Thirty years ago today, Cal Ripken, Jr. began something very special.
Thirty years ago today, 21-year-old Cal Ripken, Jr. suited up as the starting third baseman for the Baltimore Orioles after having sat out the second game of a twi-night doubleheader against the Blue Jays the night before. The missed game was Ripken's third such of the season. The rookie was batting .238 with a .384 slugging. That Sunday afternoon, Ripken played in all nine innings of the Jays' one-hit victory, going 0-for-2 with a walk, a strikeout, two putouts and an assist. There was hardly anything special about it.
The next time Ripken would sit for even an inning—save for the ninth-inning of a June 4, 1982, game when Ripken was pinch-hit for by Jim Dwyer (who struck out against Terry Felton)—was September 14, 1987, five-and-a-half years later. In an 18-3 blowout of the O's manager Cal Ripken, Sr. benched Ripken Jr. in the eighth inning, replaced by Ron Washington. Ripken had played in 8,243 consecutive innings between the two dates.
Growing up, I was a big Cal Ripken, Jr. fan (and, thus, a Baltimore Orioles fan). This may not be all that odd, considering how immensely popular he became in the 1990s, but there are two things worth noting: 1) I grew up in central California, far away from any other Orioles fan and 2) this was the late-1980s, when Ripken was much less of a national name and the Orioles were really, really terrible. I can't say for sure why a kid from Fresno latched onto Cal Ripken, but I have a pretty good suspect: baseball cards. At the time, I was collecting baseball cards like crazy and I just couldn't get away from Cal. All-Star, Diamond King, Team Leader, Record Breaker, Top Shortstops, Iron Man... if there was a special subset of cards that year, you could bet good money that Cal Ripken was the Orioles' representative - and that I had at least three copies of it. It was inevitable, then, that I would one day announce that Cal was my favorite player and the Orioles my favorite team and there was nothing anyone could do about it.
Fans are upset at Zack Greinke's basketball hobby, but would they be so upset at Cal Ripken?
As a Brewers fan, the news on Tuesday that Zack Greinke would be starting the season on the disabled list due to a broken rib was rather upsetting. Greinke is one of the best pitchers in baseball and his acquisition was supposed to herald in a memorable, playoff-chasing 2011 season. Getting injured so early in the year, and in such a dangerous part of the body, is not the type of thing any Milwaukee fan wants to hear.
But I'm not one to overreact. The club has said that they are just being extra-careful with Greinke this early in the year. If this were, say, the playoffs, he would be healthy enough to play. That lessened the sting a bit. Not all fans are buying it, though, and they seem to all be taking it out on Greinke and the way his injury came about: Greinke injured his ribs in a game of pickup basketball by diving for a rebound in the first week of spring training. "How could he be so stupid?!" seems to be the common thought amongst the irate. "You get paid to play BASEBALL, not basketball!"
The Rays are playing like it is 2008 all over again, along with other notes from around the major leagues.
The tone, the Rays will tell you, was set last October. They missed the playoffs a year after a magic carpet ride of a 2008 season in which they posted the first season of more than 70 victories in club history and rode that momentum all the way to the World Series before losing to the Phillies.
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Guest columnist Allen Barra shares a few words about the mangling of baseball language.
In baseball, there's good jargon and bad jargon. Like Ozzie Smith on artificial turf, the definition of jargon covers a lot of ground. The Oxford English Dictionary, for instance, offers one definition: "the language, esp. the vocabulary, peculiar to a trade, profession, or group." Applied to baseball, that definition conjures up images of Ring Lardner, Casey Stengel and Harry Caray--you know, slang. I like that kind of jargon.
Yet another definition reads: "Speech or writing characterized by pretentious terminology and involved syntax." Unfortunately, that definition takes in just about everyone broadcasting or writing about baseball today. I don't like that kind of jargon, and I'll bet you don't either. And like me, I'll bet you use it all the time.
A wild-goose chase comparing two great shortstops illustrates an important lesson about evaluating recent performances.
No, I'm kidding. I actually have to gather some data to finish the piece, so that should run tomorrow. Great story, the White Sox, who are already more than halfway to the 71 wins I predicted they would garner, and now have Frank Thomas back to give them a much-needed dose of OBP.
