Myth-Busting

Two recent articles beautifully de-construct two myths central to contemporary baseball discussions, one Hank Aaron vs Barry Bonds and the other on Cal Ripken vs. “the modern ballplayer.”

Last week, on Slate.com, in an article on Aaron, Tommy Craggs explained how “the media abuse baseball’s homerun king.” (H/T, Charles Modiano’s Cosellouts blog).
Craggs writes:

This baseball season, it fell to the sporting press to drag a reluctant Hank Aaron once more into public view, the occasion being Barry Bonds’ slow-motion pursuit of a stationary number. Now, anytime an old baseball personage hobbles back into frame, he is invariably described in awed, petrifying language better suited to, say, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The treatment of Aaron hasn’t been any different. A spin through the sports pages over the past few months reveals that he is a man of “cool dignity,” “quiet dignity,” “innate dignity,” “immense dignity,” “eternal dignity,” “unfettered dignity,” “unimpeachable dignity,” the very “picture of dignity” who “brought so much dignity to baseball” and who, “having exuded dignity his entire life,” continues to this day “exud[ing] class and dignity.”

Craggs has no disagreement with characterizing Aaron as dignified. It’s the uses to which Aaron’s dignity is being put that are troublesome:

…what’s unfortunate about Aaron’s latest turn in the public eye is that he has been reduced to a sportswriter’s cheap trope. The great slugger’s dignity is of interest only insofar as it can be picked up by the likes of George Will and swung in the general direction of Barry Bonds….As Barry Bonds continues his gimpy, joyless pursuit of such glory as he is eligible for,” Will wrote, “consider the odyssey of Mobile’s greatest native son.” Or as a Cincinnati Post headline pronounced: “Safe To Say Bonds No Aaron.” Of course, with Aaron, it has always been thus. It is the singular curse of his career: to be treated like a sandwich board for the prevailing attitudes of the day.

Craggs points out that Aaron’s long been subject to this sort of treatment – his very quietude and lack of clear definition makes him an easy mark for deployment in whatever moral battles of the day social commentators are waging.

Hence, the resurrection of Aaron (including a hagiograpic piece by Tom Verducci for a recent SI cover):

Now here is Aaron, once again, this time in the midst of the galloping national hysteria over anabolic steroids. In Aaron, we have our cardboard hero, propped up in the corner to stand in exquisite counterpoint to Bonds. He is not the only one dragooned into this particular mess—”Ryan Howard, No Asterisk,” went one preseason headline—but it is most certainly Aaron who is shouldering the psychic load. Even the flatness of his career, strangely, now earns him praise.

“[N]ot one of Aaron’s single-season home run totals is among the 68 highest of all time, yet he pounded more in his career than any other player in history—and without suspicion of chemical enhancement,” wrote Tom Verducci in this week’s Sports Illustrated cover story, blithely sidestepping the very real possibility that Aaron popped amphetamines like Chiclets along with, you know, everyone else in baseball. To even consider that would, of course, call into question a rather large piece of the argument in favor of baseball’s current war on steroids—Maintain the sanctity of the record books! Ferret out the cheats!—something sportswriters evidently have little interest in doing. Instead, they summon a hero from the past to redress the supposed sins of the present. “I guess,” Reggie Jackson told Verducci, “you can call him the people’s home run king.”

As I remarked the other day in discussing Pat Tillman’s examplr, sports media (and not them alone) find it easiest to traffic in two-dimensional portrayals, which would be more tolerable if they didn’t portray themselves as journalists intent on telling it like it is. We can expect publicists and propagandists to ignore the third dimension. For sports media to do it makes them either childish or disingenuous.

Another great myth-busting piece comes courtesy of the New York Sun’s outstanding sports writer, Tim Marchman (H/T, Rob Neyer’s ESPN.com blog). Writing about Cal Ripken Jr., Marchman observes:

It was during this time (the 1990s) that Ripken became a secular saint. Here was a man who stood for old-fashioned American values. Born and raised in Maryland, the son of a humble baseball journeyman, he played for his hometown team and made his name not with the obscene physical talent of a Henderson, but because of his hard work and dedication, best symbolized, of course, by his signature trait – his overwhelming need to just show up for work. No pampered, spoiled athlete he; this was someone with whom any factory worker or policeman or smalltown mortgage broker could identify, someone who just punched the clock every day and tried his hardest, quietly and with pride.

