Remember when Rick Ankiel broke down and admitted that he didn’t have pitcher stuff? Instead, he had outfield stuff, and he was going to do that instead. It must be nice to have so much talent that you can switch positions.
We checked back with him last year, and he was doing pretty well for himself. And now, the guy who struck out 19.7 batters/9IP in his senior year of High School is looking like he is a right fielder for good. On June 16th, he had 3 homers in one game. He now has 19 on the year, along with 52 RBI. (I began writing this piece on June 20th. Since then, Ankiel has gone 0-13.) Not bad, Rick. And he turns 28 in a month. How insane would it be if, having led the Cardinals to the NL Central title in 2000, he comes back in 2007 to replace the old and decrepit Jim Edmonds? As I mentioned before, I like Jim, but it might be time for him to launch a preemptive strike of the "you can’t fire me, I quit" variety. The Cardinals probably have the most lopsided drama-to-wins ratio of any team besides the Astros. And maybe the Orioles. Anyway. Rick’s problem is that he can only play right field, apparently. This is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. Sure, the ball comes off the bat differently to left or right. But have you ever looked in a mirror? It’s the same effect. They’re basically the same position. Center, you can’t learn – you just have to be an athletic guy. But left and right are dopplegangers. It takes time to adjust, but the Cardinals have the entire 2007 season to play with. This whole year is already one big training exercise, except all the ‘trainees’ are really old. I submit that Juan Encarnacion’s "success" in right shouldn’t keep Ankiel out of the bigs, as La Russa says. The only real problem is that he has no options remaining. And the Cardinals can’t afford to give up any more outfielders for no reason. So they want him to develop, and they don’t think he can get good playing time in the Majors yet. So he’s still down in the minors.
In fairness to the Cards, this is probably the right decision. Ankiel is only batting .270 in the AAA PCL league. So he isn’t setting the world on fire, by any means. So one argument is to give the guy some limited MLB experience while the stakes are low, and risk losing him to another team if he has to get sent down again. Or you leave him in the minors to develop at a 4AB a day pace. Basically a wash.
Also, thanks go out to geoff for the comment the other day. I forgot about that, because I forgot that you guys posted comments. Because you stopped posting comments. Anyway, it looks like we have found a new home at http://ballhouse.blogspot.com. Nothing concrete yet. Right now, we’re calling ourselves the Ballhouse. Not sure I like that name, in fact I’m pretty sure I don’t. Best suggestion for a new name gets a prize. Send it to me at reidksmith at hotmail. Include your business in the subject line, or I might delete it along with the payment due notices from Discover.