We mentioned this over the weekend in that post about the misgivings local officials have about helping the Red Sox build their new spring training facility, but James Wagner of the Washington Post has a more in-depth story about the Nationals flirtation with Fort Myers.
The upshot: the Nationals approached
Hammond Lee County officials about moving to City of Palms park — the Red Sox old spring training home — over the summer, but talks haven’t gone anywhere. This passage says why:
… having committed more than $80 million in a bond issue for a new Red Sox stadium and having approved $42.5 million in upgrades to the Minnesota Twins’ facility, Hammond Stadium, the county is limited in what it can offer the Nationals. Despite the financial constraints, Lee County officials remain optimistic they can still entice the Nationals …
There are a lot of ideas in there about how the government can “lure” the Nationals with $1 rent and diverting some local taxes to eventually pay for renovations. It’s a familiar story. Nowhere, however, is there mention of what the Nats might pony up themselves. I guess it’s assumed that a team paying anything for its own facility is crazy talk.
Why the county, which is going broke appeasing the Red Sox and the Twins, should be in the business of “offering” or “enticing” a baseball team owned by an insanely rich person is beyond me. The total renovations required for City of Palms park — which served quite well as the southern home for Red Sox Nation for several years — are about $40-50 million. That’s less than half of what they’re paying Jayson Werth. It’s about one percent of owner Ted Lerner’s net worth. I bet the Nats could swing it if they wanted to.
Professional sports: the only business in which it is assumed on an a priori basis that the government, not the business owner, will build the factory.
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.