This, that and the other

I can’t say whether Cal Ripken Jr. would make a great manager. Won’t know until he gets the chance. But let’s keep in mind that Mike Matheny didn’t coach or manage at any level until taking over the Cardinals before the 2012 season.

Now they’re in the World Series.

No knock on Matheny, but he doesn’t know more about the game than Ripken. I can’t sit here and measure which one is better at handling people.

My point is that Ripken’s lack of experience coaching and managing shouldn’t be held against him. Major props to the guys who paid their dues by rising up through the lowest levels of the minors. Ryne Sandberg, who started out managing the Peoria Chiefs in the Midwest League, immediately comes to mind. It’s just not a prerequisite.

Heck, I spent 10 years covering preps for a zoned edition of The Sun - with its charming two-tiered pay scale - before getting a chance to write about the local colleges and assist in coverage of major events (such as 2,130 and 2,131, and the 1996 playoffs). Meanwhile, there are now early-20s types fresh out of college working big-time beats. They don’t know how to keep their own stats and write quickly and cleanly on deadline, but they’re handed choice jobs and walk around with a sense of entitlement.

But I’m not bitter.

Seriously though, my experience covering preps and hauling around my Radio Shack T200 laptop, with the rubber couplers that allowed me to send my stories through pay phones while students lined up and waited impatiently to call their parents for a ride home, helped to shape the writer and reporter that I am today (shut up).

I still can hear the piercing sound emanating from that T200, followed by a sort of distorted scratchy noise that meant I had achieved a connection and my story was going to “land” in a Sun editing basket. Anyone know what I’m talking about here? If you didn’t hear that sound, it didn’t send.

Times sure have changed. As I mentioned yesterday in the comments section, I conducted an interview with Rick Adair, wrote and filed my blog entry and tweeted from the shoulder of a road off Route 50 at Chesapeake College. All I needed was my iPhone, my Dell laptop and my Verizon card.

Also, a little luck. A police officer didn’t pull up behind me and slow my roll by asking why I had stopped my car on the shoulder of the road. Especially with the college parking lot within view.

Had I been able to reach Adair sooner, it all would have happened in the parking lot of a liquor store a few miles back. But he had stepped away from his phone after texting me.

I understand why there’s some confusion and suspicion among fans regarding the announcement that Adair wouldn’t return as pitching coach in 2014. It’s more than his father’s illness and subsequent passing. There are other factors which are being kept private, either by Adair and the Orioles, or the media that’s respecting their wishes.

I will, however, stress once again that the pitching staff’s performance has nothing to do with Adair’s departure. Absolutely nothing. Same with Mark Connor back in 2011. Zilch.

Connor left for health reasons, taking a position with the Rangers that wasn’t as demanding. Adair’s reasons run a little deeper. But without them, he would have stayed on the job. Manager Buck Showalter didn’t want to lose Connor and he didn’t want to lose Adair.

The one time that Showalter raised his voice during Friday’s phone conversation, and one of the few times that I can remember since he took over as manager, came when I passed along the conspiracy theories of a few fans regarding Adair and Connor. He wasn’t yelling, but the volume increased. And he fired back.

As for the next pitching coach, Andy Hawkins is an intriguing candidate. He’s the Rangers bullpen coach and served as their interim pitching coach following Connor’s firing during the 2008 season. Not a lot of experience at the job, but I’ve talked to some people who say Texas pitchers often bypass Mike Maddux and go directly to him.

Hawkins is the answer to a trivia question. Name the only pitcher to win a World Series game with the Padres.

A new pitching coach would be the fifth for Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman. And that doesn’t include their sessions with Mike Griffin and Rick Peterson.

The Reds reportedly will be shopping second baseman Brandon Phillips this winter. The Orioles may need a second baseman.

See a match?

Phillips, 32, is signed through 2017. He’ll make $11 million, $12 million, $13 million and $14 million over the next four seasons.

Phillips has hit 18 home runs in each of the last four seasons. He drove in a career-high 103 runs this season. He also chewed out at least one reporter.

The North Carolina native is a career .271/.320/.429 hitter in 12 major league seasons. He posted a .310 on-base percentage this season. The Orioles are trying to improve in that category.

Phillips won three Gold Gloves. Much to the relief of one reporter, he never won the Golden Gloves.

I doubt that the Orioles will be in play for his services. He’s expensive and they would have to dip into their supply of young pitching. I don’t see a match, but I’ve been wrong in the past.

Here’s a leftover from my interview last week with Ripken regarding the importance of pitching and defense in the playoffs:

“Pitching is the first line of defense, but I’ll tell you what, execution behind the pitchers in those close ballgames make the difference,” Ripken said. “It’s the little plays that really matter. If you turn the double play or don’t turn the double play, if you get picked off or get a stolen base, if you overthrow the cutoff man - those things become much more meaningful.

“You always have a game tomorrow during the season, but the focus really shines bright on your ability to execute in the playoffs.”

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