While the Hardball Times’ Brian Gunn has most certainly reconsidered his earlier advice that “the Cardianals should cut Rick Ankiel loose rather than turn him into a novelty act”, at least one observer has yet to be won over by the former St. Louis reliever’s astonishing success as a converted outfielder. From SI.com’s Alexh Belth :
Former minor league pitcher Pat Jordan, who has written extensively about his failures as a pitcher in the memoirs “A False Spring” and “A Nice Tuesday”, has also written about other mound failures like Steve Blass himself, Bo Belinsky and Steve Dalkowski. His advice to Ankiel? Don’t think. As Crash Davis once told Nuke Laloosh — a character who, incidentally, was based on Dalkowski: “It can only hurt the team.”
Ankiel continued to battle his control problems and was then felled by injuries. In 2005, when he was at the end of his rope as a pitcher, the Cardinals offered him a chance to reinvent himself as an outfielder. And so, the fallen pitcher was able to reemerge as an outfielder.
“I liked Rick, but don’t have any interest in him right now,” Jordan said recently, “because there is no real story there. If he had overcome the monkey on his back, maybe. He ran away from his problem and was lucky enough to have another talent, which everyone knew about when he was pitching because he used to pinch hit in the minors. It’s a nice story but it’s not really interesting.”
Jordan’s 2001 New York Times Magazine profile of Ankiel — presumably a far more interesting subject when he was on the brink of baseball extinction, can still be found here. And if Rick’s comeback isn’t noteworthy enough, perhaps the writer might consider covering the less celebrated rehab attempts of Juan Encarnacion or the Raspberry Scoatee. (Belth’s Bronx Banter Q&A with Jordan is also still available).
In the meantime, Ankiel has hit a 3 run HR off Pittsburgh’s Brian Bullington, as the Cardinals lead, 7-3, in the last of the 5th. St. Louis can close to within a game of first place Chicago in the NL Central ; Ryan Dempster allowed 4 runs in the top of the 9th at Wrigley, as the Dodgers came from behind to win, 7-4. Joe “I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass” Beimel picked up the victory with 1.2 IP of relief, while Takashsi Saito earned his 37th save with a perfect 9th inning.