The Astros, sitting at 8-24 in last place in the AL West, have designated outfielder Rick Ankiel for assignment, tweets Houston Chronicle beat writer Brian T. Smith. It was one of a handful of moves the Astros made day, also designating Fernando Martinez for assignment, calling up Jimmy Paredes and Trevor Crowe, demoting Brandon Laird to Triple-A Oklahoma City, and activating J.D. Martinez from the disabled list.
Though Ankiel had five home runs and a .731 OPS in 65 trips to the plate, he was hitting .194 with a .231 on-base percentage, about as all or nothing as you can get at the Major League level. In late April, Cliff Corcoran of Sports Illustrated highlighted Ankiel’s “three true outcomes” approach:
In fact, it would be more accurate to describe Ankiel as a One True Outcome player. Yes, he has five home runs, but he has just one walk. Rather 28 of his 34 True Outcomes, a whopping 82 percent, have been strikeouts. Having struck out in his only two official at-bats on Thursday night, Ankiel has now struck out 28 times in 45 plate appearances, or 62 percent of the time he steps into the batter’s box. Not only would that be a record for strikeout percentage by a non-pitcher in a minimum of 45 plate appearances if the season (or Ankiel’s involvement in it) ended today, it means that Ankiel is striking out more often that Cust accomplished any of the Three True Outcomes in the most extreme TTO season in major league history.
Updating those figures as of today, Ankiel has the five home runs, three walks, and 35 strikeouts, representing 66 percent of his plate appearances. The Astros have been outscored by 75 runs in 32 games, so the decision to DFA Ankiel is quite understood.
It may be the 33-year-old’s last hurrah as he hasn’t shown any signs of improvement and teams have little use for a player who can’t get on base at least 30 percent of the time, particularly one that strikes out 12 times for every one walk.
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.
A couple of weeks ago our president wrote one of his more . . . vexing tweets. He was talking about immigration when he whipped out the phrase . . . “Easy D”:
No one was quite sure what he meant by Easy D. Was it the older brother of N.W.A.’s founder? The third sequel to that Emma Stone movie from a few years back? So many questions!
Baseball Twitter had fun with it, though, with a lot of people wondering how they could work it in casually to their commentary:
It wasn’t a scout who did it, but twelve days after that, a player obliged Mr. McCullough:
I have no more idea what Turner was talking about with that than Trump was. We’ll have to wait for the full story in the L.A. Times. But I am going to assume Turner was doing McCullough a solid with that one rather than commenting on the president’s tweet. Either way, I’m glad he made the effort.
And before you ask: yes, it’s a slow news day.