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Achilles and Ankiel

The Big Read on pitching phenoms is coming soon. In the meantime, I forgot to post a link to this piece I wrote about the fascinating career of Rick Ankiel.

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9 Responses to Achilles and Ankiel

  1. mckingford says:

    That’s a great story, and I’ve often wondered why the Ankiel comeback hasn’t received more attention for just how remarkable it is.

    At the same time though, I think the comparison is terribly unfair to Rob Deer. I know Deer struck out a ton, but he also walked a lot. In fact, he walked enough that his career OBP was over 100 points higher than his BA. That’s why he was the king of the Three True Outcomes. Ankiel, it seems, has only mastered two of them…

  2. David says:

    mckingford, you’re right. My favorite team was the Detroit Tigers when they had Rob Deer, Cecil Fielder, Mickey Tettleton and Pete Incaviglia. Picked to be historically bad, they contended by being a smart “proto-roto” team … forcing walks, working counts and swinging like hell. And I was surprised by how athletic Deer was. For a guy whose uniform looked like it was stuffed with bowling balls, he moved pretty well in the outfield and had a powerful throwing arm.

  3. Nate says:

    My question: Joe, you seem to presuppose that Ankiel will be the last pitcher to ever become an every-day player as a hitter. You told an interesting story, but what makes you believe that intuition? I’m sure there will be another one at another time soon.

  4. alan0825 says:

    Joe, you might add that Rick was a very good outfielder and used that arm to throw out several runners.

  5. Rob Smith says:

    I watched Ankiel during the Atlanta years. He was spectacularly bad. Really, at that point, he was (at best) a late game defensive replacement… and his defense wasn’t that spectacular, except for his arm…. which ironically was quite accurate as well as strong. Maybe he should have pitched from centerfield instead of the mound. I thought at the time that it was Ankiel’s last stop. Somehow, he’s managed to land a job every year since then. He must have pictures of Bud Selig, or something, because his performance is not worthy of being in the big leagues and hasn’t been for a long time.

  6. rcharbon says:

    Surprised you left Clemens out of the phenom article.

    Also, please check your email re: Boston Marathon blog post.

  7. You disappoint me Joe. You left out the most interesting aspect of Rick Ankiel’s demise as a starting pitcher, which was Tony LaRussa’s culpability in destroying his confidence.

    Prior to the playoffs, when St. Louis was setting its rotation, LaRussa said he would not start Ankiel—arguably his best pitcher—in Game 1, because he didn’t want to put too much pressure on the rookie. Right away, LaRussa is telling the world that Ankiel might not be able to handle the pressure of a Game 1 start in the playoffs, even though he had been a reliable performer down the stretch of the pennant race. Then at the last minute, LaRussa changed his mind, and announced Ankiel as his Game 1 starter. LaRussa’s reason for the switch, again, was that he didn’t want Ankiel to spend his days thinking about the pressure of starting in Game 1, so the manager didn’t tell the rookie of his decision until the last second. Again, the message was, I don’t think the kid can handle the pressure. He’s telling Ankiel, whatever you do, DON’T THINK ABOUT THE ENORMOUS PRESSURE OF STARTING GAME 1 OF THE PLAYOFFS. Not only that, but he’s not allowing Ankiel to go about his normal routine of preparing for a start, in the biggest game of his life. Tragically, Ankiel fulfills LaRussa’s prophecy and goes into complete meltdown mode on national television and is never the same pitcher again.

    LaRussa’s over-thinking, over-managing and love of mind games were his greatest weaknesses as a manager, a

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