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.”
In another fairness matter, Ripken wasn’t definitive either way when asked whether Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds deserve to join him at Cooperstown.
“I can understand what’s happened,” Ripken said. “Those that have a vote have to look at it and say, ‘I don’t know the whole story.’ If there is any sort of (murky facts) you’re probably not going to act and wait until you get more information. It feels like that’s what’s happening right now, that nobody knows the full story.”
Ripken was in Oklahoma City on Wednesday to represent Northern Safety, which emphasizes safety in the work place. Ripken said his streak is part of his message when he speaks to workers around the country.
“I got offended when people viewed me as playing it safe,” Ripken said. “It’s not playing safe, it’s playing smart. I played the game tough and hard, which actually helped me avoid a lot of injuries.
“The message I have are those principles also apply to the workplace, basically every part of your life. You want a strong work ethic, but you need to be smart. I think you can sometimes get your point across by putting it in a sports incubator.”
Because he was in Oklahoma, Ripken was asked about former OU two-sport star Ryan Minor, the Hammon product who replaced Ripken the night his streak ended.
“I really liked Ryan,” Ripken said. “Every time we were at my house I always recruited him for my team in basketball. He’s probably the best basketball who has ever played at my house. What’s funny is Ryan thought we were playing a rookie prank. I really had to convince him he was playing for me that night.”
Ripken, 54, still lives in the Baltimore area. The former AL Rookie of the Year, a two-time Gold Glove winner who collected 3,184 career hits, said he’s excited the Orioles are in contention with a shot at ending a 31-year World Series drought.
“I’ve always been a big (Buck) Showalter fan,” Ripken said. “I love talking to him. He’s really helped them develop a deeper team. He’s a fanatical strategist, finds different ways to win games. When the Orioles got him I knew his baseball acumen would have an impact.
“I think the Orioles are for real. Everyone in Baltimore is really proud they’re back in contention. I think they’ll hold on and win the American League East. Once you get in the playoffs, if you get hot any team can win it.”