Red Sox

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

NLCS: Dodgers win first pennant since 1988 with 11-1 Game 5 rout of Cubs

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NLCS: Dodgers win first pennant since 1988 with 11-1 Game 5 rout of Cubs

CHICAGO -- Enrique Hernandez put a Hollywood ending on an LA story three decades in the making.

Fueled by a home run trilogy from their emotional utilityman, Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers are finally going to the World Series.

Hernandez homered three times and drove in a record seven runs, Kershaw breezed through six crisp innings and Los Angeles ended the Chicago Cubs' title defense with an 11-1 rout in Game 5 of the NL Championship Series on Thursday night.

"It feels good to hear World Series," Kershaw said. "It's been a long time coming for this team."

After years of playoff heartache, there was just no stopping these Dodgers after they led the majors with 104 wins during the regular season. With Kershaw firing away at the top of a deep pitching staff and co-NLCS MVPs Justin Turner and Chris Taylor leading a tough lineup, one of baseball's most storied franchises captured its first pennant since Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda managed Kirk Gibson, Orel Hershiser and Co. to Los Angeles' last championship in 1988.

"Every night it is a different guy," Turner said, "and this is one of the most unbelievable teams I've ever been a part of."

Kershaw will be on the mound again when the Dodgers host the New York Yankees or Houston Astros in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night. The Yankees have a 3-2 lead heading into Game 6 of the ALCS at Houston on Friday night, so one more New York win would set up another chapter in an old October rivalry between the Yankees and Dodgers.

Los Angeles made the playoffs eight times in the previous 13 seasons and came up short of its 22nd pennant each time, often with Kershaw shouldering much of the blame. The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner took the loss when his team was eliminated by the Cubs in Game 6 of last year's NLCS at Wrigley Field.

The ace left-hander was just OK during his first two starts in this year's postseason, but Los Angeles' offense picked him up each time. Backed by Hernandez's powerful show in Chicago, Kershaw turned in an efficient three-hit performance with five strikeouts and improved to 6-7 in the playoffs - matching Burt Hooton's club record for postseason wins.

"To get to be on the mound tonight and get to be going to the World Series on the same night, it's a special thing," Kershaw said. "Who knows how many times I'm going to get to go to the World Series? I know more than anybody how hard it is to get there. So, I'm definitely not taking this one for granted."

When Kenley Jansen retired Willson Contreras on a liner to shortstop for the final out, the party was on . The Dodgers poured out of the dugout and mobbed their dominant closer near the mound, and a small but vocal group of Los Angeles fans gathered behind the visitors' dugout and chanted "Let's go Dodgers! Let's go Dodgers!"

On the field, manager Dave Roberts hugged Lasorda and told the iconic skipper the win was for him.

"I bleed Dodger blue just like you," Roberts said. "Thank you, Tommy."

Hernandez connected on the first two pitches he saw, belting a solo drive in the second for his first career playoff homer and then a grand slam in the third against Hector Rondon. Hernandez added a two-run shot in the ninth against Mike Montgomery.

The 26-year-old Hernandez became the fourth player with a three-homer game in a league championship series, joining Bob Robertson (1971 NLCS), George Brett (1978 ALCS) and Adam Kennedy (2002 ALCS). Hernandez's seven RBIs tied a postseason record shared by four other players who all did it in a Division Series.

Troy O'Leary was the previous player to have seven RBIs in a playoff game, for Boston at Cleveland in the 1999 ALDS.

It was a stunning display for a player with 28 career homers who remains concerned about his native Puerto Rico, which is recovering from a devastating hurricane. He delivered a historic performance in front of his father, Enrique Hernandez Sr., who was diagnosed with a blood cancer related to leukemia in December 2015, but got word last November that he was in remission.

"For me to be able to come here and do something like this is pretty special," said Hernandez, who also goes by Kik�. "My body's here, but my mind's kind of back home. It's hard being away from home with what's going on.

"All I want to do right now is go to my dad and give him a big hug."

Kris Bryant homered for Chicago, but the NL Central champions finished with just four hits in another tough night at the plate. Each of their eight runs in the NLCS came via the long ball, and they batted just .156 for the series with 53 strikeouts.

Long playoff runs in each of the last two years and a grueling five-game Division Series against Washington seemed to sap Chicago of some energy, and its pitching faltered against sweet-swinging Los Angeles. Jose Quintana was pulled in the third inning of the final game, and the Cubs never recovered.

"They executed their plan," Bryant said. "They pitched great and the bullpen was lights out. That makes for a tough time scoring runs."

Turner and Taylor helped put it away for Los Angeles, contributing to a 16-hit outburst while closing out a pair of impressive performances.

Turner singled home Taylor in the Dodgers' five-run third, giving him seven RBIs in the series and 24 throughout his postseason career. Taylor finished with two hits and scored two runs as the Dodgers, who have won five straight NL West titles, improved to 7-1 in this postseason.

Taylor's versatility helped Los Angeles cover for the loss of All-Star shortstop Corey Seager, who missed the series with a back injury, but is expected to return in the next round. Coming off a breakout season, the 27-year-old Taylor hit .316 with two homers and scored five times against the Cubs.

"I couldn't be happier to be a part of this and be with these guys," Taylor said. "It's been an unbelievable year, and I'm just super excited."

OUT WITH A BANG

Hernandez joined Kennedy (2002), Adrian Beltre (2011), Reggie Jackson (1977 vs. the Dodgers) and Babe Ruth (1928) as players to hit three home runs in a postseason series clincher.

LIGHTS OUT

Dodgers relievers have thrown 23 consecutive scoreless innings, a postseason record.

Are Red Sox playing a waiting game before naming their new manager?

Are Red Sox playing a waiting game before naming their new manager?

BOSTON — As soon as the American League Championship Series ends, the Red Sox could make a move for their manager.

Industry sources continue to expect Astros bench coach Alex Cora will be the Sox’ pick. No offer had been officially made as of midday Wednesday, one source close to the situation said. But the belief is such an offer waits out of respect to the Astros-Yankees ALCS that can end no later than Saturday if the series goes a full seven games. 

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“Not a doubt it is him,” the source said.

Sunday and Monday would both be off days ahead of the Tuesday night start of the World Series. That leads to the potential for at least a Red Sox announcement of Cora, if not a press conference, before the Fall Classic begins. (If the Astros advance to the World Series, it may be harder to have Cora in Boston for any length of time.)

All those who know Cora praise his ability to connect with players. The former Red Sox infielder is good friends with Dustin Pedroia. Cora’s previous knowledge of the Boston market works in his favor, as well, as does his mettle handling the media. Some question his readiness as a first-time manager, considering he would be taking over a team with great win-now expectations and complicated clubhouse dynamics.

Nothing takes the place of experience and there is such a thing as being too close to players. Ultimately, if the Sox do land Cora, 41, they would be adding the hottest up-and-coming managerial prospect who’s available on the market. The everybody-wants-him reputation could give Cora added cachet with players and certainly becomes a public-relations win for those fans following the search.

The Sox interviewed Ron Gardenhire on Wednesday. Gardenhire was the third candidate the Sox talked to and could well be the last. Cora met with the Sox on Sunday, followed by Brad Ausmus on Monday.