Two takes on Cal Ripken to the Nationals

October 10, 2013

Davey Johnson and Cal Ripken, Jr. (Nick Wass/AP)

The drumbeat for the idea of Cal Ripken managing the Nationals is getting louder. In today’s Post, both Boz and Wise have columns about Ripken, taking on two different angles. Boz says the Nationals should interview Ripken, but hire him only if he wants the job on baseball’s terms, not his own.

Star appeal, local connection and fan fantasy gratification are relatively minor qualifications for a big league manager. Ripken shouldn’t start off ahead of either respected Matt Williams or Nats bench coach Randy Knorr, who knows the team already. If Ripken, who has never managed, wants the job, then compete for it like the rest.

Wise writes about the challenge of a Hall of Fame player trying to coach or manage players of lesser ability. He bounced the idea off Capitals Coach Adam Oates, the most accomplished player of any coach in town.

Not only do playing icons sometimes have trouble relating to mere mortals as coaches and front-office executives (see Jordan, Michael), they have to worry about damaging their legacies.

“Well, at 2-8 last year, that’s all I thought about,” Adam Oates said Wednesday morning after the Washington Capitals practiced.

I figured Oates would be good to ask to about Ripken, having been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame the day he was named Capitals coach last November. As usual, Oates’s candor came through, especially about his reputation in the game possibly suffering.

“You always worry about your reputation,” he said. “We had a lousy start last year. So I was worried that people would associate the lousy start with ‘a guy who’s a player can’t coach.’ Because that’s kind of an unwritten rule: that good athletes can’t get the job done.”

As Wise points out, Ripken would listen to any team that called him and seriously consider an offer to manage. People wonder if Ripken really would want to put his other life on pause — the business that has made him millions, the nascent broadcast career, the charity in his father’s name. I really think he would, for two reasons.

Both pertain to family. In an interview this summer, Ripken pointed out his mind-set changed once his son, Ryan, went off to college. He also started thinking about what his father, a lifelong baseball man who managed him in the majors at one point, accomplished, and he is at an age when that has a strong pull.

As far as we know right now, the Nationals have yet to reach out to Ripken, and he is waiting for their call, not the other way around. But it seems more and more likely that call will come.

Adam Kilgore covers national sports for the Washington Post. Previously he served as the Post's Washington Nationals beat writer from 2010 to 2014.
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Adam Kilgore · October 9, 2013

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