If the Washington Nationals, or any other major league franchise, are interested in having Cal Ripken Jr. as their manager, the impetus is going to have to come from the team, the former Baltimore Orioles Hall of Famer indicated over the weekend.
“I’m not lobbying for any managing job,” Ripken said in an interview that left unanswered the question of whether he wants to manage in 2014 or is merely intrigued by the possibility.
“I’m curious as to what the process is when somebody gets interviewed for a managing job,” he said. “But if you’re not serious about taking it, it’s the wrong thing to do.”
He continued, “You don’t fully know [your own interest level] until you’re able to analyze it.”
Ripken has not received that chance yet. None of the four teams with a managerial vacancy has reached out to Ripken, according to a person familiar with the situation.
Ripken, 53, seems more bemused than anything over recent media reports about his interest in a managing job, insisting that his stance on a return to baseball hasn’t changed significantly in the past decade.
Ripken, who has been working as an analyst in both the studio and broadcast booth for TBS during the postseason, has been out of the game — at least at the big-league level — since retiring as a player in 2001, saying he wanted to stay at home and focus on his business and charity ventures until his two children had graduated high school and gone to college. Daughter Rachel is now done with college and lives in Colorado, while son Ryan is a first baseman at Indian River (Fla.) State College.
“I meant it when I said, when I got away from baseball, that I was going to be there for my kids until they went off to college,” Ripken said. “It’s almost like it’s still holding me a little bit, because Ryan’s in that stage where I like watching him and I like helping him. But he’s moving more on his own.
“What I’ve always said is if an opportunity comes, I would be in position now to listen and explore it. So that’s all I said. Everybody else is running with it. That’s the amazing part. Everybody’s been asking me the same question for 10 years, and there hasn’t been too much of a different answer.”
The current uproar regarding Ripken began in earnest on Oct. 6, when he said on Rich Eisen’s podcast that he is “starting to get an itch” to return to baseball, and suggested he was open to managing. “I have thought about how cool it would be to manage,” Ripken told Eisen.
Four big-league teams currently have managerial openings, but the Nationals’ job is a natural focal point, given Washington’s proximity to Ripken’s Maryland roots and the fact there is thought to be support for Ripken within the organization, all the way up to the ownership level. Right fielder Jayson Werth, one of the leaders of the Nationals’ clubhouse, said last month that Ripken “would be my number one choice” to fill the position.
The Nationals have considered an attempt to bring Ripken into the organization at least as recently as 2011, according to one team official. After Manager Jim Riggleman resigned in June 2011, the Nationals discussed reaching out to Ripken to join the team as a bench coach or in another role. The idea never came to fruition in the scramble to hire Davey Johnson as Riggleman’s replacement. But bringing aboard Ripken, the region’s most iconic player, would not be a new idea.
One top baseball executive who has spoken to him this month about managing insisted Ripken wants to do it. But Ripken himself has not gone as far as to say that, and he repeated many of his non-answers on the Dan Patrick radio show last week.
Patrick “said, ‘Why don’t you put it out there that you’re ready to manage?’ ” Ripken said. “I said, ‘Because that’s not who I am.’ . . . He said, ‘I’ll put it out there for you,’ and I said, ‘I wouldn’t want to manage just anywhere.’ It’s kind of funny, the reaction that followed.”