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The Fading Of A Star

Cal Ripken Jr. has decided to retire at the end of the season.

Why do folks always talk about aging gracefully and not hanging around too long but they never actually do it when the time comes? Is it because they don't realize that it's time?  Or because they just don't want to let go?  This is one of those cases were sports imitates life. Case in point, future Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr.

Ripken, early in his career with the Rochester Red Wings

Ripken has had a storied career, most notably obliterating Lou Gehrig's consecutive games streak by 501 games.  He even handled ending "the streak" gracefully, asking manager Ray Miller on Sept. 20, 1998, to remove him from the starting lineup 30 minutes before the Orioles' final home game of the year to end his consecutive games streak at 2,632 games. He is only the seventh player in major league history to reach 3,000 hits and 400 home runs.  He's been Rookie of the Year, AL MVP, Gold Glove shortstop, 

All-Star Game MVP and has a ring from the 1983 Orioles Championship.  He's played for Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver and with future Famer Eddie Murray.  He became the consummate Oriole, playing his entire career in Baltimore, while many stars exploited the free agent market. He even had a dream come true playing for his father, Cal Sr., and with his brother, Billy.

Where the fairytale went south is when Ripken decided he was going to hang on until he fell apart. Instead, he began showing some divisive traits like an unrelenting stubbornness to relinquish his shortstop position - even after a shoddy 22-error effort in 1997 - and staying in a different hotel than the team on road trips.  After stepping out of the shadow of the streak in 1998, he should have called it career. He stepped aside because of a twinge in his back that eventually lead to back surgery in late 1999. Again, Ripken could have walked away. Instead, he came back and insisted on starting at third base while hitting an unflattering  .239 combined in 2000 and 2001.

Unfortunately, it dulls the luster of a truly great career.  I'd like to remember Ripken as the great player that would put his team and the game above himself, instead of the recent ghost of Christmas past.  I hope you can, too.


Just so you know that I don't just blow smoke when I suggest players, here's a follow-up snapshot of my recommendations on 5/4/01.

C Brent Mayne (Col): .322 BA, a rough  2-for-26 rut in May that ratcheted down his BA

C Paul Loduca (LA): .333 BA, has dropped off slightly

C Tom Lampkin (Sea): .243 BA, as predicted - he slid back to his career average

C Einar Diaz (Cle): .310 BA, with 27 RBI already surpassed total in 2000

RP Jeff Fassero (Cubs): Good news: hasn't allowed an earned run in 22 games; Bad news: Tom Gordon is now the closer since coming off the DL

RP LaTroy Hawkins (Min): Still effective, but didn't have a save from May 19 until June 8 (a fantasy nightmare!) and had 5.40 ERA in May

SP Wade Miller (Hou): Ballooned ERA up to 4.29 after going 3-2 with 5.72 ERA in May and June

SP Esteban Loaiza (Tor): Fell out of bed going 1-6  in May and June

SP Willis Roberts (Bal): Also 1-6 in May and June with a 8.12 ERA; again, still a kid.

1B Doug Mientkiewicz (Min): .315 BA, but he's having a terrible June: batting .196

1B/DH David Ortiz (Min): Broke his wrist sliding into home the next day . . . still on the DL

Are you ready for some football?

Spring training camps are just about here, football fans.  Are you ready for another season of fantasy football?  Find out everything you need to know.  Check out this weeks "Fantasy Football Tutorial".

Locker Room is written by Michael Skordeles

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