Two World Series rings outweighs Theo Epstein’s betrayal

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Make no mistake: Theo Epstein should not be leaving the Red Sox like this. Not after one of the biggest September collapses in baseball history. Not one year after handing out $142 million for Carl Crawford and two years after giving John Lackey $82.5 million.

If Theo Epstein wanted to leave the Red Sox, he should have left them in better position than this.

It’s one thing to want a new challenge, but Epstein already had a challenge in front of him and he’s simply bailing on it.

And this isn’t like his leaving in 2005. That Theo appeared confused and uncertain of what he really wanted to do next. This Theo is picking a very similar Cubs job over the Boston job. It’s going to be much more difficult for Red Sox fans to accept.

Of course, it’s all forgivable against the two World Series victories. Helped by an ample payroll, Epstein put together playoff-caliber teams in all nine of his seasons as Red Sox GM. The only year the Red Sox were out of the race coming down the stretch was 2006, when the club was devastated by injuries.

But his exit after such a disappointing finish in 2011 leaves a sour taste. And with as many tough choices as the team is facing this winter — particularly when it comes to free agents David Ortiz and Jonathan Papelbon — Epstein may well be leaving the club in a worse position than the one he inherited nine years ago.

Dodgers plan to tab Clayton Kershaw for Game 1 of World Series

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MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reports that the Dodgers plan to tab ace Clayton Kershaw for Game 1 of the World Series. Nothing is set in stone yet ahead of Tuesday’s Game 1 of the World Series. In the event Kershaw can’t start Game 1, Rich Hill would start. Otherwise, Hill would start Game 4.

Kershaw, started Game 1 and Game 5 of the NLCS against the Brewers, then closed out Game 7 with a flawless inning. He was hit around to the tune of five runs (four earned) over three-plus innings in Game 1, but rebounded for seven innings of one-run ball in Game 5. He struck out two en route to sending the Dodgers to the World Series in the ninth inning of Game 7.

Kershaw also tossed eight shutout innings against the Braves in Game 2 of the NLDS. Overall, he has a 2.37 ERA in 19 innings this postseason. There was no doubt who would be the Dodgers’ first choice to start Game 1, but it’s a relatively recent situation where the ace of a team also closed out the final game of the previous series.

Hill has put up a 2.61 ERA in 10 1/3 innings this postseason. While he doesn’t have Kershaw’s pedigree, the Dodgers would be confident having him lead off the series. Hill was excellent down the stretch last year, helping the Dodgers reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Astros.

The Red Sox plan to start Chris Sale in Game 1 now that he’s recovered from a brief stint in the hospital due to a stomach ailment. The lefty has a 3.48 in 10 1/3 innings in the playoffs this year. He’s among a handful of candidates for the AL Cy Young award after posting a 2.11 ERA in the regular season, but his lack of innings (158) may hurt him.