Numbers have long brought Cal Ripken attention. Last night he played in his 2,549th consecutive game. But now that other numbers such as batting average and RBIs have brought him additional scrutiny, the Orioles third baseman said yesterday that expectations may have to be tempered by another number, 37.
Responding indirectly to published suggestions in yesterday's editions of The Sun and the New York Times that it is time for his unprecedented consecutive-games streak to end, Ripken said he has no plans to sit, maintained he is not satisfied with this year's offensive numbers but remains confident that a long season will validate his contributions.
"I haven't had the first half which I'd like to have. It feels like I haven't really gotten it going," said Ripken, who is batting .253 with five home runs, 33 RBIs and a .346 slugging percentage that ranks him ahead of only catcher Chris Hoiles.
"If you go back and look, it's happened before," Ripken said. "In some ways you can say even as bad as I've felt, I'm still projected to drive in 74 runs. We're not even halfway yet. If you make the same projection with three more home runs and eight RBIs, you're talking a totally different ballgame. Three home runs and eight RBIs, in my estimation, is a hot week. Two years ago, it was a hot game."
Ripken has yet to catch fire this season. He is batting .182 (10-for-55) in his past 14 games and has dropped from No. 6 to No. 7 in manager Ray Miller's lineup in 19 of the past 22 games. Prone to biting at inside pitches, he has not taken a walk since June 3 and has only two this month.
While disputing an argument that he has lost range to both sides at third base, Ripken acknowledged that at this stage in his Hall of Fame career, offensive expectations are somewhat diminished.
"It's probably not realistic to say, 'I'm going to hit .300, I'm going to hit 30 home runs, I'm going to drive in 100 runs.' So you say, 'What did you do last year?' I hit 17 home runs, drove in 84 and played with a herniated disk from July on," Ripken said.
"Maybe it's possible I could hit 26 home runs and drive in 100 runs. Two years ago I did. But, realistically, you're probably looking at close to 20 home runs and 80-plus RBIs."
Miller remains four-square behind Ripken's desire to play every day and reiterated his stance before yesterday's game. The manager maintains that Ripken has earned the right to determine when, where and if his streak ends.
Pub Date: 6/18/98