Thursday night on CSN Chicago’ Sports Talk Live, Cal Ripken, Jr.was a guest and host David Kaplin asked him point-blank, “Do you have any interest in managing the Washington Nationals once Davey Johnson retires at the end of the season?”
Ripken smiled and responded, “[The Nationals] have not yet asked me. But I do think that managing is more interesting to me at this stage of my life than it has ever been before.”
“Cal Ripken for Nationals Manager 2013” bumper stickers are likely being printed as I write this story. This week, in a town famous for launching campaigns, we saw a Hall-of-Fame baseball player loved and respected by all of Washington start his own campaign to return to baseball.
Ripken took a page out of the Hillary Clinton or Rand Paul playbook. As I reported on Tuesday, he first went on local TV, telling CSN Washington that he was “strongly considering getting back into baseball as a manager.”
He cited the success of former players without managerial experience getting jobs like Walt Weiss, Mike Matheny and Robin Ventura landing skipper jobs. So why not Ripken?
Truth be told, the Nationals job is likely the only manager’s job he would take. He lives about 50 miles from Nationals Park in Baltimore County, so he could be close to his family. In a perfect world, he would manage the Baltimore Orioles, but Buck Showalter has that gig and he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Lest anyone think that he feels managing in MLB is easy. Ripken grew up knowing first-hand how tough coaching and managing in the big leagues can really be.
His father Cal Ripken, Sr. spent 36 years in the Orioles organization as a player, coach and manager. He was considered one of baseball’s top teachers and helped build the foundation of an Orioles dynasty where the team were perennial World Series contenders in the 1960s and 1970s.
His father was one the key people in building what came to be known as the “Orioles’ Way”, developing a strong farm system and teaching players the best way to play the game. He coached under Hall-of-Fame manager Earl Weaver and he served as manager of the team for only a year, from 1987 through 1988. He was the only man ever to manage a MLB team that his son (Cal, Jr.) played on.
So Ripken has grown up in baseball, and he watched and studied what his father did as a coach and manager. He knows it not the glamour role that he had as one of baseball’s most loved and respected players, but he also knows that managing is better for him than being a baseball executive. He loves and misses the day-to-day interaction with the players, and now might be the time to get back in the game.
The “Ripken for Washington Nationals Manager” campaign is in full force, and he really only has to convince a handful of people. The key votes belong to longtime Ripken friends Ted and Mark Lerner, part of the group that owns the Nationals. Lastly, whether he is successful in earning the job will be up to the choice of GM Mike Rizzo.
If Ripken wins those votes, then he will be the Nationals’ next manager.
Rant Sports columnist James Williams is a seven time Emmy Award winning producer, director and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Wordmandc