Baltimore Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken said today he was "uncomfortable" that team executives mentioned his name in connection with last week's firing of general manager Frank Wren.
In his first public comments on the matter, Ripken said he wanted to make it clear he had no role in Wren's dismissal or any other personnel decision by the Orioles.
Meantime, Ripken said he appears to be healing normally from the back surgery that ended his season in September, but once more acknowledged that it will be several weeks before he will know if he can play next season.
"I've been very good about not doing anything I'm not supposed to do," he said. "It's an uncertain time for me. I haven't been through this before. I have some moments when I ask myself if it's going to get all the way better. I'm smart enough to know that time will tell. A tough rehab process is in front of me, and I'm not afraid of that."
Ripken made his comments at a news conference announcing his role as a minority owner of the new Baltimore BayRunners of the minor league International Basketball League. Ripken is a serious basketball fan and has hosted hundreds of pickup games at his home over the years.
Now, he'll see the sport from a different angle.
"I'm excited to be part of basketball in Baltimore," he said. "I think I secretly wish I could play basketball instead of baseball. I won't get to play much this offseason because of the back surgery, so I thought I'd help bring the sport closer to allow me to watch more."
Regarding Wren's firing, Ripken became part of the story because of an Orioles news release announcing the move. The release said Wren's order that the team plane leave for Anaheim, Calif., on Sept. 17 at the scheduled time rather than wait for Ripken as one of the reasons for the firing. Ripken was delayed that day because of road conditions created by Hurricane Floyd and ended up making his own flight arrangements to Anaheim.
"The Orioles management cannot and will not abide having a general manager operate in such an unreasonable, authoritarian manner and treat anyone in this way, especially someone such as Cal who has done so much for the Orioles and for baseball," Joe Foss, the team's vice chairman and chief operating officer, said in the news release.
"I was uncomfortable to see that," Ripken said. "It's a situation where I don't feel I belong. I think the only reason I was brought into it was because I was the one who missed the plane. I don't have any say in decisions. I don't have any say in hirings or firings or whatever else. I happened to be brought into a situation that, because of a hurricane, I was left behind on the day of a game. That's as simple as that. It wasn't about me.
"Am I upset? I'm uncomfortable and feel I shouldn't be in the middle of that. Beyond that, I'm not furious. I wasn't furious when the plane left on the day of a game and I had to get to Anaheim. I have much greater things to worry about right now. I had back surgery three weeks ago. Those issues are things I have control over and worry about. I can't worry about other things."
Orioles owner Peter Angelos and Foss didn't return telephone calls seeking comment on Ripken's remarks.
Asked if he was upset that Wren ordered the plane to leave without him, Ripken said: "I wasn't upset with Frank Wren. Let's stop the examination of this issue. To me, it's pointless. It had nothing to do with me. It was the evaluation of someone else. All the people who deal with those issues have been interviewed. It does no good for me to come in and start commenting. That's not who I am. I'm not part of those decisions. I had nothing to do with the firing."
Ripken declined to offer an opinion on last week's dismissal of Wren and Manager Ray Miller. However, he said he remained hopeful that the Orioles can rebound from two straight losing seasons to contend in 2000.
"Absolutely," he said. "If you look at the positive things, we have the nucleus of a very solid club. I'm very excited about some of the possibilities. No one knows how the season will play out, but we have the makings of a solid club."