Two fabulous bits of news in one little story: ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin reports that the Mets are going to send Jenrry Mejia back to the minors to be stretched out for a return to starting duties and that they’re going to call up knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to take Wednesday’s start against the Nationals.
All of this is occasioned by the giant anvil that has been dropped on the Mets’ rotation as of late, what with Oliver Perez being kicked down to relief duties and John Niese tweaking his hamstring. In addition to Dickey being called in to start, Hisanori Takahashi is jointing the rotation as well and will take Friday’s start.
But no matter what’s occasioning all of this, they’re good moves. Mejia is the latest and perhaps the most regrettable recent example of a big league club taking a perfectly awesome starting pitcher and rushing him up to become a reliever in the majors. And just like Joba Chamberlain and Neftali Feliz before him, he’s been successful in the pen. Which shouldn’t be surprising, because it’s much easier to come in and throw one inning with your best gas and little need for secondary pitches.
The only problem is that teams appear to be confusing these guys’ success with “a reliever’s temperament” or some such nonsense, making them loathe to restore the guys back to the starting rotation where their skills can be put to better use. Thankfully the Mets have been forced into making the right move with Mejia. A guy who, if given the chance to develop his secondary pitches, gain a little strength and gain a little confidence, could turn into a top of the rotation starter.
Of course patience will be necessary for this to work out. If the plan is to send Mejia down to double A or something and let him spend the season starting in the minors, building arm strength and building confidence for the future, mazel tov. It’ll be another thing altogether, however, if the plan is to give him four weeks in Buffalo and then rush him back to New York to join the Mets’ rotation. If that happens he’s likely to get shelled, because really, it’s going to take longer than that for Mejia to get a feel for the changeup and curveball he really hasn’t had to use that much this year, and he’s going to need those pitches to be whip-smart if he expects to get major league hitters out with them two and three times in a single game.
But let’s leave our hand-wringing over that for another day. For today, be happy that the Mets are doing the right thing with their best pitching prospect since Doc Gooden. Oh, and that they’re calling up a knuckleballer, because that’s really cool.
The story of Rick Ankiel is well known by now. He was a phenom pitcher who burst onto the scene with the Cardinals in 1999 and into the 2000 season as one of the top young talents in the game. Then, in the 2000 playoffs, he melted down. He got the yips. Whatever you want to call it, he lost the ability to throw strikes and his pitching career was soon over. He came back, however, against all odds, and remade his career as a solid outfielder.
It’s inspirational and incredible. But there is a lot more to the story that we’ve ever known. We will soon, however, as Ankiel is coming out with a book. Today he took to the airwaves and shared some about it. Including some amazing stuff:
On drinking in his first start after the famous meltdown in Game One of the 2000 National League division series against the Braves:
“Before that game…I’m scared to death. I know I have no chance. Feeling the pressure of all that, right before the game I get a bottle of vodka. I just started drinking vodka. Low and behold, it kind of tamed the monster, and I was able to do what I wanted. I’m sitting on the bench feeling crazy I have to drink vodka to pitch through this. It worked for that game. (I had never drank before a game before). It was one of those things like the yipps, the monster, the disease…it didn’t fight fair so I felt like I wasn’t going to fight fair either.”
Imagine spending your whole life getting to the pinnacle of your career. Then imagine it immediately disintegrate. And then imagine having to go out and do it again in front of millions. It’s almost impossible for anyone to contemplate and, as such, it’s hard to judge almost anything Ankiel did in response to that when he was 21 years-old. That Ankiel got through that and made a career for himself is absolutely amazing. It’s a testament to his drive and determination.
A couple of weeks ago our president wrote one of his more . . . vexing tweets. He was talking about immigration when he whipped out the phrase . . . “Easy D”:
No one was quite sure what he meant by Easy D. Was it the older brother of N.W.A.’s founder? The third sequel to that Emma Stone movie from a few years back? So many questions!
Baseball Twitter had fun with it, though, with a lot of people wondering how they could work it in casually to their commentary:
It wasn’t a scout who did it, but twelve days after that, a player obliged Mr. McCullough:
I have no more idea what Turner was talking about with that than Trump was. We’ll have to wait for the full story in the L.A. Times. But I am going to assume Turner was doing McCullough a solid with that one rather than commenting on the president’s tweet. Either way, I’m glad he made the effort.
And before you ask: yes, it’s a slow news day.