Everyone wants Cal Ripken this off-season.
The Baltimore Orioles shortstop, a leading candidate for American League MVP, already has been on "Late Night with David Letterman," at the opening of Planet Hollywood, a glitzy new New York night spot, and in Minneapolis to assist Kirby Puckett with a charity event.
"I'm a fan of Letterman myself," said Ripken. "I was asked to appear, so I decided to go. I don't pursue the spotlight."
But it was almost embarrassing. Before the show, the host talked about hitting Ripken some ground balls. He later did -- in a slippery, tile-covered corridor and from about 60 feet away.
The first one hit Ripken on the wrist and heel of his glove and skipped away. At the time, he quipped, "I guess that's why I've never won a Gold Glove."
Recounting the incident, he admitted having a case of nerves before the show and after watching the ground-ball segment replayed, he said: "On TV, it looks like it's about 100 yards away, but actually it was about the distance from home plate to the pitcher's mound.
"The floor was slippery because it had just been waxed and he [Letterman] hit some rockets. I made up my mind after the first one to play them off to the side. But I didn't think it was a dangerous situation."
Minnesota Twins center fielder Puckett held an eight-ball pool tournament among baseball celebrities and top-grade billiards players, with ticket sales going to charity.
"It was a lot of fun," said Ripken. "I ended up winning the players' side of the tournament. I guess it's just my year."
Puckett, like Ripken, is represented by Baltimore attorney Ron Shapiro. Puckett will return the favor to Ripken Nov. 23-24 by signing autographs at the Cal Ripken Jr. Winterfest for Literacy '91 at Festival Hall in the Inner Harbor. Eddie Murray also will appear at the event, where the proceeds will benefit the Ripken Learning Center.
G; "My off-season schedule is really hectic," said Ripken.
The Chicago White Sox decided not to pick up a $2.2 million option on Carlton Fisk's contract, and their history of bitter dealing will continue.
Fisk will be 44 next month. He has been offered approximately $700,000 with incentives that could push him over $2 million for 1992, and he construes the offer as the first step on the way to the door.
"I'm not doing the walking; they're doing the pushing," said Fisk. "They know I want to stay, and they're taking advantage of that."
General manager Ron Schueler said he expected that reaction by Fisk.
"I would say he's probably going to take a couple shots at us," said Schueler.
Fisk hit .241 with 18 homers and 75 RBI last year and is the top-ranked catcher in the Elias ratings used to settle arbitration hearings.
Schueler said chairman of the board Jerry Reinsdorf left the matter to him.
"His agent [Jack Sands] said he's been here 11 years, and he should be compensated for that," Schueler said. "I don't believe in that. I've got to think about the other 24 guys, too."
Another catcher, the one the Orioles traded, Mickey Tettleton, is now the highest-paid Detroit Tiger in history, at least temporarily.
Tettleton signed a three-year, $8.5 million contract with the Tigers, including a $1 million signing bonus that will provide a lot of horses (one of his loves) for his new ranch in Oklahoma.
The Detroit organization, known for frugality, also broke precedent by building in some incentives for Tettleton, who hit 31 home runs, walked 101 times and knocked in 89 runs last season.
By contrast, veteran Tigers Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker are under $2.5 million per season. The only player who figures to outstrip Tettleton is Cecil Fielder, who is eligible for arbitration and is two years from free agency.
The Tigers are expected to offer Fielder a long-term deal worth more than Tettleton's before the matter reaches arbitration.
Fielder and the Tigers apparently are bigger attractions on the road than at Tiger Stadium. Despite a surprising run at the American League East title, the team ranked 21st in major-league home attendance, but drew the third-highest total
on the road.
Speaking of the Tigers, they decided to pick up the option on the contract of left-hander Frank Tanana, who will be 39 in the middle of next season.
Only five American League left-handers had more victories than Tanana's 13 -- the California Angels' Mark Langston, Jim Abbott and Chuck Finley and the Toronto Blue Jays' Jimmy Key and David Wells.
Only four, the three Angels and the Cleveland Indians' Greg Swindell, pitched more innings than Tanana.
Tanana ranks second to Nolan Ryan among active pitchers in virtually every notable statistic -- wins, losses, shutouts, innings, starts and strikeouts. He is first with 398 home runs allowed.
The Indians still are negotiating with Swindell, who can be a free agent after 1992.
Late last season, he was offered a guaranteed $9 million over three years with an option, but he has not accepted that.
If the Indians -- who had the majors' worst record at 57-105 -- do not sign him, look for a deal similar to the one made with Tom Candiotti (to the Blue Jays) in which Swindell will be swapped for more young players.
Cincinnati Reds manager Lou Piniella was naming his 1992 rotation at the World Series with Swindell in it.
It was not a good year for ex-Orioles in Cleveland.
Third-base coach Rich Dauer and pitching coach Mark Wiley were fired in a housecleaning of the staff, although Wiley is expected to accept a scouting position in the organization.
Five new coaches were added to start the regime of general manager John Hart (a former Orioles coach) and president Rick Bay, both of whom have three-year contracts.
Included are Jeff Neuman, Davey Nelson, Ron Clark, Rich Adair and Ken Boleck, who will be an assistant to the staff.
On the flip side, the two coaches to be retained, Dom Chiti and Jose Morales, also have Orioles ties.