I had not seen him for a while but then I spotted him coming out of an OTB tearing up some paper. How's it been going, I inquired? Not bad, he answered, I'm breaking even. So it is a good day in horseplayer parlance. Who did you have? Brother Derek, he responded. Did you know something? Naw, just a hunch. I liked the name. It reminded me of Derek Jeter of the Yankees and I figured there was an in there and a sure thing. Beansy was going now. You know I love Jeter, he's the greatest.
I reminded Beansy that in a poll of baseball players the highest percentage, 9%, rated Jeter the most over rated player in baseball. Yeah, Beansy snorted, all the other shortstops voted against him. Beansy was going now. I ignore polls, he said, ever since Dewey was elected President over Truman in 1948. Remember Jeter just won his second gold glove and will probably become the first Yankee in history to get 3000 hits in a career. Imagine, Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle never got 3000 hits but Derek Jeter will if he doesn't suffer some big injury.
Anyway, Brother Derek never made it, finished fifth, and according to Beansy he is still running to the Preakness to run and lose again. I asked him if he were abandoning Brother Derek and he said there is no such word in the horse player jargon as abandon. The horse died on me like the Rangers did. The Rangers? The Rangers got 100 points in the season and made the playoffs. They were ousted in the playoffs by the Devils in four straight.
Yeah, he said they died. If it hadn't been for their great start and great run (10-1-1) right before the Olympics it would have been samo, samo for the eight straight year. No playoffs. But I don't blame the team he said, I blame the coach. Blame the coach? How can you blame the coach, I asked him? Don't you know that he is one of the finalists for coach of the year honors? Coach of the Year? You have got to be kidding. Who are the other two finalists, he asked? I told him, Peter Laviolette and Lindy Ruff.
Now you are kidding, he bellowed. The coach of the year should be Lou Lamoriello of the Devils. A Ranger fan voting for the Devil coach? How could that be? As they say in politics, look at the record. He took a team fighting for their playoff lives and won the last ten games of the season to finish third and then blanked the Rangers in the playoffs. Look it up. He was always the greatest GM and now he is the best coach, at least for 2005-06.
Tom Renney? He collapsed down the stretch. He was Mr. Lucky as Jagr had a great year and then lighting in a bottle occurred with the sensational play of Henrik Lundqvist, which was totally unexpected. Lundqvist is one of the three finalists for the Vezina Trophy. The other two are Martin Brodeur and Miikka Kiprusoff of the Calgary Flames. The Rangers ended the season with nine straight losses, counting the four in the playoffs. They couldn't steal two points in the last five games when they needed it. Renney didn't have a clue how to get the points or stop the slide.
Once Jagr went down and Lundqvist did not recover fully from his injuries it was all over for the Rangers and Renney. I've seen these too many times said Beansy. I have seen them soar and then sink. Shero, Brooks, Neilson, they all looked like world beaters only to stumble. But it took them a few years to fail. Renney hit the peak and the bottom in the same year. Scary.
Beansy wrapped it up, Mikey I don't know if this is the guy to lead us to the promised land. It all depends on Jagr. If he can still be successful in the system it might work. However, if the Rangers don't bring in some tough dudes to toughen the team next year, the honeymoon could be over before it gets started. Beansy had one last thought. Mikey, it's even money Renney doesn't finish the year, next year. Leave it to a horse player to put it in perspective.
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