Justin Upton celebrates his solo home run against the Milwaukee Brewers with teammate Roberts in Milwaukee

Plucky Diamondbacks can’t count on a repeat performance

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They were the comeback kids of 2011: the Diamondbacks won a major league-high 48 games in which they were trailing on their way to the NL West crown.

Too bad that’s not the kind of thing a team can count on carrying over from year to year.

Ian Kennedy, Miguel Montero, Ryan Roberts, Josh Collmenter, Gerardo Parra all might have had career seasons for Arizona. Starting pitchers Daniel Hudson and Joe Saunders likewise exceeded expectations, and the team’s best hitter, Justin Upton, played in 159 games after missing significant time in each of his first three seasons.

It’s not that everything went right for the Diamondbacks; Stephen Drew’s injury was a big inconvenience and the team got little from first base and second base for much of the season.

But more went right than anyone would have counted on six months ago, which is why Kirk Gibson is very likely to be named the NL’s Manager of the Year after the World Series.

It’s not going out on a limb to suggest that things won’t break so well in 2012. Kennedy could be excellent again and still not win 21 games. Roberts is a flawed player, one who will probably need to be returned to a utility role as next year goes along. Collmenter’s funky delivery and two-pitch arsenal probably won’t fool so many hitters.

So, the Diamondbacks need to be aggressive. Adding a legitimate No. 3 starter to pitch behind Kennedy and Hudson has to be the priority. Top prospect Jarrod Parker may be that pitcher as the season goes along, but it’d be for the best if he can start the year in the minors.

The Diamondbacks will also address second base, whether it’s in re-signing free agent Aaron Hill or looking elsewhere. They don’t need to do a whole lot else for the offense. Paul Goldschmidt looks like the answer at first. I’m not sure Parra will hit so well again, but he’s a nice option in left field while he’s cheap. Besides the second baseman, they really just need a solid player to pair with Roberts.

Arizona will likely enter 2012 as the favorites in the NL West, but that simply doesn’t count for much. Let’s hope owner Ken Kendrick untightens the purse strings some more in an effort to keep the Diamondbacks on top.

Report: Extension talks between Mets, Neil Walker are “probably dead”

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: Neil Walker #20 of the New York Mets sits in the dugout before the game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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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.

Rick Ankiel drank vodka before a start to deal with the yips

9 Apr 2000: Rick Ankiel #66 of the St. Louis Cardinals winds back to pitch the ball during the game against the Milwaukee Brweers at the Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals defeated the Brewers 11-2. Mandatory Credit: Elsa Hasch  /Allsport
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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.