My Christmas Post

Christmas is pretty much here and this will likely be my last post before the holiday. As of tomorrow, work will consume my soul for the last remaining days and the evenings will be full of family obligations and time with friends visiting from out of town. Now if some signing or trade happens, I’ll muster up a few lines and post.

The new Orioles’ Atlantic Team has a who’s who of O’s coaching staff.  Chris Hoiles as manager? Absolutely genius.

No Ryan Klesko for us.  Take down the Christmas tree, rip down the lights, and burn the presents because Christmas in ruined.

Pete Rose   says Mark McGwire should be in the Hall of Fame. Because if there’s anybody who’s an authority on should be in the Hall of Fame, it is Pete Rose.

Buster Olney had a good piece on Cal:

Eddie Murray somehow managed to maintain his right-handed and left-handed swings, one identical to the other, and if Tony Gwynn had five at-bats, he’d usually smash the ball with the barrel of the bat at least four times.

Cal Ripken, who ranks 14th all-time in hits with 3,184, was unlike any other members of the 3,000-hit club. He will be formally elected into the Hall of Fame in the next couple of weeks, and he also may have had the ugliest looking at-bats of the elite hitters.

There was nothing fluid about what he did at the plate, nothing pretty in his swing. He’d tinker with his stance throughout the season, like someone beating up his pillow every night, just to get comfortable at the plate. Sometimes he’d hold the bat almost straight back, like a softball swing, and sometimes he’d stand with his feet closer together, like a cricket player, and sometimes he’d lay the bat flat over his shoulder, flexing his fingers before raising the bat when the pitcher began his delivery. Sometimes he’d set up in a stance with his knees bent almost at a right angle, the way you would if you were milking a cow.

When Ripken swung and missed, he looked the way we all did while playing Wiffle Ball on Labor Day weekend, flicking his wrists desperately to make contact, his weight sometimes carrying him backward while his hands flew forward, his midsection jackknifed.

But the man made it work somehow, enough to generate 431 career homers and 1,695 RBI, through consistency. He hit more than 30 homers only once in his career, when he hit 34 in 1991, and he never had more than 114 RBI in any season. He was more steady than a metronome; of course, a metronome needs to be rewound, but Ripken never did.

He did have some great physical skills: A powerful throwing arm, and hips and legs strong enough to discourage opposing runners from attempting to break up double plays. David Howard, the former Royal, once recalled how he slid into Ripken hard on an attempted double play, and it was Howard, not Ripken, who came away gasping for breath. It was like sliding into a fire hydrant, Howard said years later.

But his other extraordinary attribute — either learned from his father or inherited from the Ripken gene pool — was his belief that he could conquer any weakness through practice, through work. A lot of players don’t know how to work, and others know how to work but get discouraged and beaten down by failure. Cal was just beginning his decline as a player in the two years I covered him, and yet he always seemed to assume that any slump, particularly with his hitting, could be solved, and it was only a matter of time until he found his answers, through hours spent in a batting cage. It was there that he tried those crazy stances, those experiments, anything he could to get his hands in position to hit, anything for him to feel more at ease at the plate.

Watching Ripken hit was more fascinating, in some respects, than watching great hitters like Molitor and Gwynn and Barry Bonds, because every at-bat was a grind for Cal. Some fans related to Ripken because of the fact that he showed up to work every day, punched the clock. But I always thought that was the extraordinary part of him — the almost impossible consistency of his effort, more plow horse than human.

The part of Ripken that was Everyman for me — the part of him that was like the commuter fighting rush-hour traffic and deadlines and office politics and somehow making it all work — was watching him hit. He took his modest hitting talent and combined that with his imagination and knowledge and exceptional effort, and turned all these small pieces of himself into hits, so many hits

That’s it, have a Merry Christmas everybody. 


2 Responses

  1. Just a correction. The York Revolution, as well as the entire Atlantic (aka Last Chance) League is independant, not aligned with any team. Hopefully, they’ll do better than the Aberdeen Arsenal.:)

  2. Thanks…I stand corrected.

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