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8 Red Sox connections to World Series

October 24, 2016

There is no World Series in Boston this year, yet there are compelling Red Sox-centric storylines all over a Fall Classic that begins on Tuesday.It's hard to remember a World Series not involving the Red Sox that had so many key participants who once called Fenway Park home.Here is a

There is no World Series in Boston this year, yet there are compelling Red Sox-centric storylines all over a Fall Classic that begins on Tuesday.
It's hard to remember a World Series not involving the Red Sox that had so many key participants who once called Fenway Park home.
Here is a look at those who will be of interest to Boston viewers.
World Series Game 1: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. ET air time | 8 ET game time on FOX
1. Another World Series run for Tito
Watching Terry Francona celebrate October success in a visiting uniform at Fenway Park was a bit jarring to the fans he is still beloved by in Boston as his Indians swept the Red Sox in the American League Division Series. Francona's legacy with the Red Sox is secure, as he helped bring the first two World Series championships to Boston since 1918. Now Francona -- who managed the Red Sox for eight seasons -- will put his 8-0 Fall Classic record to the test. That is already a managerial record for most World Series wins without a loss. Francona has pushed all the right buttons in recent weeks to help vault a Cleveland club that was viewed as the underdog when the postseason began.

2. Theo's Chicago rebuild nearing history
Theo Epstein grew up two miles from Fenway Park before living his dream of running Boston's front office for nine years. Ultimately, Epstein decided he needed a new challenge, so he went to the Cubs to try to put an end to a championship drought even longer than the 86-year dry spell he helped end in Boston in 2004. Upon his arrival after the 2011 season, Epstein gutted the organization and set upon a rebuild centered on Draft picks.
If the Cubs can win it all for the first time since 1908, Epstein will probably be elected to the Hall of Fame at some point. His staff includes several faces who helped him in Boston, including general manager Jed Hoyer and senior vice president of player development and amateur scouting Jason McLeod.
3. Miller is the ultimate weapon
When Epstein and Francona brought Andrew Miller to Boston in 2011, he was an underachieving starter who was perhaps a victim of his own hype after being selected sixth overall in the Draft by the Tigers five years earlier. In '12, Bobby Valentine -- Francona's brief successor -- decided to try Miller out as a reliever. The lanky lefty improved with each season and was an important member of Boston's championship team in 2013 before suffering a season-ending injury in July. The Red Sox traded Miller to the Orioles for Eduardo Rodriguez just before the non-waiver Trade Deadline in '14, and they were unsuccessful in trying to bring him back as a free agent the following offseason.

Francona has used Miller at every key turn this postseason, and it has paid off. Miller was the MVP of the AL Championship Series; he has given up six hits and no runs while striking out 21 over 11 1/3 scoreless innings in this postseason.
4. Lester still thriving in October
In 2007, less than a year after he had overcome cancer, Jon Lester pitched the clinching Game 4 of the World Series for the Red Sox. The next season, he fired a no-hitter at Fenway Park, wrapping up in a memorable embrace with Francona at the end of that game. In '13, Lester dominated in all three postseason rounds to help the Red Sox win it all again. The trade to Oakland at the Deadline in '14 was a tough blow for the lefty, who had been drafted by Boston in '02. The Red Sox might have gotten Lester back as a free agent following the '14 season if not for the persistence of Epstein and the Cubs, who came up with a six-year, $150 million contract. Lester has been marvelous in this postseason, notching a 0.86 ERA in three starts. He was co-MVP of the NLCS.

5. Indians aiming for party at Napoli's
Though Mike Napoli wasn't the best player on the 2013 Red Sox, he came to symbolize that team with his thick beard and penchant for big hits. Napoli wound up shirtless on Boylston Street following the World Series parade, and would love to re-create that scene in Cleveland, and it's no surprise that "Party at Napoli's" has become a rallying cry for Indians fans.
Napoli's resurgence this season has been impressive after a couple of sub-par years. He hasn't gotten hot in this year's playoffs, but he has a history of coming up big when his team needs it most.
6. Lackey going for third ring
The one common thread in John Lackey's first two championships? He was the winning pitcher in both clinchers. After impressively winning Game 7 against the Giants as a rookie for the Angels in 2002, Lackey fired a gem for the Red Sox in Game 6 of '13 against the Cardinals. When the righty underwent Tommy John surgery following the '11 season for the Red Sox, it was unknown if he could regain his status as a front-line pitcher. Lackey has been a consistent force the last four years, and his competitive fire is evident every time he pitches. Lackey was traded out of Boston on the same day as Lester in '14. He had a strong tenure with the Cardinals before signing with the Cubs last offseason.
7. Coco's resurgence
Coco Crisp never quite replaced Johnny Damon in Boston, as the Red Sox had hoped he would. But he was still an important player during his three years (2006-08) with the Sox, and his defense was vital during the championship season of '07. Crisp had been in decline as a hitter the last three years, but he's already come up with two important home runs for the Indians this October.
8. Rizzo living up to promise
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo was drafted by Epstein an McLeod in the sixth round of the 2007 Draft. In '08, Rizzo was dealt with the tough news that he had cancer. Fortunately, like Lester, he recovered. Epstein dealt Rizzo to the Padres in 2010 as part of a blockbuster that brought Adrián González to the Red Sox. Hoyer and McLeod were both working for the Padres when that trade was made. It was somehow fitting when Epstein, Hoyer an McLeod -- by then, reunited in Chicago -- acquired Rizzo in a trade for Andrew Cashner on Jan. 6, 2012. That trade turned into a steal for the Cubs, as Rizzo has belted 30-plus homers the last three seasons.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.