This was, of course, the most ridiculous nonsense it’s possible to imagine. Cal Ripken was 6 feet 4 inches, 225 pounds., built like a god, and blessed with enough athleticism that he probably would have been a truly great basketball player. He wasn’t the best possible version of David Eckstein or Joe McEwing, but the most physically gifted player in the sport. What made him unique was the overwhelming effect of his personal dedication and discipline on his unparalleled natural gifts; by all accounts, no one worked harder. But the myth of Ripken located his greatness in his will, as if will were sufficient to command the greatest heights of achievement. It isn’t.

Noting the inescapably racialized aspects of Ripken’s sainthood, Marchman writes:

I greatly admire Cal Ripken, but despise this myth. It grounded his appeal in resentment of supposedly lazy and greedy (and often black) modern players who didn’t appreciate the gifts with which they were born and the rewards to which those gifts entitled them. That all the boogeymen and preening villains to whom Ripken was contrasted throughout his career, from the joyous Henderson to the odious Bonds, all worked just as hard as he did, and enjoyed the rightful fruits of their labor no more than he did, never really seemed to register. This weekend, we can honor him without pandering to this myth and thus implicitly denigrating players who were never held out as representative of values that existed in a mythic, hazily remembered past. The man was an incredible baseball player with an iron will, and he remains an icon of simple decency. That’s more than enough, and more than worth honoring in its own right.

I don’t know whether Ripken is actually a decent man, since I don’t know him personally, though he seems to be almost universally admired. I do know that he received special treatment, including separate accomodations, on Orioles’ road trips, during the latter years of his career,  a situation that earns other athletes the “prima donna” moniker and that he was a greatly over-rated player his last several seasons in the majors, having managed an OPS-plus of better than league average in only one of his final five seasons (during all of which he played third base, a position requiring good offensive production). In any event, Marchman has it right – the gushing testimonials to Ripken’s character and will are frequently the coda to a lamentation about today’s athlete (as if players always used to play in two thousand plus straight games, before the age of the spoiled athlete).  Ripken was a truly great player, especially in his prime as a shortstop, and has a bullet-proof public persona. But, he’s another two-dimensional icon in the eyes of sports media, not flesh and blood. (as an aside, for more on the Hall of Fame credentials of Ripken and co-inductee Tony Gwynn, you can read  a post I wrote on in January on the subject).

38 Responses to “Myth-Busting”

  1. “As I remarked the other day in discussing Pat Tillman’s examplr, sports media (and not them alone) find it easiest to traffic in two-dimensional portrayals, which would be more tolerable if they didn’t portray themselves as journalists intent on telling it like it is. We can expect publicists and propagandists to ignore the third dimension. For sports media to do it makes them either childish or disingenuous.”

    I was bemused to read this in a sports blog, because as a longtime political activist(full disclosure: on the left) this precise issue has been something we have been screaming about since the time of Ronald Reagan. The modern press, particularly the television folks, has completely given up their responsibility to be analysts thinkers and questioners of those in authority. They are still repeating falsehoods about Al Gore 8 years later, stories that already have been debunked many times over. So if the “mainstream press” is still doing this sort of thing, how can we expect sports writers to be any different? We might call this the “Foxification” of the American news media, but in fairness to Fox – I can’t believe I just said those words – it’s been trending this way starting with the advent of television as a force in presidential campaigns and getting worse with every new technological development that has occurred. Sports media are merely reflecting what we are becoming – sad is that is to say.

