Ripken: Jeter an All-Star this year, plus more early-season thoughts
Derek Jeter is retiring this season after two decades as the Yankees shortstop, and I can make an easier prediction about him than I can about who is going to win the World Series: Derek is going to have a nice season. As a player, I benefited many times from the popular vote for the All-Star Game, and the question is: Are you an All-Star in that particular year, or are you an All-Star caliber player? Derek is an All-Star to me and he belongs in the All-Star Game each and every year.
As for the rest of his season, he's going to be celebrated, which is going to give him some things he'll have to deal with that are outside of what he normally has to, but he'll handle it real well. The thing he'll realize as he gets closer to the end is that he has a chance to say goodbye to everybody at the same time. Very rarely do you have control over getting to say goodbye to the game of baseball instead of having baseball saying goodbye to you. My prediction is he'll have a very good year, he'll enjoy it and he'll be thankful that he announced his retirement early.
Another big story early this season has been instant replay. I cringe a little bit when I hear of a challenge system because then it becomes strategic from a manager's standpoint: when do you use it, who gives you the information, do you save it for a more important time of the game or do you risk using it early? It feels funny to me. Maybe I have to get used to it, but I applaud the effort to use technology because nobody wants a bad call to impact a game, especially in the playoffs. The Jeffrey Maier call [in Game 1 of the 1996 American League Championship Series] robbed us of an out and made it a home run. Of course I'd rather have that one reversed because you never know what would have happened. We left New York 1-1 in the series and we lost that first game. We could very well have left New York being up 2-0 and it could have changed the whole complexion of the series. We ended up losing to the Yankees in five games. So I would have liked some version of instant replay at that time.
Some of the obvious plays that are blown, everybody at home sees it 18 different ways, so you should be able to integrate those angles and views and help the officiating.
As a former shortstop, I've always thought that they should handle collisions at home plate the same way they handle second base. A guy coming in to break up the double play doesn't have the right to stand up and run all the way through second base and run you over and knock the ball out. You have to try and break up the double play. The object is to score a run, and the catcher sometimes has the ability -- as he's supposed to try to catch the ball -- to block off the plate and you have to have some ability to make contact. By and large, though, I don't think it's the intent of anyone to totally take out the catcher in hopes that you could be safe at home plate. If I was out by 45 feet coming around the base I would not think it's my job to run over the catcher. If you made a bad judgment somewhere along the line, you're out. I've always felt that way.
I'm not totally in favor of year-round interleague play -- it's just weird to see it at this time of year -- but I understand some of the scheduling issues. I am in favor of a balanced schedule. I always thought a couple teams from the other league should be designated as your rivals and then you play them in a home and away series, and for the other three games you would go far out or they could come to you and it would alternate each year. Then some of the strength of schedule issues would be random, but over time it would even out so I wouldn't be too concerned.
One thing that is great for the game is all the young stars playing today. They're fun to watch and I'm curious to watch them. It's remarkable that these guys at a young age can come to the big leagues and have an impact on their team immediately and a real big impact offensively and defensively. Those guys -- like Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Jose Fernandez -- will be in All-Star Games against each other for many years. They'll benefit and the fans will benefit too.