Rick Ankiel. What a story. And it looks as if we’re only getting into the final act.
You probably know Ankiel as the Major League Baseball journeyman who can hit for some power, play good defense, rack up a ton of outfield assists and strike out a lot. Well, there’s a good reason he strikes out a lot. He’s far more familiar with throwing strikes, than hitting them.
Ankiel came into the bigs a highly regarded pitcher who could dispatch a hitter with power pitches, or nasty off-speed options. Like many lefties, he possessed a sweeping curve ball that would leave hitters confused, and often looking silly.
In 2001, during the NLCS, Ankiel fell apart on the mound vs. the New York Mets. He lasted 2/3 of an inning, losing complete control of his pitches. I’m not talking pitches in the dirt–he was throwing the ball into the net behind home plate. It hurt to watch. Here was someone with incredible talent, mentally melting down while on the field of play. The worst part about it…he was basically a kid. The video below is from Ankiel’s next outing, highlighting his meltdown.
After attempting to push through various pitching issues, Rick Ankiel asked the Cardinals organization to allow him to become a hitter…he wanted to play outfield. They management brass obliged. Ankiel worked his way back up from the farm system, and in his first game as a Cardinals position player, he hit a home run. Cinderella story, right? Eh. Perhaps this was his “going to the ball,” but it wasn’t the “happily ever after.”
Ankiel has since hopped around to several teams, and competing for regular playing time with the Washington Nationals in 2012, he was released around All-Star break.
The thing is…Rick Ankiel still wants to play baseball. He’s still in great shape, and has several baseball years left in the tank. And now, the rumors are swirling. Swirling so strongly that they’re starting a little storm on St. Louis talk radio, and within the baseball community. They go a little something like this:
“Now that Ankiel is older, and more mature, he’s considering a move back to the mound…”
Yep. I just started that rumor right there. However, there is truth to such a claim. Because it seems the organization who fostered and facilitated the beginning of Ankiel’s career, is interested (and in dire need) of a veteran lefty to work from 60 feet 6 inches.
It would only seem appropriate to see Ankiel report to Jupiter, Florida, in February with the Cardinals pitchers and catchers. Every Cinderella story has to have a re-fit of the glass slipper, doesn’t it?
I really…really hope these rumors are true.