  2. Yeah, I thought that Cal had the perfect response to the plaudits which he has received for simply playing every day. He seems like a good guy, but what do I know. However, his speech today was very nice. He downplayed his streak as simply coming to work every day and spoke very warmly of all the fans who had encouraged players and how they, while perhaps not recognized for going to work every day, were doing no less than him. He said that people who go to work every day and punch the clock are just as heroic as him, if indeed he is a hero. I was very impressed by his speech, I must say. I’ve never been one to pile on in praising a guy because these guys are just human and, well hell, I bet if I was big enough, and fast enough to play hoops or baseball in MLB or the NBA that maybe I could be a decent athlete. They’re just playing a kid’s game and they’re fortunate. Anyway, I thought his speech was the perfect antidote to the idiot talking heads who talk of Cal as though he had a halo over his head. I’m pissed I missed Tony’s speech. As a longtime Dodger fan, the guy was exasperating. You just knew when he came up against Hershiser that he was wear a hole in the fabric of the Dodgers. Anyway, he was such a great hitter, so consistent, and so good at what he did. You had to admire him….but I must admit, I thought Cal’s speech showed some class too.

  3. TC I’m not trying to dog Cal’s speech, but cmon everybody knows the right answer.

    I give all the credit to my teammates, the [fill in your] organization, and the fans of [your city]. Without their support I could have done nothing. I want you to know that I’m hardly a hero the real hero’s are the [fill in your favorite underpaid noble profession].

    I am truly humbled to be here in [fill in hall of fame city] today, and I know I wouldn’t be here today without [pick 2 or more: god, mom, dad, grandpa, my teammates, my fans, my wife, my kids].

    … hot air hot air hot air…

    It’s really hard to take there guys at face value I think the only people that really know who’s classy are the people who knew them before it mattered.

  4. Well I dunno, I think you might be being too hard on Cal. I’m just saying it’s the man himself who is putting his accomplishments in perspective. He’s saying that my streak wasn’t any more than showing up to work every day. I dunno, you may be right but Ripken always seemed like a decent guy during his career and to stand up there on the day when you’re inducted and put the accomplishment for which he is most regarded in that context, well, I think you might be being a little hard on the guy. I can understand what you’re saying, maybe you’re right, all I can say is that Cal understood a bit of humility and to be honest, I’ve never heard a guy, on the day of his induction into any hall of fame, naming particular professions which he thought were worthy of equal recognition to pro sports.

  5. Jay, what did you want Cal to say?

  6. J,

    Living in Baltimore, it was all Cal, all the time. The anti-Cal was Eddie Murray, who should
    have been the MVP in 1983, but was later run out of town by Ken Rosenthal, among others, who
    described him as lazy and selfish. In the mid-ninties, there was the ” Cal Mafia “, which
    consisted of Cal, Brady Anderson, and B.J. Surhoff, all of whom stayed in a separate hotel
    from the rest of the O’s. Up until he retired, he was bigger than the team. According to the
    media, every personnel move had to be approved by Cal, G.M. Frank Wren was fired in 1999
    because he had the nerve to order the team plane to leave a late arriving Cal. As a player,
    it was a pleasure to watch him, as a symbol, he hurt the Oriole organization more than
    anyone I can remember.

  7. jweiler Says:

    Des

    Thanks for the info. Murray was a truly great player who, it seemed, paid the price for not being cooperative with the media

  8. Des, and JWeiler; those old allegations of Eddie’s supposed prickliness came to the surface again when he was fired by the Dodgers as hitting coach. There was reporting in the LA Times that his reserve was interpreted, as during his playing days at times, as prickliness. Really……so now we have………Bill Mueller………..yeah….Mueller was a decent hitter for a bit. But Eddie Murray he was not. It is so similar to the reluctance of teams to hire Kareem as a head coach. Supposedly he’s difficult, or not a team player, or some such b.s. I would say to those hitters, Eddie Murray was a legend. He was a great hitter. If you wanna get better, seek the man out. He’ll help you. You’re intimidated? Well get over it. Pretty pathetic.

  9. Mark,

    I’m not saying what Cal said was wrong. I’m just saying, you never know if they really mean it. For example if I’m an NFL running back and I win the rushing title, saying I’ve give all the credit to my o-line, wins me points with fans, and cha-ching endorsements.

