The hilarious failure of the 2015 Washington Nationals has cost manager Matt Williams and his entire coaching staff their jobs. Despite the team enjoying the sixth-highest payroll in MLB, a division with three abysmal teams, and Bryce Harper turning in one of the greatest single seasons to have ever been recorded by any player, the franchise is sitting at home for the playoffs.
I mention all of this on this Orioles blog because the name of Orioles legend Cal Ripken Jr. is being bandied about in the preliminary part of the hiring phase for a new manager. For a while there in the dark years of the O's franchise, Ripken seemed like an appealing choice for either a manager or general manager spot to many fans, probably only because his name was so strongly linked with what was then the only successful Orioles teams of the previous two decades.
It was as if Ripken was some magical cure to a moribund franchise, like by walking into the dugout he could suddenly make fringe players capable of overachieving. Though he no doubt absorbed many, many things about the game of baseball over his long career, next year will also represent 15 years since he retired as a player. A lot has changed.
For Orioles fans, the idea of the Nationals possibly hiring Ripken as their manager results in a knee-jerk reaction of "No!" Cal is ours. You can't have him. A hypothetical move of the Nationals hiring Cal would feel a whole lot like a troll move. That would be annoying. Still, even before the Orioles hired Buck Showalter as manager, who's quite obviously done just fine, thank you, the idea of Cal as Orioles manager would have surely been better than the reality.
As my friend and fellow Camden Chatter Stacey Folkemer always points out to me, would you want to get mad at Cal for leaving in the LOOGY for one batter too long? Would you want to start to hate him for stubbornly batting some kind of old, injured, low OBP player in the #2 spot in the order because he's "a good bad control guy"? These are the sorts of things that managers do - even ones like Buck whom we like. But no one should have to get mad at the guy whose milk-branded growth posters they hung up in their room as a kid.
And if Ripken had ever become the manager in the middle of those dark years, say, instead of Dave Trembley, then what? The team would have probably continued to suck because there were not good players on it. Then we would have all had to face the sad circumstance of the Orioles firing Cal Ripken some day after the team had been bad for a while. That would be terrible. One of the worst days in the history of the franchise, without a doubt.
If he shouldn't be waiting in the wings here, the downside is that does mean he's open for somebody else to snatch up, even those purveyors of Natitude on the banks of the Anacostia. It's not worth worrying about yet. He's just one name under consideration. Even if it does happen that he gets hired, it's for the best if he's not going through the managerial growing pains with the Orioles.