Cal Fever! It’s here.
Have you caught it yet? Have you ordered your No. 8 Nationals jersey with “Ripken” across the back as a holiday present for your favorite Nationals fan? Have you taken time to picture Cal Ripken Jr. himself in one of those jerseys?
The buzz is building. The Nationals need a new manager. Ripken is ready to get back into baseball, 12 years after concluding a stellar playing career with the Orioles that saw him make the All-Star team 19 straight seasons.
So it’s automatic, right? Nats need a manager, Ripken wants back in, What’s not to love?
Not to throw more cold water on an area that’s had enough rain the past few days, but there’s a lot not to love about the idea of Ripken managing the Nats. To borrow a line from Bob Marley, it’s time to stop that train.
As incredibly cool as it would be to have an icon like Ripken as the manager of the Nats, it is not a good idea. Not now anyway.
There’s no question Ripken is a legend around these parts. He’s as much Washington as he is Baltimore. When he was playing every single day for years and years on his way to breaking Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games mark, Washington didn’t have a baseball team. This was an Orioles town and a lot of that love remains even though the Nats have been around since 2005.
There’s also no question he knows the game. You don’t play it as well as he did for as long as he did without knowing baseball. He’s the son of a manager.
Odds are, Ripken will be a good manager one day.
But the Nationals‘ current situation makes it less than an ideal place to find out if that time is now, because Washington can’t afford to make a mistake with this choice.
Ripken would be a splash hire. Choosing him would be discussed around the world. The attention would be considerable.
The Nats don’t need a splash hire. They need a solid hire, a strong manager who has experience doing exactly that at some level: managing.
Washington is an elite team that has lost some of its luster after a disappointing 2013 season that saw the Nats miss the playoffs a year after posting the best regular-season mark in baseball.
Over the final weeks of the 2013 season, the Nationals went 33-15. That’s not a small stretch of good baseball. It is almost a third of a season.