for Sale.

Thankfully, Sale's defiance and feistiness extends to the mound. Sale isn't afraid to pitch inside and protect his teammates, leading the American League in hit batsmen each of the last two years. He doesn't back down and loves a fight. And while that makes him sound a little goofy off the field, it should play well on it.

In the meantime, the Sox better hope he likes those red alternate jerseys they wear on Fridays.

E-mail Felger at mfelger@comcastsportsnet.com. Listen to Felger and Mazz weekdays, 2-6 p.m. on 98.5 FM. The simulcast appears daily on CSN.

With trade rumors finally over, Sale shifts attention to dominating in Boston

With trade rumors finally over, Sale shifts attention to dominating in Boston

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Chris Sale had been the subject of so many trade rumors for the past year that he admitted feeling somewhat like "the monkey in the middle.”

On Tuesday, the rumors became reality when Sale learned he was being shipped to the Red Sox in exchange for a package of four prospects.
    
It meant leaving the Chicago White Sox, the only organization he'd known after being drafted 13th overall by Chicago in 2010. Leaving, he said, is "bittersweet.''
     
Now, he can finally move forward.
     
"Just to have the whole process out of the way and get back to some kind of normalcy will be nice,” said Sale Wednesday morning in a conference call with reporters.

Sale had been linked in trade talks to many clubs, most notably the Washington Nationals, who seemed poised to obtain him as recently as Monday night.

Instead, Sale has changed his Sox from White to Red.

"I'm excited,” he said. "You're talking about one of the greatest franchises ever. I'm excited as anybody. I don't know how you couldn't be. I've always loved going to Boston, pitching in Boston. (My wife and I) both really like the city and (Fenway Park) is a very special place.”
     
It helps that Sale lives in Naples, Fla., just 20 or so miles from Fort Myers, the Red Sox' spring training base. Sale played his college ball at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers.
     
"Being able to stay in our house a couple of (more) months,” gushed Sale, “it couldn't have worked out better personally or professionally for us.”
     
Sale joins a rotation with two Cy Young Award winners (David Price and reigning winner Rick Porcello), a talented core of mostly younger position players and an improved bullpen.

"There's no reason not to be excited right now,” said Sale. "You look at the talent on this team as a whole... you can't ask for much more.”

Sale was in contact with Price Tuesday, who was the first Red Sox player to reach out. He also spoke with some mutual friends of Porcello.

That three-headed monster will carry the rotation, and the internal competition could lift them all to new heights.
     
"The good thing in all of this,'' Sale said, "is that I can definitely see a competition (with) all of us pushing each others, trying to be better. No matter who's pitching on a (given) night, we have as good or better chance the next night. That relieves some of the pressure that might build on some guys (who feel the need to carry the team every start).”

But Sale isn't the least bit interested in being known as the ace of the talented trio.

"I don’t think that matters,” he said. "When you have a group of guys who come together and fight for the same purpose, nothing else really matters. We play for a trophy, not a tag.”

Sale predicted he would be able to transition from Chicago to Boston without much effort, and didn't seem overwhelmed by moving to a market where media coverage and fan interest will result in more scrutiny.

"It's fine, it's a part of it, it's reality,” he said. "I'm not a big media guy. I'm not on Twitter. I'm really focused on the in-between-the-lines stuff. That's what I love, playing the game of baseball. Everything else will shake out.”

After playing before small crowds and in the shadow of the  Cubs in Chicago, Sale is ready to pitch before sellout crowds at Fenway.

"I'm a firm believer that energy can be created in ballparks,” he said. "I don't think there’s any question about it. When you have a packed house and everyone's on their feet in the eighth inning, that gives every player a jolt.”