On his Rangers blog, Daily News reporter John Dellapina provides a piece by colleague Peter Botte that got bumped from the paper today. Botte catches up with retired Ranger Mike Richter, who was forced into early retirement due to persistent concussions. As such, Richter knows exactly what Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro is going through right now as he struggles with post-concussion symptoms. Richter believes that DiPi should take us much time as he needs, regardless of what it means for the team. Says Richter:
“It’s like someone who drives drunk, why does he do it? Because he thinks he’s fine and nothing will happen to him.
“But when the stakes are this high, the player owes it to himself and the organization to be very diligent and very cautious, and the organization should be taking the same approach, both for his long-term future and for the team’s sake…He is their franchise cornerstone. Why would you risk that?”
In The New York Post today, Mark Hale tells us why Carlos Beltran is earning his paycheck, and says that outside of Albert Pujols, there may not be a better all-around player in the game today. Says Hale:
He is a switch-hitting Gold Glover who hits 40 homers, gets on base with great frequency (his .388 on-base percentage last year was best on the Mets) and has the number-one stolen base percentage in MLB history (.876) for players who have stolen a minimum of 200 bags.
Beltran’s also had a terrific playoff career, owning a .366 average, which is third-best ever for players with at least 80 at-bats, behind Lou Brock and Paul Molitor.
Beltran, who turns 30 three weeks from today, has homered every 7.45 playoff at-bats, which is better than any person who has ever tallied 50 career playoff at-bats. He’s gone deep 11 times in 82 turns.
He is also the third-place hitter in the Mets’ lineup and is the top player on the team.
Other than Pujols, it’s hard to find …
The Bergen Record’s Steve Popper and MLB.com’s Marty Noble discuss Sunday night’s initiation-by-fire for Mets rookie reliever Joe Smith. With a runner on first and Albert Pujols in the hole, Willie Randolph opted to eschew the safe route and instead turned to his untested side-armer, whom was pitching at Wright State less than a year ago. Smith’s performance wasn’t all that impressive, as he surrendered a hit to David Eckstein and struck out Preston Wilson before walking Albert Pujols to load the bases. However thanks to a grounder induced by Aaron Heilman, and a spectacular double-play initiated by Jose Valentin, the outing will be remembered as a positive first step for a young kid whom the Mets are counting on to help erase the loss of Chad Bradford.
I know it’s opening day and every one is just tickled to be watching baseball again, but even so I’m more than a bit shocked at the flowers being tossed A-Rod’s way by the media this morning. While Derek Jeter’s game-tying, momentum-changing single up the middle went relatively unnoticed by the newspapers this morning, the local beat writers would have us believe that the afternoon’s big ado was A-Rod turning jeers into cheers when he was called from the dugout for an 8th-inning curtain call. It all feels a bit forced to me.
For instance, take Newsday’s Marcus Henry’s report entitled “A-Rod Wins ‘Em Over.” For a guy who allegedly “took a big step toward gaining the respect of the fans yesterday,” couldn’t Henry find a fan with praise a tad for effusive than this: “It was a good start, but [A-Rod] has to prove it year-round…He has to prove that he has a heart and is not a baby. And he can’t drop a ball like that.” …
Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez had an eventful first inning in this afternoon’s home opener, dropping a popup in the top of the inning and striking out with 2-men-on in the bottom of the inning, drawing resounding boos on both occasions. However at the end of nine innings, A-Rod had gone a respectable 2-for-5 with 2 runs scored and 2 rbis, courtesy of an 8th inning 2-run homer that made a comfortable 7-5 lead a bit cushier at 9-5.
In contrast, Derek Jeter left four men on base this afternoon and recorded just one hit – a clutch 2-run single with the bases loaded that tied the game in the 6th inning.
Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr on team catalyst Sean Avery (2 goals, 1 assist, 1 fight last night), as quoted in Newsday:
in the first game, the first practice, you could see he has a lot of skill. I was reading [in the Hockey News] that the players voted him the most overrated player in the league. I think he’s the most underrated player in the league. He can play any kind of game, he can fight, he’s tough on defense, he can score goals. He’s such a great hockey player and nobody knows about him. He was the difference tonight, no question about it.”
Avery on the Garden faithful that have adopted him as a fan favorite, as quoted in the Journal News:
“It’s a passionate building – a crazy building – to play in. I’m just happy that they’re enjoying what I’m bringing to the team by playing hard.”
Claude Julien is the latest victim of Devils’ general manager Lou Lamoriello’s itchy trigger finger. With just three games remaining in the regular season, the GM has fired his head coach and will take over duties behind the bench himself – the second time in as many seasons that Lamoriello has taken over at the helm for the playoff run. Lamoriello pulled a similar maneuver late in the 1999-2000 season, firing Robbie Ftorek and replacing him with Larry Robinson. That team went on to win the franchise’s second Stanley Cup. Lamoriello offered the following rationale for today’s move:
“I don’t think we’re at a point of being ready both mentally and [physically] to play the way that is necessary going into the playoffs.”
Currently, the Devils hold a 47-24-8 record, good for second in the conference. The team had slumped recently following injuries to key players Brian Gionta, John Madden, and captain Patrik Elias. In his final game as head coach, Julien led the team to a 3-1 …
Via MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch:
It was three hours before Carl Pavano would throw the season’s first pitch, and Joe Torre’s telephone was ringing. The voice on the other end was a familiar one, and it made the Yankees manager break into a grin.
Bernie Williams, the longtime veteran outfielder and a cornerstone of the team’s four most recent World Series championship rosters, had checked in to wish his club luck for the coming season.
“It was very nice,” Torre said. “It certainly put a smile on my face. He was the same guy: ‘How you doing, you ready to go?’ He’s a caring individual, and I think that’s what makes him so special.”
In the Journal News today, Peter Abraham wonders if perhaps Yankee fans are bearing witness to the end of an era in the Bronx this season. Many observers point to Luis Gonzalez’s 9th inning, Game 7 single in the 2001 World Series as the end of the modern-day Yankee dynasty. However, Abraham points out that the team has in fact won more games than any team in baseball since.
Perhaps then 2007, not 2001, could mark the real end to the Yankee Dynasty. Mo Rivera and Jorge Posada are in the final year of their contracts, Alex Rodriguez has an opt-out clause he can exercise at the end of the year, Bobby Abreu’s contract has a $16 million team option for next season, and manager Joe Torre is in the final year of his contract as well. The stage is set for sweeping changes should 2007 resemble 2006.
Well it didn’t take long for Melky Cabrera to get some at-bats this season. Yankees centerfielder Johnny Damon exited the game after the fifth inning due to “cramps” in his hamstrings, according to the YES Network.
With an eye on Opening Day at the Stadium this afternoon, Newsday’s Anthony Rieber reports that the fans’ reaction doesn’t concern Alex Rodriguez.
That’s probably a good thing, because he was booed into the dugout following his first plate appearance.
As fate would have it, A-Rod came up to the plate in the bottom of the first with 1 out, facing an erratic Scott Kazmir with runners on 1st and 2nd, and the Yankee faithful loudly chanting “Let’s Go A-Rod.” Rodriguez looked fortunate to find himself in a full count before striking out swinging on a pitch off the plate. Naturally Jason Giambi followed with a 2-out, 2-rbi single. E-Rod also committed an error in the top of the 1st.