After watching the success that former players Robin Ventura, Mike Matheny and Don Mattingly have had as major league managers in recent years, could Cal Ripken Jr. be getting an itch to put on a uniform again?
The Hall of Fame shortstop may have had no interest in toiling in the minors as Ryne Sandberg or even working as a coach like Mattingly. Both took six years before finally getting the call to manage in the big leagues. But Ventura and Matheny got their jobs without the coaching or managing experience that previously would've been considered integral to being hired.
Ripken has also stayed around baseball. As a studio analyst for TBS, he's kept up on the game and may have formed some ideas about what makes a successful manager and team during that time. During this coming postseason, Ripken will be in the booth as a game analyst.
So does the Orioles legend want to be a manager? During a roundtable discussion on NESN, it sounded as if the thought had definitely crossed his mind.
“I don’t know. I’ve been asked to interview for managing jobs before, not too long ago,” Ripken said. “And I’ve always thought, if you have no interest in taking in then you shouldn’t go through the process. But I’m curious as I’ll get out there, what questions are they going to ask? What baseball quiz are they going to give me that I can’t answer? So to me it’s interesting.”
But if Ripken were to take the big seat in the dugout, would he do so with his former team, as Ventura and Matheny have? Or would he have to go elsewhere to lead a team, like Mattingly, Sandburg and Kirk Gibson had to?
Managing the Orioles seems like the best fit, but Baltimore already has an excellent skipper in Buck Showalter. With his success over the past two seasons, it's unlikely he'll go anywhere soon. That is, unless he wears thin with his players and front office as he did with previous managerial positions.
Yet Ripken wouldn't necessarily have to move very far away to nab a big-league managing gig. Davey Johnson's contract as manager of the Washington Nationals is up after this season, and the plan is for him to move back into the front office as a special adviser to GM Mike Rizzo.
Letting a first-time manager lead a championship contender like the Nats might not seem like the ideal move, but couldn't you have said the same thing about Matheny taking over the Cardinals for the 2012 season?
That could be a tough sell, considering the other candidates that could be available. Obviously, Charlie Manuel is now available and has plenty of experience managing in the NL East. Diamondbacks third-base coach Matt Williams is ready to be a manager, and CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports that he may indeed be who the Nationals are targeting.
However, if Johnson has a say in hiring his successor, it doesn't sound like a managing neophyte like Ripken would interest him.
"My requirements, and I got in trouble for voicing them with a couple of my other managers around the league, was somebody asked me, 'What is the criteria for a big league manager?'" Johnson said on D.C.'s 106.7 The Fan recently (transcribed by Federal Baseball).
"I said, 'The ideal is to manage in your system, so you know the talent in your system. And that's the criteria. Having managed. And some guys that were coaches and never managed took offense to what I said. But I was talking about the ideal guy."
Maybe Ripken would have to leave the Beltway area to become a major league manager, after all.