It could be do-or-die time for Justin Smoak.
With Mike Carp returning to the disabled list because of a strained groin, the Mariners brought Smoak back to the majors on Tuesday. He’ll likely play regularly at first base as the team tries to determine whether to include him in its plans for 2013.
Smoak hit just .242 and failed to homer in 20 games for Triple-A Tacoma. Obviously, that’s not very encouraging at all. The good news is that he had a 16/16 K/BB ratio in his 66 at-bats. He was at 85/29 K/BB in 344 at-bats for the Mariners this season. And while he didn’t homer in his stint at Tacoma, he did have six doubles. That’s just as many doubles as he managed in five times as many at-bats for Seattle.
Smoak is still relatively young at 25, but he’s had 1,119 major league at-bats to prove himself and he’s currently sporting a .215/.297/.365 line. If he doesn’t take a big step forward in the Mariners’ final 45 games, the team will have to weigh giving up on him and installing Jesus Montero at first base going forward. Montero isn’t going to last at catcher, a point the Mariners seemed to concede when they drafted Mike Zunino third overall in June, and given that he’s struggled mightily as a DH this year, first base might be the best long-term option for him.
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.