McAdam: Red Sox-Yankees fire seemed forced


McAdam: Red Sox-Yankees fire seemed forced

By Sean McAdam Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
Perhaps inadvertently, Francisco Cervelli's over-exuberance has given the Red Sox-Yankee rivalry a bit of a spark.

Until Tuesday night, the games between the rivals had been relatively uninteresting, with many of the first dozen games somewhat one-sided.

There's a lot of to live up to for these two teams when they meet. Beyond the expectations of their respective fan bases and the epic clashes in the 2003 and 2004 ALCS are the flashpoints that the rivalry has already boasted -- Lee-Nettles, Munson-Fisk, Zimmer-Martinez, Varitek-Rodriguez, etc.

In 2011, mere quality baseball does not successfully feed the hungry beast -- not when there are 18 games between the teams, with the potential (likelihood?) of seven more to come in October. There have to be subplots, villains, and ultimately, bench-clearings, to make the games compelling.

Even by baseball standards, Tuesday night's half-hearted trots out from the dugout and in from the bullpen were lackluster.

The closest we got to tempers truly flaring came when Jarrod Saltalamacchia stepped in between Cervelli and the path to the pitcher's mound after Cervelli got plunked.

The two catchers stood toe-to-toe and unloaded a few verbal unpleasantires before being separated by home plate umpire Ed Rapuano. As home plate confrontations go in this rivalry, it fell way short of Varitek's face-wash on Rodriguez.

But the Yankees were using the issue for all it was worth -- and then some. Sabathia menacingly yelled out to Lackey from the third-base foul line. Coach Tony Pena was fuming and manager Joe Girardi wasn't far behind.

For the Red Sox part, there was a strict adherence to the line that, no, the pitch from Lackey wasn't intentional and straight-faced professions that, see, the scouting report said to keep Cervelli off the plate.

But every once in a while, the Red Sox deviated from the script, sarcastically noting that the homer was Cervelli's second of the season and third of his career, and hey, if that gets you excited enough to act like you just belted a walk-off homer in the World Series, then, good for you.

It is perhaps a sad commentary that the rivalry needs this kind of juice, but perhaps the unbalanced schedule really has left us with a "more is less'' approach.

No matter how much we might wish otherwise, not every one of 18 regular season meetings is headed for Instant Classic status. Some are going to be downright mundane.

That's a by-product of over-exposure, and, just maybe, the disappearance of personalities. The 2003-04 rivalry featured plenty of those.

By 2004, the Yankees had a villain straight out of central casting, Alex Rodriguez, who had a bullseye attached to him for 1) being the game's highest-paid player ever and 2) not doing enough -- in the minds of Red Sox' fans, at least -- to facilitate a deal between the Red Sox and Texas Rangers.

Sure enough, Rodriguez only needed to be wound up and fitted for pinstripes for fireworks to ensue, which they surely did, in the ALCS 2004, i.e. The Rematch.

There were counterparts in the Red Sox dugout, too, including Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez, with Johnny Damon and Kevin Millar waiting on deck. They could be counted on for an outrageous quote or an emotional on-field reaction which could light the fuse at any point.

Now? Only a handful of players remain on both teams, mostly in reduced roles.

Where once Martinez and Ramirez represented the Red Sox, now it's Jacoby Ellsbury and Adrian Gonzalez. The Yankees have become a team led by Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira. Try getting a fire started with that quartet.

That doesn't mean that there can't be good baseball between the Red Sox and Yankees in 2011. Last month, Josh Reddick's walk-off heroics in the 10th inning capped a thrilling -- if over-long -- game and the prospect of more this post-season is enough to whet a baseball appetite.

But along the way, we may have to deal with games like Tuesday night, when the emotion seemed forced and the over-reaction appeared manufactured.

Sean McAdam can be reached at Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

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.