Relieved Ripken stays sitting on 3,000

Weight lifted, he takes day off, as he probably would have at 2,999 hits

April 17, 2000|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

MINNEAPOLIS -- And in the 12th game, Cal rested.

Expressing relief from the previous night's three-hit push to 3,000 and looking tired from a post-game news conference, late-hour family dinner and the sheer weight of what he had carried around since spring training, Ripken took off yesterday afternoon's 5-0 win over the Minnesota Twins.

The 23rd player to collect 3,000 hits and only the seventh to include 400 home runs among them, Ripken savored the moment and debated the inevitable question: Would the Iron Man have played yesterday had he been stopped at 2,999 hits? "Probably not," said manager Mike Hargrove.

Hargrove failed to see the issue's potential flammability and downplayed it all weekend. The manager insisted a day off for Ripken would have been purely for health reasons -- a stance seemingly corroborated by Ripken's down time yesterday -- and not to manipulate a milestone's timing.

"I really would have left the decision up to him to play but it would have been my inclination not to play him today for his health," Hargrove said.

Hargrove intended to use Ripken as designated hitter on Friday -- an arrangement Ripken described as playing "2 1/2 days" in Minnesota. But that plan was scrapped when Will Clark could not start because of upper back spasms and Ripken's backup, Jeff Conine, was forced to play first base. Ripken played on the Metrodome's harsh artificial turf, going 1-for-4 with a line drive out to the warning track. As Hargrove penciled Ripken's name into Saturday's lineup, he planned to compensate for Friday by resting him yesterday, regardless of where his chase stood.

Ripken initially circled the issue, saying he didn't know how to answer the hypothetical. But he subtly acknowledged he likely would have accepted his manager's counsel.

"I would like to think it would be the same right now. Grover's intention all along was to play two out of three games," Ripken said.

Saturday night Ripken said that he "absolutely" preferred to reach his latest high point at Camden Yards, the setting for so many of his personal milestones. However, he also reiterated his respect for the game and sounded unimpressed by the thought of sitting.

"I think it probably made the decision a little bit easier on both our parts," admitted Hargrove about 16 hours after the fact. "I know Cal would have rather done this at home if he could have chosen. I feel the same way but it just wasn't meant to be."

Hargrove spoke with Ripken after he arrived at the Metrodome yesterday and sensed the player's "certain obligation" to play even with the milestone in hand. "That's Cal. He expects to play every day, and I don't disagree with that. But you have to put a little common sense in there, too. This is turf. He's rehabilitating his back and the turf's not good for that," Hargrove said.

Ripken agreed. "Turf is much harder on everything, your back particularly. It's more bothersome than normally," he said.

Less than two years after extinguishing his consecutive-game streak at 2,632, the 39-year-old continues to adjust to rest as part of his schedule.

Yesterday represented his second game off this year. It came on a day game after a night game and on what would have been a third straight game on artificial turf.

"[Time off] is a hard concept for me to grasp at times because I've played my whole life not thinking about those things. But two stints on the DL last year -- 30 days at a time -- I guess I would trade out a day for 30 days that's the tradeoff at this time. It seems like the smart thing to do."

So the difference between Ripken reaching 3,000 hits before a crowd of barely 18,000 tundra residents and a packed house at Camden Yards tonight was either an opposite-field jam shot, a "six-story" high infield chop or his seventh-inning line drive back up the middle off Twins reliever Hector Carrasco.

"There was a big relief after the hit last night," he said. "They talk about a weight being lifted off your shoulders. That's a word that describes something that's not real, but it felt like I dropped a 20-pound backpack off on my way to first. It felt good."

1 milestone, 1 team

3,000 hits for one team

Cal Ripken is the 12th player to collect at least 3,000 hits with one franchise:

Player Team Hits

Ty Cobb Tigers 3,903

Stan Musial Cards 3,630

Hank Aaron Braves 3,600

C. Yastrzemski Red Sox 3,419

Pete Rose Reds 3,358

Willie Mays Giants 3,187

George Brett Royals 3,154

Tony Gwynn Padres 3,070

Robin Yount Brewers 3,023

Al Kaline Tigers 3,007

Cal Ripken Orioles 3,000

R. Clemente Pirates 3,000

All their hits for one team

Cal Ripken is the eighth player in the 3,000-hit club to collect all his hits with one franchise:

Player Team

Stan Musial Cardinals

R. Clemente Pirates

Al Kaline Tigers

C. Yastrzemski Red Sox

Robin Yount Brewers

George Brett Royals

Tony Gwynn Padres

Cal Ripken Orioles

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