Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Ripken Negotiating With Yankees

Not long ago, there existed a holy trinity of American League shortstops: Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Nomar Garciaparra.  The Yankees claimed two-thirds of this group in 2004 as Rodriguez moved to third base and joined Jeter in the Bronx.  Garciaparra could make it a clean sweep, as the free agent has expressed interest in playing multiple positions for New York.  Now a stunning development has emerged involving another famous shortstop.  Cal Ripken, Jr. is discussing a deal to come out of retirement and play in pinstripes.


The news is shocking for fans of the legend known as “Mr. Oriole.”  Ripken has owned the hearts of Baltimore supporters since his Rookie of the Year season in 1982.  Cal’s record-breaking 2,131st consecutive game in 1995 provided a shining and transcendent moment after the infamous 1994–95 players’ strike.  No baseball player of his generation has been more synonymous with one franchise.  Therefore, seeing Ripken in Yankee pinstripes would be even more painful for Baltimore fans than watching the Orioles’ pitching staff.


If the signing comes to fruition, the Yankees will continue adhering to the old adage, “You can never have enough shortstops.”  Excluding the catcher, the shortstop is the most critical defensive position on the diamond.  Therefore, it makes sense to have as many of them as possible.  New York appears set at the catcher spot with Jorge Posada.  However, if he suffers a serious injury, look for the club to acquire disgruntled superstar Miguel Tejada and put him behind the plate.


With the presence of Jeter and Rodriguez, Ripken would most likely be used as a designated hitter.  Centerfield appears out of the question, as the Yankees are expected to use the corpse of Honus Wagner.  The Pirate cadaver is considered a major defensive upgrade, with greater range than the beloved but aged Bernie Williams.


Ripken reportedly drew inspiration from Julio Franco’s two-year contract with the Mets.  With Franco’s signing, Cal is in no danger of being the oldest baseball player in New York.  The Big Apple is ecstatic over the return of the new Met, who broke into the majors with the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Meanwhile, Ripken would be the biggest Baltimore icon to hit New York since Babe Ruth, who like Cal is often linked to Lou Gehrig.  In fact, the Bambino’s retirement inspired Gehrig’s “luckiest man on the face of the earth” speech, as Gehrig no longer had to endure the daily ritual of a hung-over Ruth’s puking in the Yankee dugout.


The deal is far from done, but taking the field in Yankee Stadium would delay Ripken’s Hall of Fame induction.  As it stands, Cal and Tony Gwynn are expected to enter Cooperstown on the first ballot in 2007.  Tony will definitely be there.  He never played shortstop, so the Yankees won’t take him away.