Tuesday, September 06, 2005

September 6, 1995


I'm not going to start one of those lame "Where were you?" threads, but I'll tell you want I was doing when this happened: I was just returning from a German class I'd drop a few days later. Hielsgeschicte, Batman!

Maybe this will diminish my DC fan street-cred, and I don't care: I love Cal Ripken, Jr. I love the way he quietly played the game, and I love the way he effectively played the game. If you denigrate him, I'll be sure to cut in and defend him to the death. Try me. Neverthless, the premise of Kermit the Kurkjian's article (linked above) is nonsense. I regard Ripken's consecutive games played record the way Bill James regarded Lou Gehrig's consecutive games played record: it's not invincible, because there's no reason why someone exceptional can't come along and beat it.

Or, as Rene Gonzales put it, there's no reason why some "alien" can't come along. In every generation of players, there's going to be "humans" at most every aspect of play. There will also be the "freaks" or the "aliens." Even if the common ballplayer is not as tough or dedicated as before (and, as we know, "old ballplayers never die"), nothing really rules out some freak coming along that obliterates the consecutive games played record.

Of course, one or two more "aliens" and the record truly might be unattainable, even for subsequent freaks of nature. But Ripken pushed the record ahead by only three more years, and there's still room for someone in the future to operate. Or at least I see no real reason why there can't be.

On the lighter side, check out Jayson Stark's look at the "anti-Ripkens". He's got the old reliable Pascual Perez getting lost story, sure, but there are a couple (Jeff Juden's infected tattoo; Junior Felix's strained hip flexor suffered while sliding between Mike Henneman's legs) that I didn't recall.

Comments:
what about the old glenallen hill story. didn't he smash a glass table whilst sleepwalking and thought he was being attacked by a spider? something bizarre like that.
 
Great story, Pete! I think Hill cut himself scratching himself trying to get the "spiders" off of him. I also like Jack Clark straining his back while pulling his socks up.
 
Your "this happened" link is all 404'd.
 
Yeah, ? and = characters mess up the URL links in my Blogger template. Most of the time it gives me an error message, and I manually reinsert the rest of the chopped off URL while in "HTML view" mode. But this time it didn't give me the error message, but it didn't work either. I'll fix it later. Thanks.
 
I hate Ripken. Actually, I don't hate Ripken; I just hate the whole Ironman shtick. I hate the mythology that surrounds that guy, which attempts to elevate him to some sort of superhuman deity.

I guess it annoys me because it detracts from what he was as a player -- a damn good shortstop.

So, instead of focusing on what it is that he did so well, and made him such an extraordinary player, the ironman mystique gives him credit for the wrong reasons.

He wasn't remarkable because he played every game (although that's certainly a bullet point on his resume). He was remarkable because he was a power-hitting shortstop who played remarkable defense and is probably in the top three or four shorstops of all time.

It's like looking at the Mona Lisa and remarking about how beautiful it is because the frame is nice.

You're right. But it's the wrong reason.
 
Actually, my reason for liking Ripken "quietly . . . and . . . effectively played the game" doesn't really rely on the games-played streak. I liked him because he was a great all-around shortstop and played the game in a generally classy manner (perceived off-field callousness or aloofness notwithstanding).

"The Streak" took on a life of its own, and that's fine I guess. I wouldn't have liked Ripken any less had he not had it.

However, the day he BROKE the streak was a big day in baseball history, I think. I'm not going to ascribe salvationary aspects to it for the game of baseball, but it was a good day for baseball. I'll honor that, sure.
 
The streak is (and will be in the future the next time there is one) nonsense. The worst part was at the time hack writers equating his streak to "Joe Lunchbox" going to work everyday. Joe Lunchbox pretty much has to go to work everyday for the money.

I not going to blame Cal for playing everyday (who wouldn't want to play ball everyday) or call him selfish or anything like that, but I felt the streak was a detriment at times to the Orioles. Once he got a certain distance into the streak, the decision to sit or play Cal, which should have always been the manager's call, that's why you have a manager, effectively gotten taken out of his hands. They weren't going to end the streak. I always felt this underminded each manager just a little bit too much.
 
The worst part was at the time hack writers equating his streak to "Joe Lunchbox" going to work everyday

I don't know how closely the equating of it was, though. That's debatable.

It was the closEST a sports player COULD come to "Joe Lunchbox," though. Read BPG and all the complaints about Johnson's heel and Church's pinky toe and whathaveyou. Ripken played through all of that---and did so as a middle infielder.

Now, was that BAD for the team. You could make a great argument that of course it was. The widespread perception of the languid life an MLB player leads can't be reality, or else more guys would play every day instead of begging out of the lineup every now and then. Nevertheless, that's a separate and distinct issue from the adoration given to him for ACTUALLY PLAYING every day. The former is probably a more important consideration, in terms of effectiveness and efficiency and roster utilization. But lots of people don't care about that stuff; instead, they care about the work ethic that never missing a game represents.

So, call it rubbish. But there you go. (My piece---and peace---on it is above.)

Finally, I don't recall it ever being an issue until Ripken had a down year in 1992. Maybe mumurrings late in the 1990 season, when he slumped, but 1992 was the first time it was really mentioned as a negative. And it wasn't again until 1995 or '96. And honestly, the managers during that time had worse things to worry about than fitting in an off-day for Ripken: the farm system didn't produce his heir apparent (or even a worthy one) all of those years, to say nothing of any other position.
 
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