Gold Glove eases Ripken's frustrations Orioles shortstop seeks a fresh start for '93

November 06, 1992|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

*TC Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken probably won't look back fondly on the 1992 season, but his second consecutive Rawlings Gold Glove award allowed him to put a positive spin on an otherwise disappointing performance.

Ripken, who was voted the American League's outstanding shortstop in a poll of the league's managers and coaches conducted by The Sporting News, received his trophy in a brief and touching ceremony yesterday at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Gold Glove was presented by Mike Hirsch, a recent graduate of the Ripken Learning Center.

The entire cast of recipients, including 13-time winner Ozzie Smith and seven-time winner Don Mattingly, was honored last night at a charity banquet at the Sheraton New York Hotel, but Ripken was not able to attend. He showed up at the Camden Club instead and tried to put the award -- and the season -- in perspective.

"This was one of my most difficult and frustrating years," Ripken said, "but it makes me feel good that I was recognized and it gives me something positive to look back on as I move toward the 1993 season."

He is looking forward to a fresh start after a season in which a number of factors conspired to keep him from providing a suitable encore to the performance that made him the American League Most Valuable Player the year before.

Ripken was hit on the right elbow by a pitch during the fifth game of the season and never was without some nagging injury during the course of the season. He wrenched his back trying to avoid another inside pitch at midseason and also played part of the year with a sore right ankle.

"I look forward to healing and going through my workout program this winter and going to spring training healthy," Ripken said. "Injuries are something I can't control, but yes, I'm looking forward to a fresh start."

Ripken has continued a long-standing Orioles tradition of excellence at shortstop. He is the third multiple winner at the position -- joining Luis Aparicio and Mark Belanger -- but was reluctant to compare himself with his predecessors.

"I grew up watching those guys," Ripken said. "I never have put myself in the same category. They could do a lot of things that I couldn't do. I'm big and cumbersome and depend very heavily on positioning."

Nevertheless, Ripken has led the league in total chances six times and owns league records for chances, fewest errors and best fielding percentage by a shortstop. Perhaps some of his numbers are a byproduct of his ability to play 162 games a year, but there is little question that he is one of the steadiest shortstops in baseball history.

The 1992 season was not his best defensively. He ranked only third in fielding percentage -- behind Seattle Mariners shortstop Omar Vizquel and Toronto's Manuel Lee -- and had his highest error total (12) in four years. But those numbers only pale in comparison to the standard that Ripken set for himself with three straight outstanding statistical seasons.

The raw numbers still were very strong. He led the league's shortstops in putouts for a major league record-tying sixth time and also led the league in double plays, despite the nagging elbow injury and having to adjust to a brand new infield.

"With the new stadium, it was quite an adjustment period," Ripken said. "There were certain problems associated with the sand-based infield. The infield was soft and wet early in the season, then got better as the year went on. The way I understand it, there is a one-year settling period for a new infield like that. I hope it is all settled by next year.

"I didn't throw as well last year. Some of that can be related to the (elbow) injury and some to the different ballpark. There were times when the ball didn't get to me as quickly as I expected, and I am a guy who sets up to throw before I receive the ball. There is a rhythm to the way I play the ball. The fact that the field was different affected that."

Nevertheless, Ripken played well enough to win the 50th Gold Glove awarded to an Orioles player. No American League team has won more. The Orioles had hoped to win more than one this year, but outfield candidates Brady Anderson and Mike Devereaux did not get enough votes to rank among the top three outfielders.

The three outfielders all were repeat winners -- Kirby Puckett (six Gold Gloves), Devon White (four) and Ken Griffey Jr. (three).

Anderson had a flashy year in left field and an unprecedented season at the plate. He was the first player in American League history to have at least 20 home runs, 80 RBI and 50 stolen bases in the same season. Though the Gold Glove is a defensive award, offensive statistics do seem to have an effect on the voting.

"I was hoping I would win one," Anderson said. "I thought since the managers voted and since an earlier poll had shown me in the top three that I would have a good chance. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed.

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