Facing a fan base that is irate over 13 years of losing, a dreadful start to the season and now reports that the team turned down franchise icon Cal Ripken for a job, Orioles owner Peter Angelos attempted to extend an olive branch today to Baltimore baseball fans by hiring Billy Ripken as Vice President of Baseball Operations.
"I know many people wanted Cal to re-join the franchise," said Angelos, announcing the hiring at a press conference. "But I think Billy is the next best thing. Look at him. If you squint your eyes, you can convince yourself it is Cal. He is a similar size and shape as his brother. He shares the same genes. And he has literally followed Cal from job to job to job his entire playing and post-playing career. He had to have picked up something along the way, right?"
While the move seems to have placated some Orioles fans who are just happy the team is again associated with the Ripken name, others say it was just another move by Angelos to save a buck. While Cal Ripken would have garnered an executive level salary befitting someone of his stature, Billy Ripken will reportedly be paid $13.25 an hour, game-time only. He will also have complimentary access to the team's post-game spread.
"Cal always picked up the check for him whenever they ate out," said a team source. "Mr. Angelos didn't want to give in on that. Hot dogs don't grow on trees. But in the end it was the only way to get Billy and hopefully put an end to this whole mess with the fans so they'll shut up again."
Ripken will oversee all of the franchise's baseball decisions, including scouting, the draft, signings and trades.
"Or whatever it was that you people were so gung-ho about Cal doing," said Angelos. "You name it, Billy can do it. He has a blank check. Of course, the check will still have to be signed by me, so I'll continue making all the decisions. But, you know, for appearances' sake Billy Ripken is your guy."
Cal's younger brother was tight-lipped at the introductory press conference about what role he will serve with the Orioles.
"Fk face," he said.
It was 63 years ago that Jackie Robinson suited up for the Brooklyn Dodgers and broke baseball's color barrier. Major League Baseball honored Robinson yesterday by having all of its players suit up in Robinson's No. 42. But the Baltimore Orioles decided to pay their own unique tribute to the American legend.
"We were all getting dressed before the game, putting on our No. 42 jerseys, and it just didn't feel right. I knew I had to stop it," said Orioles outfielder Adam Jones. "As an African-American, as someone who looks up to Jackie Robinson, I knew he deserved better than having his number worn by the Baltimore Orioles."
Jones asked his teammates to change back into their regular jerseys out of respect for Robinson, and they eagerly complied.
"I am hitting .222," said Baltimore third baseman Garrett Atkins. "I hit .226 last year. It actually felt kind of racist to have Mr. Robinson's jersey number on, like: 'You may have accomplished all of this in your career and in your life, but you're still stuck on Garrett Atkins' back.' He deserves better than that."
With their regular jerseys back on, the Orioles went out and quickly showed they made the right decision, falling behind 5-0 to the A's on the way to a 6-2 loss their ninth in 10 games this season.
"If Jackie Robinson was up there in heaven watching this game, I'd like to think we made him happy," said Jones. "Although I truly hope someone like Jackie Robinson has better things to do in heaven than watch Baltimore Orioles games."
Commissioner Bud Selig said next year's Robinson tribute would be expanded to also ban the Nationals, Royals and Pirates from wearing No. 42.
"It would be great if they also didn't wear the Major League Baseball logo on their uniforms," he said. "But we'll take this stuff one at a time."
SportsPickle is previewing each MLB team in the lead up to Opening Day 2010.
Today:Baltimore Orioles (2009: 64-98, last in AL East)
The New York Yankees announced today that they have signed the legacy of Cal Ripken, Jr. to a contract that will see the Hall of Fame shortstop receive $10 million in back pay for each of the 20 seasons he played with the Baltimore Orioles. The move ensures that Ripken, a 19-time All-Star and the holder of the Major League record for most consecutive games played, will be forever remembered asa Yankee.
"As an organization,we pride ourselves on beingthe professional embodiment ofclass, grit and playing the game the right way," said Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman at a press conference announcing the signing. "And few players in the history of baseball have exemplified those qualities more than Cal Ripken, Jr. We are thrilled to welcome both Cal, and hisoverwhelming historicalachievements, into the Yankee family."
Pursuant to the deal, over 11,000 hours of archived Ripken footage in Major League Baseball's video library will be digitally altered to replace his Orioles' uniform with Yankee pinstripes. This includes the Orioles' celebration of their 1983 World Series Championship, Ripken's MVP performance at the 1991 All-Star Game in Toronto, and his famed run around Camden Yards afterbreaking Lou Gehrig's streak for consecutive games played on September 6, 1995. The Baltimore cap worn by Ripken on hisplaque at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, will also be changed to that of the Yankees.
"I'm thrilled, obviously," Ripken said at the press conference. "Don't get me wrong, I love Baltimore. Heck, I spent my entire actual career there. Butthe thought of all future generations associating me with the greatest franchise in baseball history? It's something that every ballplayer dreams of."
Ripken claimed that the deal was about more than just the money: "Obviously, I'd be a fool to turn my nose up at $200 million for something that, in essence, requires me to do nothing. But at this stage in my life, the most important thing to me, besides my family, is my legacy. And to see my number 8 sitting there in Monument Park, right next to Yogi [Berra] and [Bill] Ol' Dickface [Dickey] I mean, what more could you ask for?"
Orioles fans reacted to the news with a mixture of disappointment and resignation. "Obviously it sucks, but whaddya gonna do?" said Graham Rind, 36, of Baltimore. "It's going to take some adjusting to not immediately associate Ripken with our team, because hewasthe Orioles for so long. But it's not like we didn't expect this. Everyone knew it was just a matter of time."
Nikki Sobotka, 31, shared a similar sentiment: "In baseball, there'sNew Yorkand then there's everybody else. Always has been that way, and it always will be. We had Cal for 20 years, and those of us who got to see him play will treasure those memories forever."
"It just sucks that the tangible evidence of those memories are going to be completely eradicated from existence."
While Cashman would not get into specifics, he strongly hinted that the Yankees were far from done. "There's some other former players we are keeping our eye on. And, should an opportunity present itself in a way that makes sense for our ballclub, we'll approach those players or their respective estates at that time. But for now, we're just absolutely thrilled to be able to bring Cal's career into the fold."
Despite Cashman's vagueness, speculation on the rumor mill has been rampant. Numeroussources say New York has already expressed interest inthe legacies of theKansas CityRoyals' George Brett, the Houston Astros' Craig Biggio, and the Milwaukee Brewers' Robin Yount.They are also purported to be in talks regarding the achievements of the late KirbyPuckettof the Minnesota Twins, but negotiations are said to have stalled on his family's insistence that New York also take "the part where [Puckett] got all fat and rapey."