Rarely is Miguel Tejada unaccounted for in the Baltimore Orioles' clubhouse. Tejada isn't afraid to make his own fashion statement--even if it's not approved--raise his voice a few decimals, or just chat away until his new teammates have heard enough. By his own admission Tejada relishes being the center of attention, and he's certainly earned that right.
An undrafted free agent out of Bani, Dominican Republic, Tejada signed with the Oakland A's in 1993 wth hopes of following in the steps of his childhood idol, Alfredo Griffin. Over a decade later Tejada is already considerd a member of baseball's top-tier shortstops. But after validating his star-status by winning the 2002 American League MVP Award and being part of the A's recent postseason run, Tejada, who signed a six-year, $72 million deal in the off-season, is ready to begin a new chapter in his career. BP recently interviewed Tejada about saying good-bye to Oakland, swinging the bat in hitter-friendly Camden Yards and patroling the same postion in Baltimore that for years belonged to Cal Ripken Jr..
Baseball Prospectus: When you run out to shortstop at Camden Yards April 4th for the first time as an Oriole you are going to be in charge of the same position that Cal Ripken Jr. mastered for so many years in Baltimore. What are the things that come to mind when anybody mentions Cal, and do you feel added pressure knowing what he will always mean to the city of Baltimore?
Alex Rodriguez's trade to the Yankees has elicited plenty of spirited debate on several related topics, notably what to do with Derek Jeter and his matador defense at short. Reader Mark Shirk had this to say: With an nearly imminent A-Rod to the Yankees trade, I got to thinking about how a move to 3B would affect the value of Derek Jeter. I figured out, using Clay Davenport's equations, that a move to 3B would mean that Jeter's RARP would drop about 4 runs over the course of a full season or roughly 154 games. However since Jeter is such a bad defensive player (-22.5 FRAA per 154 games from 2001-2003) the move might actually benefit him. Is it unreasonable to think that Jeter would be 15 runs below average as a 3B? I don't think it is even out of the realm of potability for him to be only 10 runs below average. All told that is an 8-run gain in value for Jeter, a pretty significant sum. Am I wrong in thinking this?
The one young shortstop whose time was perceived to have come was Richard William Thon of the Houston Astros, "Dickie" from South Bend, Indiana. In spring training that year, The Sporting News surveyed the Astros on Thon. The shortstop's teammates could have been expected to be supportive, but the 'Stros were downright lavish: "When I see Dickie Thon, I see a future Hall of Famer." - Astros GM Al Rosen. "I think Dickie has a good chance to become the MVP in our league." - Craig Reynolds. "Dickie is the backbone of our team." - Astros manager Bob Lillis. "I'm afraid to predict how great Dickie can become. I know I'd love to play second base for Houston the next 20 years and have Dickie by my side." - Astros second baseman Bill Doran. "When I see Dickie play, my heart flutters in my chest like a caged bluebird trying to get free so it can sing paeans, soprano hosannas to the sparkling greatness that is the Thonster Monster." - Phil Garner.
The old George Reeves "Superman" TV show (1952-1957) opened with a narrative declaiming the title character's "never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way." I can identify, because here at YCLIU (YOO-KEH-LOO) we fight a never-ending battle to finish this four-day 20th anniversary look at the 1984 season before it morphs into a five-day, eight-day, or lifetime commitment. There are so many other stories to tell, and we'll start telling 'em in this space next Friday. Your requests for future subjects of inquiry, questions, suggestions, and baseball-oriented pantoums welcomed at the address below.
I ran across a piece at the Baltimore Sun Web site, read through it, then spent two hours on an exercise bike and at the driving range to try to calm down. It hasn't worked, so I want to run through this piece, and begin to scratch the surface of what's wrong in Baltimore.
I was going to write a column this week that summarized some of the stuff from the NorCal Pizza Feeds. Actually, I finished the column, had it ready to go, and was planning to send it to Joe for editing Thursday morning. Then, after checking out the local papers for a few clubs, I ran across a piece at the Baltimore Sun Web site, read through it, then spent two hours on an exercise bike and at the driving range to try to calm down. It hasn't worked, so I want to run through this piece, and begin to scratch the surface of what's wrong in Baltimore.