ICE HEATING UP, MARK TEIXERA- A JETER OR AN A-ROD?

October 1, 2009

Kevin Paul Dupont, of the Boston Globe, reported a revolution with in the ranks of the NHLPA that could possibly create unrest in other Player Associations.
“Tough week for Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference, and by extension, the entire leadership of the NHL Players Association.
Across the league, a growing number of rank-and-file members now realize that union executive director Paul Kelly was broomed out of office Aug. 31 as the result of a calculated, plotted campaign that once again has sullied not just the NHLPA, but the entire stick-carrying brotherhood that numbers upward of 750 members.
Ference, who soon could be among a collection of player representatives losing their jobs, looked embarrassingly out of touch last week when he told the Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa that the membership did not vote Kelly into office in the fall of 2007.
He used that belief, though incorrect, to justify why the rank-and-file didn’t have to be asked to vote before Ference and 21 other player reps bounced Kelly from office in a pre-dawn decision Aug. 31 in Chicago. Essentially, Ference said polling the players would be too cumbersome a process. Ah, vote counting and hanging chads, the burdensome details of a democracy.
Some players, respected veterans and elite players around the league among them, have been enlightened over the last four weeks that Kelly was bumrushed without due cause, and without their knowledge or consent. Kelly had a contentious relationship with NHLPA ombudsman Eric Lindros, leading to L’Enfant Terrible’s resignation from that post earlier this year, which triggered a cabal of Lindros sympathizers to go after Kelly.
That’s the crux of what led to the vote in Chicago, which came after some 10 hours of jawboning among the player reps and the anti-Kelly conspirers who
kept them in that room, shaping their opinion and then forcing the vote.
It’s about to get more interesting, and some of the Lindros sympathizers who orchestrated the firing could begin to feel the heat in the coming days and weeks.
Following comments by ex-Bruins defenseman Brad Park printed in the Globe last week, calling into question the union’s motives and intelligence in sacking Kelly, there will be an ad hoc players conference call tomorrow open to all members.
It’s possible, according to player sources, that one or more NHLPA members will insist on an immediate, thorough, and independent investigation of not only the process that led to Kelly’s dismissal but also of those who perpetrated it. Clearly, some players are finally waking up to smell the reality that, as one veteran told me last week, “Paul got sewered.’’
The stench has reached the membership, and it is leading them to do something about it.
In Toronto, where longtime general counsel Ian Penny now fills Kelly’s job on an interim basis, the question remains whether union leadership, including Buzz Hargrove, Lindros’s successor as ombudsman, and adviser Ron Pink, who coveted Kelly’s job prior to his 2007 election, would permit such an internal investigation to take place or, if they do, agree to be subject to it.
Truth is, they should welcome it, as they did a supposedly independent review of Kelly’s job performance in that same office in the weeks leading up to the August coup. It was that review, in which the entrenched anti-Kelly faction in the PA office skewered him, that was a major factor in Ference and 21 other player reps throwing him out of office, without polling their constituents or so much as informing them of the process.
The players deserved better. They deserved a voice, an explanation, and above all, they deserved facts, not rhetoric and contrived charges.
Here in Boston, many Bruins players finally underscored their displeasure with the process to Ference in a face-to-face meeting Wednesday, the day Park boldly rebuked Ference and the decision to can Kelly.
Next Sunday, with the season under way, another conference call will have all union reps on the line for an annual start-of-the-season meeting of the executive board. Penny, Hargrove, and Pink are expected to be part of it, along with the half-dozen divisional reps that were handpicked by Lindros for their jobs in his days as ombudsman. Ex-Bruin Rob Zamuner is one of the six divisional reps, and according to players who have publicly questioned Kelly’s ouster the last month, Zamuner routinely has called them after the fact to, shall we say, impress upon them that they should not support Kelly.
Quite telling, isn’t it? This is a union that takes votes at 3 a.m. that none of the rank-and-file knows about, then dispatches Zamuner to keep the herd in order.
Members, at the very least, should understand that their intelligence, integrity, and dignity are being insulted. At the very least, they should inform Penny, their interim executive director, that they don’t like being played for fools. Maybe he could help them.
The tide is shifting here, ever so slowly, and it could shift dramatically in these next two weeks when the annual voting for union reps is held. Word around the league is that respected veterans, some of them disturbed and frightened by Kelly’s ouster, will run to be union reps.
This could be significant, especially if a call for an independent review of the Kelly matter is requested tomorrow and that request is denied. If enough of the 22 “no’’ voters from the Aug. 30-31 meeting are knocked off the job, then an executive board could begin to force real change within the NHLPA office.”

