Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post spoke with Stephen Strasburg recently, and Strasburg said something that — though no one has really mentioned it — seems super obvious the minute Strasburg says it:
I just need to keep working to get into a routine to where it’s just auto-pilot. Answer the bell every fifth day. Kind of just get into the monotony of it, not really focusing on, like, ‘Oh, here’s his next start, Strasburg strikes again’ or whatever. It’s a ton of starts that you get in the big leagues. It’s a long road. It’s a grind. That’s kind of what I’m looking forward to. It’s still kind of the whole atmosphere of like, all the hype and stuff when I’m pitching.”
It’s true that every one of his starts has been a big event. And that’s kind of nuts. Even the top flight starters in baseball don’t get that treatment. Guys like CC Sabathia are allowed to just do their thing, with most of us looking up after a month of not paying attention to see that he has logged six starts, 43 innings and struck out a ton of dudes, all while getting the work of the season under his belt.
You can’t really quantify how stuff like “there are 15 extra reporters here and several thousand flashbulbs popping every time I pitch” affects a guy’s performance and preparation. But it’d be silly to think it has no effect. How lucky Strasburg will be when he gets a chance to simply be a joe jobber in the middle of June at some point.
On Sunday, it was reported that second baseman Neil Walker and the Mets were discussing a potential three-year contract extension worth “north of $40 million.” Those discussions took a turn for the worse. The Mets feel extension talks are “probably dead,” according to Mike Puma of the New York Post.
Walker underwent a lumbar microdisectomy in September, ending his 2016 season during which he hit .282/.347/.476 with 23 home runs and 55 RBI over 458 plate appearances.
The Mets may not necessarily need to keep Walker around as it has some potential options up the middle waiting in the minor leagues. Though Amed Rosario is expected to stick at shortstop, Gavin Cecchini — the club’s No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline — could shift over to second base.
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 disintegrating. 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.