    Perhaps the guy is really thinking damn I’m sweet, but he better not say that one, or I’m just working harder than the rest of these bozos, can’t say that either. There is always some corny, give credit to everyone else line, that people want to hear.

  10. Jay, that is beyond cynical though. Yeah, he might not mean it. But cliches are cliches because there’s a good amount of truth to them. He’s not going to get up there unless he’s a complete douche and/or delusional and say I did it all by myself. I really don’t know what else you’d want the guy to say.

  11. I think what Jay is saying, TC, is that everyone glorifies Ripken so much that when those words come out of his mouth, people will revere them as a reflection of how great a person Ripken is. But if a guy like Bonds were to say the same, it would be construed as lying and pandering. How are we to assume sincerity with Ripken but not with a lot of other guys that we assume are “selfish”? To me, forcing your way into a lineup everyday, holding a team hostage and holding back other, younger, players developments for your own personal record is the epitome of selfish. It’s the reason why Ricky Davis still gets killed to this day for going for that triple-double and Ripken is esteemed for doing virtually the same thing. It’s why Tejada got killed for pinch-hitting the day after he got hurt to keep his streak going and, once again, Ripken gets lauded for doing the EXACT same thing. Treat everyone the same and no one would complain…..in fact, most of the content on this site wouldn’t exist.

  12. Well I agree….the last few years of the streak, I really thought it was a bit self-aggrandizing, but I think up until around ’95, and having looked at his stats (http://www.baseball-reference.com/r/ripkeca01.shtml) it seems fair that at least until that time, his place in the lineup was largely justifiable. Yeah, he didn’t have a great average, but apart from Robin Yount, who also played CF, I don’t know that there was a better SS during the ’80s and much of the ’90s. I agree, the last few years, I thought it got a bit ridiculous, but can we not give the guy at least a couple of props? And really, I still say that that was a pretty nice speech….and please, let’s not compare him to Ricky Davis throwing the ball off the wrong backboard. I’m not calling Cal a saint, and I don’t believe all the hype, but he seems like a decent guy, if a bit egotistical the last 4 or 5 years of his career.

    And believe me, I’m not comparing him favorably to guys who the media might, by comparison, call selfish. I don’t believe that stuff anymore than you. I’m just sayin’, he doesn’t seem like the prototypical villain.

  13. By the way, I think you still underestimated Gwynn in your re-write.

    Other than Ted Williams, Tony Gwynn has the HIGHEST career batting average of any player since WWII (Ichiro is still 7 points back). He has over 300 career stolen bases and his “good defense” looked like five Gold Gloves. If you win a Gold Glove playing right field in the National League, you are an absolute baller. If you win five of them playing in San Diego, you damn well better end up in Cooperstown. If Tony Gwynn played in New York, he’d have a candy bar, an annual parade and a share of the team. He was good enough to get drafted in basketball as well. I’m not surprised he placed so much higher than Ripken on the Win Shares list – his career batting average is 60 points higher. At age 33, he hit .358…then .394, .368, .353 and .372 (with a career high in homers and RBI). The next year, at age 38, he only hit .321. At 39, he hit .338.

    By the way, when Gwynn set that career high in RBI’s, it was five more than Ripken’s single season high.

    As good as Cal was, when the Orioles came to town, the guy that scared your pitching staff the most was Eddie Murray. Murray wasn’t the anti-Cal…he was the Proto-Cal. He was the first person Ripken mentioned today in his speech – and as much as Cal, Sr. influenced Junior, Eddie laid out the road map. Eddie played every day at a high level without drama. Cal’s on-field persona appears to be grafted from Murray’s.

  14. Damn, maybe Eddie was the anti-Cal.

  15. Loved your comment about how sports journalists hold themselves out to be what they clearly are not.

    Yeah, bugaboo #20000000000. Ripkin was a product of hard work and all those negroe ball players were just athletically gifted. You’d think the idiots who edit these mediocre hacks would have come to a group consensus about allowing such trash to be published.

    Hero for going to work? There you go America, fuck excellence, fuck expertism, fuck anything more complex than pick up trucks. Geezus.

