Originally created 07/12/98

Follow Jack's lead, Cal, and stop the streak

We were lucky. We got to see Jack in his Golden Prime one last glorious time. We were able to walk in his aura, feel his charm, breath his magic, ensconce ourselves in his greatness, whistle our screams through his pines.

We got that honor in April, when the Bear finished sixth at this year's Masters, stupefying us once again with his rarefied air.

We were lucky. That left hip of his, the one lacking cartilage like Augusta lacks water, hadn't bulged up to render him competitively constricted.

That Masters was Jack's 145th consecutive major championship, a feat that will go unmatched in my lifetime. He hinted in April that his majors run would end soon, and last week, golf's greatest golfer followed through.

With a hip in need of replacing, his age rising and his drive to play shrinking, the Bear decided not to make the trans-Atlantic flight to play at Royal Birkdale and this week's British Open. He also pulled out of next month's PGA Championship in Seattle, finally succumbing to injury and time, two components that lacked throughout his majestic career.

Jack doesn't need his streak to determine his greatness; he's got 20 major titles for that. The Streak is a nifty little anecdote that Jack will be able to tell and retell as his career is remembered in century 21.

But The Streak, the mother-load of consistency models, has now overtaken one Cal Ripken Jr., and it seems his pedestal among immortals is supported only by his surpassing of The Iron Horse three seasons ago.

Ripken, 37 going on 67, played in consecutive game No. 2,568 Saturday, but this season, it would behoove him to watch one from the Orioles dugout.

That's right, I said it. Stop The Streak, Cal.

Ripken is a walking legacy in need of perspective. While we should celebrate this 17-year veteran at every opportunity, we also should remember that if he was not Cal Ripken, or if he did not have this streak taking on a personality, he'd be viewed as an underachieving .250 hitter in need of a benching or a platoon.

A 37-year-old man does not swing as quick a bat as a 27-year-old. He does not play the game as perfectly as he wishes he could, so why is he trying to hang on to a glorious past?

He has looked oldest on an old team, one that cannot see the front-running Yankees with the Hubble Telescope.

And have you seen his power numbers? No? Well, neither has Ripken, whose seven homers and 37 RBI are rather frail for a player in a power position playing every day in the bandbox that is the American League's Coors Field.

Would resting a day or two help him cure his swing? Probably not. But a game off a series, a la Javy Lopez, or even sitting against some of the league's tougher rightys, might help him get his groove back.

I know this is sacrilege for those who consider Ripken the Hardest Workin' Man in Sports. And it's unfortunate that his want and desire to play every day overshadows his status as the game's leading active RBI producer.

But are other players who take an occasional respite not as worthy of superstar status as Ripken? Aren't Braves fans happier that Andres Galarraga sat to rest his bad back rather than trying to play through it and risking greater injury?

Cal's streak is phenomenal, no question. But what is he trying to prove by extending it?

Jack had to say goodbye to his streak via press release, not the farewell, say, Arnold Palmer received with tearful goodbyes at Oakmont in 1994 and at St. Andrews a year later.

Cal should learn from this, recognize that the best way to prove he's bigger than The Streak is to end it himself, not by having a stint on the disabled list dictate his future.


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