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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Jeter and Ripken: "nothing to fear but fear itself". Is that "Hail to the Chief" I hear?

Yesterday Derek Jeter held a press conference that he insisted on calling something else.  He was fairly patient in answering questions even though it was painfully obvious that the media people had either ignored or, more likely as Jeter finally pointed out, not read his entire retirement statement.  A woman named Rachel asked Jeter about his passing the torch to a new generation.

John F. Kennedy Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961

Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans
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Obviously, sycophantic media people are in an insane competition to determine which of them can inflate Jeter the most.  At least Rachel didn't ask Jeter to "bind up the nation's wounds": second inaugural address, Abraham Lincoln.

Years ago we would hear that some people thought that Cal Ripken, Jr. was hurting his Baltimore Orioles team by playing too much.  First it was playing every inning of every game.  That was ended by his father, Cal Ripken, Sr., who was the team manager at the time.  Then it was that Ripken was playing shortstop.  Ripken switched to third base in 1997, replaced at short by Mike Bordick who was the regular for three and a half seasons.  Ripken had been the regular shortstop from 1982 through 1996, Jeter's rookie season.  Finally, Ripken was criticized for playing every game, even after he had long since broken the record of Lou Gehrig for consecutive games played.  Ripken chose to end the streak by not playing in the final home game of the 1998 regular season against the New York Yankees in Baltimore.  Derek Jeter played shortstop for the Yankees that day.

Sunday, September 20, 1998, 8:07, Oriole Park at Camden Yards
Attendance: 48,013, Time of Game: 3:33
Yankees 5, Orioles 4

Ryan Minor played third for Baltimore: 342 career plate appearances.  When it became apparent that Ripken would remain in the dugout when his team took the field, the Yankees joined the Baltimore fans in giving Ripken a standing ovation.  Ripken did play in all the remaining seven games that were played in Toronto and Boston.

The understanding at the time was that Ripken controlled his fate as he had for many years, probably since the Orioles replaced his father as manager with Frank Robinson after the team lost the first six games of the 1988 season.  Robinson lasted through the 1991 season's first 37 games when he was replaced by Johnny Oates through 1994, Phil Regan 1995, Davey Johnson 1996-1997, Ray Miller 1998-1999, Mike Hargrove 2000-2003.  Ripken played through 2001 and was an All Star every season 1983-2001 even though he played only 86 and 83 games in 1999 and 2000.  Alex Rodriguez graciously started that final All Star game by changing places and putting Ripken back at shortstop when they took the field.

In ranking Jeter, why ignore Banks, Yount, Rodriguez?  Sunday, February 16, 2014

Texas then traded Rodriguez to the Yankees for Alfonso Soriano.  Yankee manager Joe Torre switched Rodriguez from shortstop to third and kept Jeter at short.  Rodriguez was generally regarded to be a better fielder than Jeter and obviously Rodriguez was a better hitter...

If Rodriguez had stayed at shortstop through his third MVP season of 2007, he would be regarded as at least the second greatest shortstop of all time, behind only Honus Wagner (1897-1917).  Rodriguez voluntarily agreed to switch positions when he joined the Yankees in 2004, seemingly without resentment.  That should be considered when taking his measure.
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Both Ripken and Jeter controlled their destinies.  No manager, general manager or owner had the nerve to exert their natural authority and risk the wrath of fans and media.  Yesterday Jeter offered up one juicy bit of information that his audience craved but they were too dense to recognize it.  Jeter stated clearly that he had never been asked to change positions.  He emphasized his point by mentioning the unmentionable "Alex", that when Rodriguez joined the Yankees he, Jeter, had not been asked to change positions.  The natural question would have been: did you volunteer to move from short to let A-Rod play shortstop for the Yankees but that never seemed to have crossed anyone's mind.

Maybe they figured that Jeter had "nothing to fear but fear itself": first inaugural address of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

"Hail to the Chief": official Presidential Anthem of the United States. The song's playing accompanies the appearance of the President of the United States at many public appearances.

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