Role in ouster leaves Ripken `uncomfortable'

3rd baseman says he `shouldn't be in middle' of Wren controversy

October 14, 1999|By Joe Strauss and Brent Jones | Joe Strauss and Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Calling further examination of the issue "pointless," Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken said yesterday he was "uncomfortable" being placed in the middle of the team's explanation for last week's dismissal of general manager Frank Wren.

Ripken addressed "a situation I feel I don't belong in" for the first time during an appearance at the ESPN Zone to announce his participation in the ownership group of the Baltimore BayRunners professional basketball team.

The issue has become so central to the explanation for Wren's firing that it relegated Ripken's recovery from recent back surgery to a secondary discussion. Wren's hiring by the Atlanta Braves yesterday as assistant general manager punctuated a seven-day period in which the Orioles jettisoned their field manager and top-ranking baseball executive, then inflamed the situation by citing Ripken as a pivotal figure in Wren's ouster.

The circumstances surrounding Ripken's absence on a Sept. 17 team charter to Anaheim, Calif., were revealed in the Orioles' nine-paragraph release that announced Wren's firing. Ripken never complained to reporters about the incident, though a team source said that the third baseman subsequently "frosted" Wren for failing to hold the plane. The Orioles devoted half of last Thursday's release to describing the incident.

The release classified Wren's decision as "arbitrary."

Ripken's drive from his Reisterstown residence was delayed by Hurricane Floyd. A series of detours left him about 10 minutes from the airport at 8 a.m., when the plane was to depart. Ripken reached Wren on his cell phone, but the general manager held to a team rule that the plane does not wait. Ripken had to make his own travel arrangements, which consisted of hopping a private charter to Las Vegas, then making a connection to Anaheim.

"I happened to be brought into a situation in a hurricane where I was left behind the day of a game. The situation is as simple as that," Ripken said.

"Am I upset? I'm uncomfortable and feel I shouldn't be in the middle of it," he said. "Beyond that, I'm not furious. I wasn't furious when the plane left and I had to get to Anaheim. I have much greater things to worry about. I had back surgery three weeks ago. Those issues are things I have control of and I worry about. All those other things, I don't have control of or a say in."

Ripken said he had no issue with Wren. However, Orioles outfielder Brady Anderson criticized the decision last weekend. On Tuesday, right fielder Albert Belle supported Wren's call, saying, "It showed he had some guts not to issue a double standard."

Said Ripken: "I wasn't upset with Frank Wren. Let's stop with the examination of this issue, because it's pointless. On the day it happened, I didn't come to you guys [reporters] and say what happened. I don't do that. I don't talk about things in the paper. You didn't find that out from me. You found out from someone else. It was an issue that was involved in someone else's decision and the evaluation of that decision. It had nothing to do with me."

Asked about Wren's firing, Ripken had little comment except to say he had no input.

"It does no good for me to come into the situation and comment on it. That's not who I am. I'm not part of these decisions," Ripken said. "There'll be time enough for me to examine these things. A lot of stuff is going on and a lot of stuff is interesting for [the media] to write about."

Calling the past several weeks "an uncertain time for me," Ripken continues to recover from Sept. 23 surgery to alleviate stenosis in his lower back. He has yet to resume baseball-related activities as he waits for soft tissue in the region to heal.

"I have moments when I ask myself, `Is it going to get all the way better?' What can you expect from surgery? I'm smart enough to wait," he said.

Pub Date: 10/14/99

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