Cal Ripken deserves a shot in the dugout

Cal Ripken deserves a shot in the dugout
October 8, 2013, 11:15 am
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It’s been a pleasure listening to Cal Ripken analyze postseason games on TBS. He’s adding lots of great insights, and seems comfortable in the role.

There’s another role he’d be even better at, and that’s as a major league manager.

It’s been 12 years since Ripken retired as a player, and it’s been a fabulously successful time for him. He wanted to watch his children grow, travel and a build a strong business franchise. He’s done all three.

Now, there’s the sense he wants more.

Ripken has long wanted to run a major league team much like Nolan Ryan has done with the Texas Rangers, but those opportunities aren’t plentiful.

The Orioles aren’t for sale, and as wealthy as he’s become, Ripken would still have to get partners together to buy them—or another team. Those opportunities aren’t plentiful, either.

As recently as two years ago, Ripken had no interest in replacing Andy MacPhail as the Orioles’ top baseball man. Presumably, he could have been the team’s manager during one of the times the job was vacant after he quit playing. He wasn’t interested.

Recently, Ripken has expressed a little more curiosity in managing, and his increasing presence in ballparks this season has heightened speculation.

In the first game of the just-concluded Division Series, Ripken gave a clue as to how he would handle a managing job. He criticized the Atlanta Braves for benching Dan Uggla, an accomplished second baseman who’s suffered through a nightmarish season.

One of the most important facets of contemporary managing is working with player’s egos. Ripken felt that even though Uggla batted .179, he was still capable of supplying a spark.

As a star, Ripken did not always get along with his managers. Phil Regan and Davey Johnson were two he wasn’t always on good terms with. As Orioles manager, Johnson discussed moving Ripken from shortstop to third base with the press before talking about it with the Iron Man.

Ripken chafed at that, and he’d never do that to a player.

He played under a Hall of Fame player turned manager, Frank Robinson, and they coexisted successfully.

Joe Torre, who was a star player, excelled at dealing with big-name players. He was comfortable with what he had accomplished as a player, and Ripken would be, too.

Ripken’s resume would impress players who know little about the game’s history. No one could easily take a day off without a good reason or not run hard to first base under Ripken.

Baseball fundamentals were learned from Cal, Sr., a lifer who never reached the big leagues as a player, and it was that attitude that propelled his son, and not one of entitlement. Ripken knew how hard the game was.

He prepared for his post-playing career for years, and he’s worked wisely and well at running minor league clubs, his youth league and as an in-demand public speaker.

He’s also prepared for his broadcasting venture. He watched games, and not just Orioles ones, on his iPad, and works well with his partners, knowing when to speak.

As a manager, Ripken would need a secure general manager, one who wasn’t intimidated by the great man’s accomplishments.

His place in baseball history is assured. Ripken’s consecutive games record is likely to follow him to his grave, and for all the carping that superstars don’t make for successful managers, well, most managers aren’t successful.

Three mediocre seasons as a manager wouldn’t damage Ripken’s legacy.

Most superstars don’t want to go through what Ryne Sandberg did, managing for years in the minors, before getting a big league job. Mike Schmidt quit after one unfulfilling season in the Florida State League.

Last year, Ripken admitted getting more interest are talks with his close friend Brady Anderson, a top executive in the Orioles front office. Those visits and broadcasting are helping to prepare Ripken, who never enters anything without in-depth study.

He’d have to give up a comfortable life, where he can do what he wants when he wants. His children are grown, his businesses successful, and now he’s 53.

If he decides to continue with a life that’s the envy of many, there would be no complaints from here, but if the Orioles aren’t for sale, and no other teams are, baseball might be deprived of his talents.

There are managerial openings in Chicago, Cincinnati, Seattle and Washington. No one’s said whether Ripken’s been contacted for any of them or if he’s contacted them.

It would be a shame if he didn’t put his theories to work in a major league environment, and if he doesn’t do it in the next year or two, it’s unlikely he will.

Here’s one resounding yes for Cal Ripken as a big league manager with the hope he’s in a big league dugout in 2014.