 
Bob Klapisch asked in the Record (Hackensack, NJ), if Mark Teixera will turn out to be like Derek Jeter or A-Rod. “One week and counting before the
Bronx’s summer of love officially yields to October that vast, merciless place where good (and sometimes great) players have been swallowed up, never to be heard from again.
Yankee fans long ago figured out there are two types of superstars who come through greater New York: the stats accumulators and the ones who help win
championships. We know on which side of the divide Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter reside, but what about Mark Teixeira?
That’s one of the more intriguing questions of the Yankees’ upcoming postseason, whether Teixeira will morph into Jeter, who has a .309 career postseason average, or A-Rod, who’s batted .148 with one RBI since Game 4 of the 2004 AL Championship Series.
While the Yankees are at it, they could use a similar heads-up on A.J. Burnett, who’s never thrown a postseason inning in his 11-year career. The right-hander looked great over 6 1/3 innings in the 4-3 win over the Royals on Tuesday night, but don’t bother projecting that dominance over the Tigers or Twins in the AL Division Series. October doesn’t believe in carry-over momentum.
At least Teixeira has a resume, batting .467 with the Angels in last year’s ALDS against the Red Sox]. But he knows the reset button is about to pushed for the entire Yankee monolith. They’ve spent the last two months breaking the spirit of virtually every American League team, but as one major league official said, “After all this, the Yankees better win it all or else it won’t mean anything.”
Enter Teixeira, who’s on the verge of winning two-thirds of the triple crown, leading the AL in home runs and RBI. Like Burnett, the first baseman is on a
sprint to the regular-season finish line, crushing his 39th home run of the season Tuesday, tying him with Tampa Bay’s Carlos Pena, while fattening his RBI total to 121.
It’s been more than a good season; it’s been borderline breathtaking, considering this was Teixeira’s first summer in the Bronx. That’s why questions about the anvil that hangs over his head are met with a polite but firm response.
“You know, those are the same questions I heard before the season, ’Can you make it in New York?’” Teixeira said. “Just look at my numbers. Anyone
who’s still asking those questions is just looking for something.”
Teixeira’s point needs no further translation: He believes his audition is officially over. With a little help from the home run-friendly new Stadium, Teixeira has reached some of his best power numbers since 2005, and no matter what Ultimate Zone Rating, the controversial defense metric, says, Teixeira’s work at first base has been the best the Yankees have seen since Tino Martinez in his prime.
But Teixeira asks, pointedly, why is his transition to the Yankee universe met with some skepticism. He has a theory. In the sport’s biggest market, where
tabloids and talk radio control the public dialogue and success stories, Teixeira says they “are boring.”
“Let’s face it, it’s a much better story if me and CC and A.J. all fail,” Teixeira said. “It’s more exciting that way.”
Not that Teixeira is resentful of New York’s hard edge. To the contrary, he says he has “no regrets” about blowing off the Red Sox at the eleventh hour last December and joining the team he’d always dreamed of playing for.
Teixeira is being sincere when he says, “This season has gone even better than I expected.” But being a first-timer in pinstripes, the slugger has no intuitive
sense of how desperate Yankee fans are for a championship.
This is Year One for Teixeira, but for everyone else, the Yankees are reaching the end of a decade-long drought, during which they allowed the Red Sox to
catch and pass them as the American League’s premier team.
Finally, though, the Yankees have assembled (OK, bought) their best team since 1998. And while it’s true that a short series could poison even the most
talented roster, one rival executive said, “If there was any year that I really felt the Yankees were head and shoulders above everyone else, it’s this year. And a lot of that is (because of) Teixeira.”
You won’t get any argument from the Yankees, who’ve seen Teixeira lose himself in hard work, ritualized batting practice and more hard work. He’ll never  have Derek Jeter’s Q-rating or A-Rod’s hunger for attention. Forget about reading about Teixeira on Page Six. But nevertheless he’s been an unstoppable force.
“I think because he is so regimented; he’s a guy who has a belief system in how to prepare every day. He’s not going to change it a lot,” says Joe Girardi.
One of the fixtures in Teixeira’s mind-set is his view of the playoffs: They’re “no different” from the regular season a philosophy that insulates him from the kind of anxiety that’s ruined A-Rod every October since 2004.
“The game doesn’t change just because it’s (October),” Teixeira said. “The guys who worry about that take away from what got them there in the first place.”
Teixeira says so without gloating; his ego wouldn’t allow it. Still, at the Division Series’ doorstep, his finger resting on the reset button, Teixeira knows his work has only begun.
“Honestly, I can’t wait,” is what he says about the summer of love coming to an end.
Brave man.”

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