The attendance at Citi Field claimed by the Mets on this gloomy Tuesday evening was 22,268. Being at the game, I can assure you that there were far fewer fans who actually ventured out to Flushing after such a gloomy day.
The home team’s performance matched the day’s dismal weather, with the Milwaukee Brewers cruising to an 8-0 win behind Zack Greinke’s dominant pitching and a pair of Travis Ishikawa home runs. But what struck me was the boos that rained down on Milwaukee slugger Ryan Braun each time he stepped up to the plate. Despite having his 50 game steroid suspension removed on a technicality– because of an error in how his sample was handled– it seems like Braun is still guilty in the court of public opinion.
Was his NL MVP award last season “tainted” in a way by his positive test that was ultimately overturned? Do fans still view Braun as the clean player who led the Brewers to another NL Central title last year and a trip to the NLCS? Is he currently looked at suspiciously because of his hot start?
With the game clearly out of reach and just after Rickie Weeks smacked a homer to left, Mets reliever D.J. Carrasco plunked Braun on the elbow. The remaining fans who remained at Citi, most of them intoxicated, applauded Acosta for not only standing up for his poorly performing comrades but for beaning Braun a player once loved but perhaps is now despised in a way for possibly tarnishing baseball’s seemingly rehabilitated image.
Is there damage to Ryan Braun’s reputation? Is he now reviled in parks across the country? What will be his lasting legacy? Those are questions only fans and the sands of time can ultimately answer.
NEW YORK– By Daniel Friedman
The New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils kicked off their best-of-seven last night at Madison Square Garden and, on this night, the former came away with a 3-0 victory.
The rivalry between these two teams needs no buildup or explanation. It wasn’t long after the franchise was moved from Colorado to the Meadowlands that the Devils and Blueshirts developed a hatred for each other and, in the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, they took things to a whole new level.
Just in case you’re in need of a memory refresher, Ranger captain Mark Messier guaranteed a game six win with his team on the brink of elimination. Not only did he deliver, he scored a hat trick in the process. Then, in the decisive game seven, (Stephane) Matteau! Matteau! Matteau! scored the game-winner in double overtime, sending New York to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Fast-forward the clock to 2012, where the Rangers and Devils find themselves back in the Conference Finals. As was the case in 1994, the Blueshirts have home ice advantage and Martin Brodeur, who recently turned 40, is still between the pipes for New Jersey, just like he was 18 years ago.
If last night’s contest taught us anything, it’s that Marty hasn’t lost much, if any, of the stride in his step. He was phenomenal, but the Rangers’ defensive efforts and shot-blocking prowess, along with superb goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist, kept the Devils off the scoresheet. The Blueshirts were able to cash in with two goals (from Dan Girardi and Chris Kreider) and an empty-netter (Artem Anisimov) in the third period.
The Rangers’ performance in this game was straight out of the textbook. If you want to beat New Jersey, you’ve got to keep Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias and Zach Parise in check and score timely
goals of your own. New York wins by playing defense-first, gritty, grind-it-out hockey. Lundqvist has to be the Vezina-caliber goaltender he’s been all year long, because if he’s not, the Devils have more than enough firepower to blow right through him.
Likewise, New Jersey can win if they can open up holes in their opponent’s defensive coverage. That starts with passing; you need to make strong, crisp passes to pull a defending team out of position. Brodeur needs to continue matching Lundqvist save-for-save. He has to be on his game at all times, because the defense in front of him usually isn’t. The Devils have blown quite a few leads in these playoffs and you can’t do that against the Rangers and expect to win.
Special teams is going to be crucial in this series. I give the Devils the advantage in that department, especially because the Rangers don’t execute with the man-advantage and New Jersey is one of the best penalty-killing teams in the league. They’ve also sported the fourth-best power play in the playoffs; the Rangers, on the other hand, are 10-for-61, good enough for eighth-best.
I’m going with the New York Rangers in six games. I think, overall, they’re capable of both shutting down Jersey’s arsenal and finding the back of the net themselves. As long as they play their game, they have an excellent chance of reaching the Stanley Cup Finals…just like 1994.
When Oakland sent closer Andrew Bailey and outfielder Ryan Sweeney to the Red Sox, not much thought was given to what the Athletics were getting in return. It turns out that Billy Beane received the best player in the trade so far in outfielder Josh Reddick.
Reddick was decently hyped as a prospect, but the Red Sox signed Carl Crawford to pair with Jacoby Ellsbury in a speedy outfield, so it didn’t seem like Reddick would fit in. Instead of installing him as the rightfielder to replace the departing J.D. Drew, Boston GM Ben Cherington went with a platoon of Sweeney and 2010 World Series hero Cody Ross. Sweeney is batting over .300, but it’s Reddick that has been one of the most pleasant surprises around baseball this season.
The 25-year-old lefty leads the team in batting average, home runs, runs scored and OPS. He hit his 9th dinger of the season in the A’s 5-0 win in Anaheim on Monday, pulling into a tie for sixth place in the AL in round-trippers. Reddick is batting .289 with a decent .340 OPB and an other-wordly .549 slugging percentage that ranks him ninth in the junior circuit. Reddick is one of the reasons Oakland is a surprising 19-17, competing for a playoff spot at this early juncture in the season.
As for that trade for Boston? Bailey needed surgery on his thumb to begin the season and will be out until at least the All-Star break. The Red Sox have had trouble closing out games and no Boston hitter has more homers than Reddick. Seems like Billy Beane knows what he’s doing after all.