Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. has made it very clear that this offseason he would like to explore the idea of returning to baseball as a manager. As I have written here on a number of occasions his focus seems to be on the Washington Nationals job.
I have spoken to sources that know the situation well and I have been told that if Cal Ripken is going to manage in 2014 it will be for the Nationals. No other teams need to call because there is no interest on his part to move beyond the Capital Beltway.
As most everyone knows present manager and Cal’s former skipper, Davey Johnson, will be retiring at the end of the 2013 season. He will go back to his old job with the Nationals as a special adviser to the team. Meanwhile, the Nationals will be looking to replace Johnson, and one interview will go to Ripken.
There is no doubt that Ripken has a built-in following in the entire mid Atlantic region as a beloved player for the Baltimore Orioles. Washington area baseball fans made the trip up to watch him play at Camden Yards often, and Ripken was a regular on all the local news programs in D.C.
When you are an icon like Ripken you can indeed be a bit choosy about what job you take in baseball, even if you have never managed in any level of professional baseball. Ripken clearly knows the sport and would command instant respect of the Nationals players.
The key to the attraction for Ripken, who is very aware of his brand, is that managing the Nationals is a low risk, high reward deal, that would allow him to be near home and his fan base. By the way in case you are wondering, no the Nationals’ No. 8 jersey is not being used.
Ripken would be working 45 miles away from home and in the epicenter of the national and international media, something that is key for his brand.
He knows the Nationals ownership group, the Lerner family, very well, and they watched him play in Baltimore and tried twice to buy the team. They know that with the good young team that they have the addition of Ripken could expand that season ticket base beyond the 24,000 fans who now own seats at Nationals Park.
He has watched a number of Nationals games over the past couple of seasons with vice president of baseball operations and general manager, Mike Rizzo. The two get along quite well and they really seem to enjoy talking baseball together while watching from either the stands or the press box.
He would be taking over a contender with Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimmermann anchoring the starting pitching staff. He would have a nearly set lineup with just a few areas to that need tweaking.
He could certainly help the team work on that infield defense that has been an ongoing problem all season.
He would have budding superstar Bryce Harper to mentor and shape into an outstanding young player.
At this point in time no one knows who will manage the 2014 Washington Nationals; all we do know is that Ripken is a serious contender for the job.