  16. As a guy that has met Cal on several occasions, and a guy that he let play basketball with him on his own floor, I’d have to say that Cal is a nice man.

    Of course, when you’re in a situation where you’re one of the better players in baseball or any sport, you’re going to get things or special treatment that other guys might not get. Why is that surprising?

    I don’t honestly agree with the whole “going to work” celebration of Cal’s streak, I think it got out of hand towards the end there. Cal’s overall numbers as a SS (which is where he spent the bulk of his career until he got older and lost his range) were good in era where power hitters didn’t hit for high average, and guys like Tony Gwynn (consistent, contact hitter) won batting titles. I believe (and I may be mistaken) that Cal still holds the all-time record for homeruns by a shortstop.

    I may be biased since I have spent time with the man, but Cal did work hard on his fielding and you can see throughout his career that he tinkered with his batting stance when he was in slumps. As a former baseball player, that is almost unheard of that someone would switch their mechanics so frequently just to get out of a slump.

    In the end, he may not be worth all the celebration, but remember he did play 3B at the end of his career. Sure, corner infielders and outfielders are supposed to provide pop in your lineup but he was playing 3B on the downturn of his career, his reputation kept him in the limelight rather than his numbers.

  17. By the way, of the power hitters (400+) who played during roughly the same era as Ripken, only Canseco and Dave Kingman have lower batting averages. Neither of those two ever saw a pitch they couldn’t swing through. Everyone else has a higher batting average – some significantly higher.

    Not to throw dirt on the guy – I still think he was a good player, but his batting averages were awful for about a decade. There were two anomalous years (in one 3 year stretch his BA went from .250 to .323 to .251 – go figure), but most of that time was spent in the low-rent district of the .260-somethings.

    Longevity makes the difference here; that and capturing the imagination of the nation TWICE – as a young, athletic rookie on a World Series champion and as an indefatigable warrior gutting it out. Talk about your field of dreams…all those .250/.260/.270′s get washed away. Who says timing isn’t everything?

  18. Damn, those are low batting averages.

  19. Great post and responses. I’ve never quite understood the Ripken mystique, though I’m really a West Coast sports fan. Gwynn, HoF and all, is really underappreciated. GREAT stats and should have been the face of baseball. Likeable guy, could hit, and, you’re right, you got to ball to get the gold glove in right field.

    Bonds is really complicated. I just posted a long thing on it at my site, the crux of which is this: Bonds’ pursuit of the record robs us of that real pleasure in baseball – comparing present to the past. We can’t with the steroid thing. Baseball doesn’t make much sense without those comparisons. That’s the lifeblood of fan debate, discussion, and (for me) a lot of the bond between me, my father, and my grandfather. We could debate generations – Gooden or Koufax? That kinda stuff.

  20. [...] their preferred icons in two-dimensional terms, as this NY Sun column noted with regard to Ripken (thanks to JWeiler at TSF for finding the column). This tendency, combined with the fallout from the steroid era and Barry [...]

  21. John:

    Just a few thoughts…

    I think you put too much on Barry. Does he really rob us of the ability to compare players across eras?

    I think its perfectly reasonable to compare steroids with amphetamines with a whites-only league. Everyone had a competitive advantage, of sorts, during their day. You can still have the debates, but you can’t turn a blind eye to the significance of JR’s entry into MLB in 1947 and the implications for prior years. For example, Bonds is an heir to the legacy of the legitimate 5 tool player…there have been many of these players to make the HOF, and the vast majority have been Black or Latino. Given this, what does this mean for the game, as it was played in 1946 and the years prior?

    The same goes for the question of amphetamines in the 1950′s and 1960′s. I would even conjecture that players in Ruth’s day either found or experimented with something to keep them going. It doesn’t stand to reason that a fellow with the bearing of a David Wells and the appetites of a Wilt Chamberlain could produce as long as he did without some sobering, energizing aids.

    Who knows, maybe he was able to burn the candle at both ends for 21 years without any assistance and a steady diet of steak, booze and women.

