Results tagged ‘ Red Sox ’

Winter Classic was a must see; Yankee Stadium next?

Going back to the old six-team league, I am a hockey nut of the worst order. As I told my good friend and colleague Ian Browne today via Twitter as the Winter Classic played itself out at Fenway Park: Give me a hockey game and baseball game every day. Sprinkle in a few Bruce concerts. I’ll even take U2. Then I’m a happy man. He agreed on all accounts.

The Flyers-Bruins tilt ended much like a Stanley Cup finals clinching game — the wave of energy in the old ballpark reaching its crescendo just as the Bruins hit their apex, old-timer Mark Recchi scoring with two minutes left in regulation and  Marco Strum scoring less than two minutes into overtime for the 2-1 win. Both teams then lined up on the frozen outdoor pond to shake hands — a playoff series-ending custom that I’ve always thought was one of the best in all of sports.

I’ve covered or attended games in 11 Stanley Cup finals, including my Rangers win over the Canucks in 1994. I’ve seen four of them end on overtime goals. With apologies to baseball, there is no more pathos than a championship series that ends on that kind of note. Baseball has its walk-off wins, but that’s only reserved for the home team once a game reaches the bottom of the ninth.

In the hockey postseason, two teams play until one team gives and I’ve seen games that have gone on for three or four 20-minute overtime sessions. Every shot, pass and hit puts fans on the edge. The hockey playoffs goes four grueling best-of-seven rounds. You watch the players’ faces. See the bruises, grim looks and determination as one game runs into another. There really is nothing like it.

I’m not the only one who believes this. I’m not the only baseball guy who loves pucks. There are also numerous hockey guys who love baseball. I’ve had long chats about ball with Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland and the Great One, Wayne Gretzsky, among others. I’ve had long chats about hockey with Angels manager Mike Scioscia and the great now retired left-hander Tom Glavine, who played the game. Sciosicia grew up outside of Philly as a Flyers fan. Fancy that.

The marriage of iconic baseball parks with the Winter Classic the last two years has brought out the best of what both sports have to offer: Like baseball, hockey relies on its history. Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford throwing out the first pitch of the World Series is mirrored by Bobby Orr and Bobby Clarke facing off on Friday as the ceremonial first puck was dropped.

It’s great winter offseason publicity for baseball and has given hockey a wonderful national shot in the arm. Next year I’m thinking Rangers-Islanders at Yankee Stadium with 50,000 fans chanting “Potvin Sucks” as the locals still do quizzically at every game played at Madison Square Garden. That would be something to behold.

In the meantime, I’ll be out in Glendale on Saturday to see the resurgent Coyotes play the Red Wings. It’s my sixth game at the very poorly named Arena this season.

Told you. I’m a hockey nut!

A-Rod set to have breakout postseason

I’m going to go out on a limb here and tell you that while the Yankees are are piling up the regular-season wins and are so far meeting expectations, Alex Rodriguez is in place to have a monster postseason.

By any stretch of the imagination his regular season has been very representative: a .285 batting average, 28 homers, 93 RBIs, a .403 on base percentage, a .524 slugging percentage and a .927 OPS when the latter two statistics are combined. That would be a fine season for anyone, but A-Rod was not inserted into the lineup until May 8 because of a hip injury that may (or may not) require off-season surgery.

Not coincidentally, the Yanks’ turnaround began when A-Rod came back. On May 7, they were 13-15, 5 1/2 games behind the Red Sox in the American League East. Since then, they are 88-41, having clinched the East. Going into play today, they own a 9 1/2-game lead on the Red Sox, a massive 15-game turnaround.

Consider the fact that on July 19, 1978, the Yanks trailed Boston by 14 games. What ensued was the most memorable comeback in Yankees’ history that ended with the Bucky Dent, one-game playoff at Fenway Park that broke more than a few hearts because the Beantowners had blown a certain division title.

Of course, those Yankees won their second consecutive World Series, defeating the Dodgers in six games in both cases. That’s the rubric now that all Yankee teams are judged upon, which certainly was not always the case. If their 101-win season does not translate into their 27th World Series title, the season will be considered wildly disappointing.

That’s where A-Rod comes in. He’s had a quiet season off the field. He is no longer the focal point of the lineup that boasts Derek Jeter with 207 hits at the top of it and Robinson Cano with his 202 hits near the bottom of it. When A-Rod returned to the cleanup spot, Mark Teixeira started seeing a lot of pitches. He has 38 homers and a league-leading 120 RBIs. On May 7, Teixeria had five home runs and 15 RBIs.

The point is, this postseason A-Rod doesn’t have to be the guy. He can fly under the radar and is under no pressure to perform save for the head games he plays on himself. Yes, the Yanks have only won one playoff series since he arrived in 2004 and have won none since the ignoble collapse to Boston that postseason when they were three outs away from a sweep only to lose that series in seven games. In his five postseason series with the Yankees, he’s had four homers and nine RBIs.

But I hark back to the young A-Rod, whose Seattle team lost to the Yanks in the 2000 AL Championship Series. He hit .409 (9-for-22) in the six-games with two homers, five RBIs and 17 total bases, looking like what he is — the best overall player in baseball. So another good postseason series is certainly buried in there somewhere. My prediction is that he finds it this postseason. For the Yanks, there couldn’t be a better time for that happen.