For the third straight season the Blue Jays have a 40-homer hitter, as Edwin Encarnacion went deep last night for the 40th time after Jose Bautista reached that mark in both 2010 and 2011.
Encarnacion has always had a ton of offensive upside, especially in terms of power potential, so much so that the Reds and Blue Jays lived with his mostly awful defense for seven years waiting for him to have a breakout season. And yet prior to this year he was a lifetime .260 hitter with a .789 OPS and career-high of 26 homers in 2008.
Now he has 40 homers in 138 games, along with a .279 batting average and .946 OPS that ranks third in the American League. And his defense is no longer an issue, because Toronto has used Encarnacion at first base and designated hitter.
Josh Hamilton leads baseball with 41 homers this season and at least a few other hitters from a group that includes Ryan Braun, Adam Dunn, Curtis Granderson, Miguel Cabrera, and Giancarlo Stanton figure to crack 40 homers by the end of the season. For now, though, Encarnacion is just the fifth right-handed hitter to reach 40 homers during the past six seasons, joining Bautista (twice), Albert Pujols (twice), Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Reynolds.
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.