    I think it’s still great to debate Gooden and Koufax, Clemens and Gibson or even Henderson and Cobb…but the conversation about baseball is richer when steroids is part of the conversation because players used steroids, players took amphetamines and commissioners and owners banned blacks…they controlled the influx of Blacks and African Latinos – and those players dominated the National League – NOT the American League…

    Take a look at the MVPs and the complexion of the league MVPs from 1949 through Joe Morgan’s back-to-back job. The Dodgers, Giants, Cardinals, Pirates and Reds redefined the game through their introduction of 5 Tool Black and Latino players…It was surely a Golden Age for the game, but is seldom recalled as such. It was the era of Newcombe and Campanella and Frank Robinson…

    Barry is a deserving heir to that tradition and positioned himself within its pantheon long before the question of ‘roids was raised. I’m not saying this to defend him, I’m saying this to defend the context of the argument. History intrudes on this game which has never been pure.

  22. T3
    On #21.

    I agree completely. Those “purists” who decry Bonds while ignoring those factors you consider seem to me to be intellictually dshonest at best and complete with agenda at worst.

  23. You have to put Cal in the context of playing SS as well, his stats have more value because of the position he played. Of course, this has been tempered by the influx of big-hitting SS that followed him (Garciaparra, Tejada, A-Rod) but prior to Cal and maybe Alan Trammel you didn’t expect a SS to hit much at all and especially not for power. But it is a big factor to take into account, if he’s an OF he has a tougher case for induction.

  24. Thanks.

    It’s funny. When I think back into my personal “archive” of baseball memories, my favorite team was the Yankees. I had an excuse – I was born in the Bronx and could see the Stadium from my childhood window where I grew up in Harlem. As much as I liked those Yankee teams (Nettles was my favorite player because of his glove.), I could help thinking about the style of play of the Big Red Machine. The combination of speed, power and defense the Reds put on the field was something special. Not too many teams have been able to recapture that level of excellence on the diamond.

    I’d probably be a bit miffed if I knew which Reds, Yankees, Oakland A’s and Pirates of that era were using PEDs to get over the top – but I can handle it now.

  25. Well, we knew what the Pirates were using and it sure wasn’t performance enhancing.

  26. If Ripken were an outfielder, he wouldn’t be in the Hall.

    Also, (http://www.bleedcubbieblue.com/story/2007/2/18/53329/7647)
    “In May 1961, Ernie, off to a decent .281/.360/.529 start, but with only 7 HR and 15 RBI through 33 games, suffered a knee injury that forced him out of the infield. He was moved to left field on May 23…”

    Ernie Banks began his career as a shortstop and put up power numbers that eclipsed all SS before and all but 1 since. Banks hit 267 homers in his first 7 years at SS. Ripken hit only 183, but was remarkably consistent, hitting between 23 and 28 every year. Banks hit 40 four of five years. Only A-Rod has sniffed that number and was not on pace to do so until he went into Jose and Raffy’s House of ‘Roids in Texas. His dinger totals went from a Banksian 44, 42, and 41 to 52 and 57 in years six and seven. It could have been the ball park. It could have been the heat. It could have been the formidable lineup. It could have been the Juice. We’ll never know. Perhaps Ripken’s greatest legacy is coming along after the memory of Banks’ injury had faded from view.

    During the induction show, I don’t believe I heard Banks’ name mentioned once.

  27. Also there is the matter of the 3000 hit club, everyone who has made it is in the Hall except for Rickey Henderson and Craig Biggio. Henderson is the lock of all locks. Biggio will be an interesting case, the fact that he played C and 2B might help him but he will put the “Club” to the test.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3000_hit_club

  28. Ooops, forgot Raffy Palmiero in my last post, but we know why he’s not going to get in. Fair or not. He would have been the true test, Mr. Above Average and playing a hitter’s position like 1B.

  29. Temple3, thanks for the response to my response. If you have a chance, I’d love to have it cut-and-pasted on my site as well. I’d appreciate it, in fact. Interesting stuff.

