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World Series: Albert Pujols cracks 3 HRs as Cards go up 2-1

Albert Pujols hit this three-run homer sixth inning added homers seventh ninth.  |  Eric Gay~AP

Albert Pujols hit this three-run homer in the sixth inning and added homers in the seventh and ninth. | Eric Gay~AP

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Updated: November 24, 2011 8:36AM



ARLINGTON, Texas — It seems like a simple request by Cardinals reliever Octavio Dotel.

After the 16-7 victory over the Rangers on Saturday in Game 3 of the World Series, Dotel just wanted to get back to his hotel room, flip on the TV and watch highlights from the game that gave St. Louis a 2-1 lead in the series.

No talk of compensation and Cubs. Not one Red Sox logo on the screen. Just the crown jewel of the 2011 season allowed to stand alone on that October stage.

A Theo-free zone.

“It really doesn’t bother me, but you hear your teammates talk, and you wish all the Cubs-Red Sox stuff wasn’t happening right now,’’ Dotel said. “I mean, come on, we’re in the World Series.’’

They’re more than in it. They’ve taken back control of it after Texas nabbed home-field advantage with a late-game rally to steal Game 2 in St. Louis.

But a series dominated by pitching the first two games, suddenly turned into extended batting practice.

Allen Craig’s solo home run in the first inning set the tone, but a fourth-inning missed call by first-base umpire Ron Kulpa on an obvious tag by Texas’ Mike Napoli opened the floodgates for a four-run inning.

Sure, there were answers by the Rangers’ offense, but not nearly enough thanks to three homers by Albert Pujols.

The only other players to homer three times in a World Series game were Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson.

And as much as Major League Baseball wants to jam the idea of this being an interesting World Series outside of Texas and St. Louis down our throats, it’s a tough swallow with the ongoing drama of Theo Epstein breaking free of the new “Evil Empire.’’

The situation seemed to be settled Friday, as someone shook commissioner Bud Selig from his slumber and let him know that his sport was once again having one of those embarrassing moments.

Miraculously, both teams announced that evening that Epstein had resigned from the Red Sox and agreed to a five-year, $18.5 million deal with the Cubs.

The only little bit of information still missing was the same hangup that kept “Theo-Gate’’ alive and kicking — compensation for Boston.

But all the talk Saturday by baseball people — both current and former executives — was how badly this was handled on both sides, specifically with a lot of fingers pointed at how big of a detriment the Cubs’ Crane Kenney has been.

The good news? Epstein’s title of president of baseball operations would seemingly slam the door on Kenney’s constant meddling, leaving him only on the business end of operations. In other words, the best way to scare a roach off is to turn the light on, and Epstein just flipped the switch.

Several high-level executives told the Sun-Times that Kenney‘s presence was actually an impediment to the Cubs getting the initial interest for the GM job they were hoping for, until Epstein made it very clear that Kenney would have to disappear into the shadows if he took the job.

The Ricketts family has seemingly agreed, and, according to sources, the next step in the process is that Epstein and new Red Sox GM Ben Cherington will now figure out the compensation.

The two are friendly and are expected to get it done without MLB having to step in and help the process.

As far as the rest of the parts being put in place, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod are leaving San Diego to join Epstein’s staff, but a source said that the final pieces likely won’t be announced until after the World Series.

Not the kind of news Dotel and his teammates needed to hear.



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