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Educating Twitter: Cal Ripken Wasn't "Mediocre"
People use Twitter for a variety of reasons. Maybe they’re looking for information. Maybe they just want to be anonymously mean to someone. Maybe they actually think they’re going to change someone’s mind. Or maybe they just want clicks and attention and don’t actually believe anything they post there.
I have no real interest in figuring out what those reasons are for each person. I couldn’t even if I wanted to, and I don’t want to. Instead, I just proceed as if folks mean what they say. It’s the safest course of action, even if it means sometimes I’ll get an eye roll emoji response about not understanding humor or sarcasm or whatever.
Therefore, I’m proceeding as if two people named “Chuck Patton” and “Uncharted Collection” actually believe that Cal Ripken, Jr. was a “mediocre” or “average” baseball player.
These two comments, grammar problems and all, popped up in a thread about Derek Jeter, with Uncharted Collection being the first to throw Ripken’s name into the mix. Then Chuck Patton doubled down. If I’m following the drift of their point, they feel that Ripken was only notable because of his ironman streak. Without the games-played streak, he was “average” or “mediocre.” This seems to be the Uncharter-Chuck consensus view.
Without getting into one of those boring discussions of how words are defined, let’s just recognize that “mediocre” and “average” are synonyms, and that when applied to major league baseball players it means their skills aren’t noteworthy. Meaning not All-Star or MVP or Hall of Fame quality. There really isn’t any other way those could be used in this case unless Uncharted and Chuck are reinventing the language. Which, again, is entirely possible on Twitter.
So, taking these comments at face value, the most charitable thing that could be said about these guys is that they’ve overstated their case that Ripken wasn’t special.
It’s pretty easy to prove that Ripken was an outstanding player even without the streak. The easiest way to do that is to eliminate the streak. Here’s one way to do that: Just look at Ripen’s 20s. From 1981 through 1990, Ripken played over 1,400 games with an an OPS that was more than 20% better than the averages of the leagues he played in. How many shortstops (meaning they played at least 80% of their games at shortstop) have done that in the history of baseball?
Counting Ripken’s seasons in his 20s, it would be three.
Arky Vaughan, 1932-1948: Played 1,817 games with an OPS+ of 136.
Lou Boudreau, 1938-1952: Played 1,646 games with an OPS+ of 120.
Ripken, 1981-1990: Played 1,476 games with an OPS+ of 122.
Both Boudreau and Vaughan are in the Hall of Fame. Boudreau had an MVP award, while Vaughan finished third twice. Boudreau made eight All-Star teams, Vaughan made nine. In those ten years for Ripken, he won an MVP, finished third another time, and made nine All-Star teams. In the only year he didn’t make the All-Star team, he won the Rookie of the Year Award. Had he retired after 1990, he’d have certainly been elected to the Hall of Fame at some point. None of that had anything to do with his games-played streak.
Then there was the rest of his career. From 1991 through 2001, Ripken played in over 1,500 more games and had an OPS+ of 103. How many shortstops have done that?
Fourteen if you include Ripken’s later years. Obviously he, Vaughan, and Boudreau are on that list. Here are the other eleven.
More of a mixed bag in terms of accomplishments, but still a group in which seven of the thirteen players besides Ripken made the Hall of Fame. His later years would be on the lower end of this group, in the Tejada to Reyes range, and so wouldn’t really be Hall of Fame-worthy by themselves.
But remember, they aren’t by themselves. These are just the years when Ripken was 30 to 40 years old. These are on top of him already having an early career that only two other shortstops had. Essentially, Ripken had Lou Boudreau’s career AND THEN ALSO HAD Miguel Tejada’s career.
That doesn’t seem mediocre or average to me, but maybe I’m off-base. Maybe I’m setting myself up to have Chuck and Uncharted bomb the comments with eye roll emojis.
Oh well, they won’t be the first.
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