    I certainly did not intend to include all players in my reflections. In fact, I did not mean to include Bonds as a whole, but only the homerun record. I think our experience of it, as a whole fandom and even nation (baseball still has the power to get non-fan attention at moments like this), is outside historical comparison. I just don’t think it has real credibility in people’s eyes. For better or worse, I think that is the case.

    At the same time, you’re right: every period has its asteriks (or should). I also think the homerun record issue has obscured Bonds’ bigger legacy, his total package profile. Even before this homerun blow-up of his, I considered him the best player (second, now, to A-Rod) I’ve ever seen.

    (As a Dodger fan, that kills me to say…)

  30. :) It always snows in Pittsburgh.

  31. John:

    You can just click on the time of the post and use that link to repost. Feel free.

  32. Good points all.

    A year ago, Gary Gillette wrote a long column at ESPN.com making the same points as Temple3 – that every era has come with its own built-in advantages, from whites only, to amphetamines, etc.

    I flagged that column here:

    http://sportsmediareview.typepad.com/sports_media_review/2006/05/bonds_and_cheat.html

    As for Arod, the ballpark had a huge effect on his totals.

    In his last three years in Seattle, he hit 51 homeruns at home and 74 on the road. In his three years in Texas, he fewer homeruns on the road, 70, but he hit 86 at home.

  33. Nice link. That’s about how I feel. I can usually smell bullshit a mile away and you don’t need to be Pinocchio to know this is a bunch of BS.

  34. jweiler, great article on the saint-making of Cal and Hank and thanks for the Cosellout plug. Some thoughts:

    Jay’s post #3 was funny whether Cal is a nice guy or not. Ap’s #11 post hit the nail on the head how only some players (not Bonds) can get the benefit of the doubt on the standard Bull-Durham speech.

    Temple, I agree with your points in the #21 post. And it is quite striking when looking at the NL MVPs from ’49 to ’76.

    As far as Eddie Murray goes, for a very long time Cal has been mentioning him as a mentor in virtually every single speech. Murray as a brooding player is more media creation than anything because Eddie wouldn’t speak to reporters after getting burned early on in his career.

  35. Modi:

    I should have kept going…Foster, Parker, Stargell(with Hernandez)!!!

  36. …good point… that is a pretty incredible 30 run up unil Dale murphy and Mike Schmidt

  37. Jimmy Paz Says:

    I agree with Ap that Ripken’s efforts to keep his streak going hurt the team. Baseball players for the most part help their team when they play well as individuals. Ripken’s streak probably hurt his own play even more than it kept younger players from getting some pt. Baseball players perform very difficult physical feats under intense pressure 162 times in 180 days. Every player needs an occasional day off. I live in the Detroit Tigers media area, and listened to thousands (well, hundreds) of pre-game interviews with Sparky Anderson when he managed the ballclub. Most of what George said made little if any sense, but he was very emphatic about the fact that players need a day off every now and then, whether they want to take one or not. I’ve heard Tony LaRussa say several times that one of the hardest parts of managing in the majors is making players sit out occasionally, regardless of what they say, and then facing the media and explaining why the team lost with Albert Pujols, for example, on the bench that day. Ripken would never have had the opportunity to play in that many consecutive games playing for Anderson or LaRussa, and he certainly would not have set that record playing for his first manager, Earl Weaver. Ripken was able to set that record because in the second half of his career he played on poor or mediocre teams which changed managers frequently. The streak acquired a life of its own, and each one of this parade of managers lacked the credibility with the fans, with O’s management, with the players, and with Ripken himself to tell Cal to have a seat. Why a player who knew the game as well as Ripken does failed to see that the streak had to be hurting his performance is question only Cal can answer. He was a great player, but I think he could have been even greater had he taken a break occasionally. Whether Ripken kept the streak going out of selfishness isn’t really important. Who cares whether these players are great guys or not? Let’s grow up and evaluate these entertainers based upon their performances.

  38. [...] People’s King”.  Fortunately, these pieces by Tommy Craggs from Slate and D.K. Wilson and Jonathan Weiler from The Starting Five (TSF) have cut in on the [...]

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