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HARRIS: Cal Ripken Jr. would bring buzz as manager, but Nats need substance
After the mediocre (at best) first two-thirds of the season, the strong finish wasn’t enough to rescue the Nats. It did show they were still as talented and capable as people expected. They will rightfully be expected to contend in 2014.
They don’t need a name. And though he’s a gigantic name, that’s all Ripken is right now. Not a speck of managing or coaching experience.
They don’t need someone who will command a lion’s share of the attention. Ripken isn’t the type to demand that, but it will come if he’s the manager. Plenty of media folks will show up at spring training. It won’t be to write or talk about Bryce Harper or Stephen Strasburg or Jayson Werth. It will be to talk about Ripken.
They need a manager, one with a strong personality who is able to manage a clubhouse as well as he is able to manage a game. One who is content to wave the baton as conductor of the team without an extra spotlight shining on him.
For those reasons and more, someone like Nationals bench coach Randy Knorr or Diamondbacks third base coach Matt Williams are much better choices for the job than Ripken.
Let’s be clear, we don’t know that Knorr and Williams are the only other candidates or even candidates at all. General manager Mike Rizzo has stayed quiet and will continue to do so. He could have a dozen other names on his list and the new manager could well be someone whose name has yet to be mentioned anywhere.
Knorr and Williams are the names that have been mentioned most and, though neither has major-league managing experience, they are examples of what the Nats need right now. Williams, a five-time All-Star, had a better career as a player. Knorr has more experience managing at the lower levels.
They’re not getting back into the game years after they stopped playing and taking over as manager of what should be one of baseball’ best teams. There’s a risk with any hire, sure, but there’s much less risk with someone like Knorr or Williams.
There’s a track record that goes beyond being one of the greatest players ever. Ripken is an icon and will always be one. His stature has opened and will open many doors for him. The door to the manager’s office of an elite team should not be one of them. You need more than a name to earn those keys.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Washington Times sports editor Mike Harris has more than 30 years experience in the business as a reporter, columnist and manager. He’s covered a wide variety of events including two Olympics, horse racing, auto racing, professional and college sports. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow the section on Twitter @WashTimesSports.
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