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Oklahoma City RedHawks: Cal Ripken Jr. offers thoughts on state of baseball

The Hall of Fame shortstop was in Oklahoma City on Wednesday. He threw out the ceremonial first pitch for the RedHawks’ regular-season finale.
By Mike Baldwin Published: August 27, 2014

One hot topic in baseball is whether incoming Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred should focus on modernizing a sport that has the reputation, right or wrong, for being played at a snail’s pace.

One solution gaining momentum is if a pitcher takes more than 15 seconds to deliver a pitch a shot-clock-like device would force umpires to automatically rule the next pitch a ball.

“The pace of the game will always be in the hands of the pitcher,” said Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame shortstop Cal Ripken, Jr., who threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the RedHawks’ home finale Wednesday night at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. “If a pitcher works fast, a game goes fast.

“Specialization will always slow down the game like lefty-lefty or righty-righty, managers preferring certain matchups out of the bullpen. You don’t want to focus too much on little things. I always thought forcing players to have two bats in the on-deck circle in case they broke one (bat) was kind of weird.”

Ripken highly endorses the changes implemented this season, even though instant replay has slightly slowed down the game.

“It will need to be tweaked as we go along, but it makes sense we have the technology to get the call right and not have a game swayed by a bad call,” Ripken said. “But I sometimes wonder whether we need to force managers to make a decision without seeing the benefits of the replay.”

Best known for breaking Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games record, Ripken played in 2,632 straight games over 17 seasons.

The Orioles’ all-time home run leader (431) was asked what he’d do if he were commissioner for a day.

“The first thing I’d do is sit back and watch and learn,” Ripken said. “The game is in really good shape. The drug testing program was needed and has been effective. I like replay and the wild-cards in the playoffs.”

Replay and drug testing were changes implemented under Bud Selig, the controversial commissioner the past three decades.

Under Selig, in addition to new rules, MLB’s annual revenues have more than doubled since 2003 from $3.9 billion in 2003 to nearly $9 billion this season.

“I’m a big Commissioner Selig fan,” Ripken said. “I feel at heart he always had the best interest of baseball in mind. I love the wild-cards and interleague play. In some ways interleague has evolved to where there is some regional appeal, but they’ve also added scheduling fairness, which I felt was needed.”

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