Eli Manning has been benched by the New York Giants, who plan to start Geno Smith this weekend in Oakland. This will end Manning’s consecutive-games streak at 210. According to reports on ESPN.com, Manning was given a choice of making that start against the Raiders to preserve his streak—and then the 2-9 Giants would have Smith come in during the contest as a backup—but the 36-year-old two-time Super Bowl champion didn’t want to do so as the streak would be meaningless if he isn’t going to finish the game. It would be tainted, so to speak.
I’m sure it’s hard on Manning to have that streak end even though he’s healthy and ready to play (and now the longest active streak belongs to Philip Rivers, whose streak ironically almost ended two weeks earlier. Rivers was cleared late in the week—almost last minute, it seemed—to make his start against Buffalo after being in the concussion protocol). But give Manning credit for being classy.
This reminds me of a situation with the MLB Orioles, from something I’d read in Champions! The Saga of the 1996 New York Yankees by John Harper and Bob Klapisch. In that book, it was revealed that in 1996 when manager Davey Johnson pulled Cal Ripken in the late innings of a ballgame for a faster pinch-runner, Ripken (from what I remember) sulked and gave a “no comment” to the press afterward instead of acknowledging his manager’s right to insert a faster runner to try and win the game. Pulling him didn’t hurt his iron-man streak, as Ripken had broken Lou Gehrig’s record a year earlier when Phil Regan was the skipper.
I can only go by what I read and remember from this book, but Ripken was portrayed as a selfish player. But the story didn’t end there. Apparently, when Johnson then moved Ripken to third base and had Manny Alexander play shortstop, Ripken didn’t bother to even say hello to Alexander. Wow. Like, you would expect a veteran player like Ripken to support a youngster, to help a rookie along. But not Ripken. Hey, perhaps it was karma when those 1996 Orioles fell in the ALCS thanks in part to Jeffrey Maier’s deflecting Derek Jeter’s flyball into the stands for what was ruled a home run in Game One. That 1996 Orioles team, despite its home runs, didn’t deserve to win anything. Not with one of their leaders acting essentially like a child. (And I haven’t even talked about Roberto Alomar’s spitting incident yet.)
Cal Ripken was credited for “saving” baseball in 1995 after the 1994-95 players’ strike had turned fans off. It was his showing up every day to play that the fans resonated with, like he was one of the guys. But c’mon… sulking and ignoring your teammate—or co-worker, essentially—are qualities that we should be emulating? The thing is, it wasn’t as though Davey Johnson’s moves affected the streak. That streak continued on until 1998 when Ripken pulled himself out of the starting lineup. His sulking and attitude, in my opinion, weren’t warranted. But what happened there isn’t talked about at all today. Instead, Ripken is regarded as a great ambassador of the game. The problem is the media reports things differently and I wouldn’t have known about Ripken’s stunts in 1996 if not for the book by Harper and Klapisch.
So, give Eli Manning credit for giving up his starting job when asked and allowing his streak to end.