A daily accumulation of history and present as I follow the 2011 year through the baseball season and reflect on the glories and disappointments of the greatest game on Earth.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cal Ripken Jr.

In light of Jorge Posada playing himself out of New York, and let's be honest... the New York Post said it the best; he's pretty much done like a charbroiled steak, let's talk about aging stars and what to do with people when they're past their prime, but they're still loved.
Take the biggest love fest in history - Cal Ripken Jr... this man is truly slobbered over in Baltimore except when it comes to people wanting to pony up $100 to buy my 1982 Topps Traded Set complete with PSA8.5 Cal Ripken rookie. It's like Harvey Keitel said in Pulp Fiction... only people have already started and there's no stopping...
Ripken's biggest claim to fame is that he played 2,632 consecutive games. This went from May 30, 1982, to September 20, 1998. During this time, he played 8,243 consecutive innings from June 5, 1982 to September 14, 1987. During this time, he also hit roughly .300 and pounded out more than 25 homers a year during a period in time where the average short stop was Ozzie Smith.
However, in 1991, Cal Ripken had his last great line in baseball: .323, 34, 114. After that, everything was above pedestrian, BUT it wasn't super wonderful mega fantastic. SURE... he was playing every game. Yet he was still playing every game for 7 full years. The Orioles may have moved him from short to third, but there was no future contingency, and they came to suffer for it years later.
Nobody thought about that when they were winning (shades of New York, anyone?). In 1983, the Orioles won the World Series. Until 1996, they weren't in the playoffs again. However, thanks to Jeffrey Maier, they lost in 96 and in 97, they lost to a Cleveland team that was one at bat to Edgar Renteria from winning the World Series. For Baltimore, that was it. The Yankees got dominant, and the future was cast in stone. Thank God for the Devil Rays to keep them out of the cellar most years.
When it was all said and done, Ripken went from the man who broke the streak of Lou Gehrig (a streak Gehrig only stopped because of life-ending injury and pride in being complimented for pedestrian accomplishments) in 1995, resurrecting baseball with a happy moment after the strike, and eventually gave it up to just as much tremendous fanfare. Thus, he was forever enshrined as an institution in the Chesapeake Bay (in no small part because he was born there and stayed there to be dominant - that generation's Joe Mauer).
So who knew that the man who had no business being at the 2001 All Star Game (at least until he hit a home run and got to play short stop as Alex Rodriguez stepped aside to make the old man feel at home again with an MVP award) was involved in a vicious rumor that he pummeled the tar out of Kevin Costner for hooking up with his wife? Interestingly enough, now I do, and now many people on the web do. It's a BS rumor dispelled by Costner, Ripken, and Snopes, but yeah... you've gotta love the Internet where EVERYTHING is true.
So for what I've learned, be it Ken Griffey Jr., Derek Jeter, David Ortiz, Willie Mays, or a constantly banged up Chipper Jones, there comes a point where a player has to call it a day and know when to say when.
They can go the easy way like Andy Pettite and don't go in a decline. They can be forced out like Griffey. They can change from Big Papi, the hero of the Red Sox dynasty years to Big Sluggi, the steroids mirage who doesn't show up to play until May, or they can just keep hoping that this year will be the year that they turn it around - maybe one last time like a hobbling Kirk Gibson in a World Series moment for the ages.
Sadly, we know which way it's more likely to be.

No comments:

Post a Comment