NEW YORK -- Cal Ripken's offensive numbers declined dramatically in the final month of the past three seasons, which put his lengthy consecutive-games streak under a microscope.
There was some sentiment that Ripken was tired, that he was doing his team a disservice by playing every inning of every game.
Through it all, he said there was no connection between his streak and his September swoons. Last month, he was able to prove it.
Ripken batted .349 with eight home runs and 27 RBI in September, and yesterday was named Player of the Month in the American League.
"As far as I'm concerned, he's the Player of the Year," said manager John Oates.
That distinction might come later. The three previous Septembers, he had batted a combined .210 with eight homers and 32 RBI. But he has come back with the best offensive season of his career, and one of the best by a shortstop.
It was the first time an Oriole has been named AL Player of the Month since Eddie Murray won the honor in May 1984. Jeff Ballard was Pitcher of the Month for his 5-0 start in April 1989.
It was the second time Ripken has won the award. He was Player of the Month in September 1983, the year he was named American League Most Valuable Player.
Could it be destiny? Ripken is closing the season on a roll while several likely MVP candidates appear to be coasting to a stop. He ranks high among the league leaders in virtually every relevant offensive category and is having another strong year at baseball's toughest position.
"In my opinion, he should have just as much chance as anybody," Oates said. "I don't think it should hurt him that he's playing on a sixth-place team. Ernie Banks won it playing on an eighth-place team.
"I think the criteria should be, where would your team be without him?"
So, where would the Orioles be without him? someone asked Oates.
( "Eighth place," he said.
Orioles set error record
The Orioles set a club record with their 94th errorless game of the season. They lead the majors in fielding percentage and have committed the fewest errors (87). The club appears almost certain to become the first major-league team in history to make fewer than 100 errors in three consecutive seasons.
The Orioles finished September with the most home runs (37) in the major leagues. They still rank third for the season (164). . . . The Orioles entered the game 30 games under .500 against the Yankees since the start of the 1983 season. . . . OF Joe Orsulak came into the game with a .337 average (59-for-175) since Aug. 2. He hasn't gone hitless in consecutive games since July 26-27.