O'S WOULDN'T THINK OF MOVING CAL
Six weeks into the season, Cal Ripken was hitting below .250 and the questions were being raised: Should a 6'4", 225-pound power hitter be playing shortstop, and why does he insist on playing every inning of every game?
These questions are hardly new. Last winter Orioles owner Edward Bennett Williams said he wanted Ripken moved to third base, particularly after the acquisition of shortstop Joaquin Gutierrez from Boston. Some members of the organization suggested, before spring training, that Earl Weaver reassess his strong stand on the 25-year-old Ripken's sticking at shortstop, but Weaver—who made the move in July 1982, despite the reluctance of Ripken, then a rookie—refused to listen. "There isn't even a need to talk about it," Weaver maintains. "If we had a Mark Belanger and we didn't have a third baseman, that would be one thing. But we don't have a Belanger." Or a Gutierrez, for that matter. After only 12 at bats, he was put on the disabled list because of chicken pox. "Anyway, Ripken did at shortstop what Belanger, Luis Aparicio or any Hall of Famer ever did [he set an AL record for assists in 1984]. What's so bad about that? He's a great athlete. He's smart. He goes back on pop-ups better than anyone I've ever seen. Sure, he'll eventually move to save his bat, but he's 25. He's the All-Star shortstop, and not just because of his bat."
Ripken takes a great deal of pride in his ability to play short and says moving back to third would make him "feel like a spectator. Why do statistics apply to everyone but me in this case? I don't dive and do fancy things, but if you play where you're supposed to play, every play is routine." He learned some of that from the master, Belanger, who, claiming that diving for balls was a waste of half a step, rarely did so.
Ripken is one of the most intelligent players in the game, and for years he has sat in with pitchers and catchers in their pregame meetings. How long he can maintain the necessary mobility and flexibility at shortstop not even Weaver tries to predict. He has gained five pounds every year, and as he approaches 30, a fading mobility may force a move to third. Some feel that 638 straight games and more than 5,750 consecutive innings have begun to take their toll, although, again, both he and Weaver strongly disagree. "What good does three hours off do me?" asks Ripken, for whom life on the road consists of baseball, eating, baseball, sleeping and baseball. "One steaming hot day in Kansas City last summer, I saw him playing a shagging game in the outfield," recalls Weaver. "I told his father that maybe he shouldn't be doing it, that he might get tired. His dad said, 'The boy loves to play baseball. Baseball keeps him fresh.' " Soulmate Eddie Murray takes the same approach; the only games he has missed in the last two seasons have been because of family illnesses or deaths, and he has played in 96% of the Orioles' games since he came up in 1977.
"The way I look at it, we've played decently, and Eddie and Cal haven't started to hit," says Weaver. "I don't listen to silly things people say, because Cal Ripken is going to hit and be the All-Star shortstop."
A HELPING HAND FROM PAUL RICHARDS
Most baseball people thought that the late Paul Richards was a genius with pitching. But he applied his great mind to all facets of the game. Right before the Instructional League last fall, the Blue Jays' director for player development, Bobby Mattick, called Richards to ask him what he had done to help Jim Gentile cut down on his strikeouts when he was in the Baltimore farm system. Richards told Mattick that he made Gentile swing at every pitch every day in batting practice in order 1) to force him to make constant contact and 2) to get him out of the habit of swinging the same way every time. Mattick did the same to Glenallen Hill , an outfield prospect of extraordinary physical ability who struck out 212 times in 466 at bats at Class A Kinston, N.C. Hill then struck out only twice in his last 94 at bats in the Instructional League. He is now hitting .291 at Knoxville, with eight homers and 28 RBIs, and he has 39 strikeouts in his first 158 at bats. Hill has improved so much that people within the organization feel he could be in Toronto in September. The Jays already have three good outfielders who are all 26 years old, and their farm system is crammed with outfielders who are major league prospects, including Hill and teammate Silvestre Campusano. So don't be surprised if one of the current outfielders is traded for pitching in something like a George Bell-Danny Jackson deal, which the Jays and Royals have discussed....
Now that Dick Williams has taken over the Mariners, he has the distinction of managing both Jose Tartabull and his son Danny Tartabull. But he's not the first manager of both father and son. Richards managed Sam Hairston for four games in 1951 with the Orioles, and 25 years later he had Jerry Hairston with the White Sox....
Baltimore's Don Aase, who since the return of Weaver has 22 saves in 53 appearances, with a 2.04 ERA, is being clocked at 93 mph. The league is hitting only .149 against him. "He's practically unfair to hit against," says George Brett.