Bobby Valentine, Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Maybe the Red Sox really should fire Bobby Valentine


Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the whole point to hiring Bobby Valentine is that he’s a cut above most as a tactical manager? He’s not in the Boston dugout because he’s a great manager of people. Nor does he have a rep as some sort of master disciplinarian who manages to get the most out of players. He’s there because he’s a smart guy, and the Red Sox apparently wanted a smart guy.

Unfortunately, 14 games in, Valentine isn’t looking very smart. Leaving left-hander Franklin Morales in to face Mike Napoli was the bases loaded in the Texas game Tuesday was an awful move that worked out just as badly as should have been expected (Napoli hit a bases-clearing double, giving Texas a 6-2 lead). Saturday’s eighth-inning moves in the 15-9 loss to the Yankees, dropping Boston to 4-10 on the season, weren’t quite so baffling, but they were terribly wrong-headed.

First, with the Red Sox up 9-8, he let Morales start the eighth against a right-hander, even though Morales had already gotten three outs. That would have been explicable if he actually intended to go forward with Morales, but he removed him immediately after a leadoff single. That’s like my rule No. 1: don’t send a pitcher back to the mound if you’re going to pull him after the first mistake. It’s stupid managing.

So, now Valentine brings in his closer to try to get six outs, only he does it with a man on first instead of with the bases empty. Alfredo Aceves proceded to walk Derek Jeter and give up a two-run double to Nick Swisher, putting the Yankees up 10-9. Next up was the second dumb move of the inning: Valentine had Aceves walk Robinson Cano to bring up Alex Rodriguez with two on and none out.

I wouldn’t have had a big problem with that in the ninth with Mariano Rivera set to come in. Doing everything possible to keep the lead at one would have been the best strategy then. But the Red Sox had two more chances to score, and Valentine just handed them the recipe for a big inning by giving the Bombers yet another baserunner. A-Rod walked to load the bases, Mark Teixeira doubled and it was 12-9. Yet another intentional walk followed and the top of the eighth ended with the Red Sox down by six.

I do feel kind of bad for Valentine. This isn’t the team the Red Sox figured to put on the field. He’s been stripped of his closer, his left fielder and now his center fielder. Also, he can’t be blamed for the fact that the Red Sox’s top three starters have been shelled a combined four times already.

But I don’t see Valentine doing any good either. He hasn’t lost the Red Sox any games by himself, but he’s certainly put the team in position to lose a couple of times and this squad simply isn’t good enough to bail him out.

The Cubs clinch World Series berth with NLCS Game 6 win

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  The Chicago Cubs celebrate defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 in game six of the National League Championship Series to advance to the World Series against the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
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After 71 years, the Cubs are headed back to the Fall Classic.

The dominance with which Clayton Kershaw attacked the Cubs in Game 2 of the NLCS was nonexistent in Game 6 as the Dodgers’ ace loaded the bases to start the first inning and scattered five extra bases and five runs over five frames. By the time Dave Roberts pulled his starter in the sixth inning, Kershaw was sitting on a Game Score of 33, the lowest he’s mustered since the start of the 2015 season. Only one of his strikes came via curveball, and whether he was having difficulty locating his off-speed stuff or felt more confident with the fastball-slider combo, it was the fewest curves he’d seen land for strikes all year (per David Adler).

Where the Dodgers were able to give Kershaw the edge in Game 2, they found themselves powerless against opposing hurler Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks turned out 7 1/3 scoreless frames with two hits and six strikeouts, preserving the Cubs’ second shutout of the postseason and the first since they bested the Giants in Game 1 of the NLDS. After his 1-0 loss to the Dodgers early in the NLCS, seeing the MLB ERA leader turn out a gem was a relief for the Cubs, especially one as spectacular as an 88-pitch two-hitter.

With Hendricks effectively stymieing the Dodgers’ best attempts to get on base, the Cubs played to their strengths at the plate. Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist cleared the bases in the first inning for a two-run lead, followed by a Dexter Fowler RBI single in the second. Willson Contreras came through in the fourth inning for the Cubs, lifting an 87 m.p.h. slider to left field for his first home run of October, while Anthony Rizzo hit his second homer of the postseason on a 1-1 fastball in the fifth.

Neither bullpen allowed a single run from the sixth inning onward. Dodgers’ right-hander Kenley Jansen took the ball from Kershaw in the sixth, scattering four strikeouts over three innings and denying the Cubs so much as a single baserunner through the end of the game. Aroldis Chapman, meanwhile, issued just one walk in 1 1/3 scoreless frames, inducing a Yasiel Puig double play to clinch the Cubs’ 17th franchise pennant.

With the win, the Cubs will face off against the Indians in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday at 8 PM EDT. And, in case you needed a reminder:

Video: Willson Contreras blasts first postseason home run off of Kershaw

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  Willson Contreras #40 of the Chicago Cubs celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during game six of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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So much for Clayton Kershaw posing a threat tonight. The Cubs got their knocks in early and often against the Dodgers’ ace during Game 6 of the NLCS, racking up three runs in the first three innings before rookie catcher Willson Contreras unleashed his first postseason home run in the bottom of the fourth inning.

According to’s Phil Rogers, Contreras became the 10th Cub to homer in the 2016 playoffs, following big hits by Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant, Travis Wood, and Javier Baez. Of the ten home run hitters, Contreras joins catchers David Ross and Miguel Montero as yet another backstop capable of driving the long ball (and, less importantly, as another player capable of a sweet, sweet bat flip).

Rizzo, whose last homer was a deep drive to right field off of Los Angeles right-hander Pedro Baez in Game 4 of the NLCS, piled on Kershaw’s five-run outing with another home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Kershaw called it a night after five frames, and the Cubs currently lead the Dodgers 5-0 in the sixth inning.