Buzzfeed has waded knee-deep into derp:
See, the thing about this is that while “hype in social media age” can, indeed, be tricky, baseball players are not properly assessed by their “hype in the social media age.” “Sharknado” got a lot of hype in the social media age too. No one has mistaken it for a good movie.
Likewise, no one who knows anything about baseball thinks that Yasiel Puig is anything akin to “a poor man’s Jeff Francoeur.” While raw and while, on occasion, known to chase bad pitches, that’s pretty much where the comparisons stop. No one chases bad pitches like Francoeur. Puig’s power is immense and natural and his home run stroke is not dependent upon guessing so often like Francoeur’s is. He has shown some patience as well. At the moment he has 23 walks in 296 plate appearances in his age 22 season. Francoeur walked 23 times in his age-22 season. In 686 plate appearances.
But such comparisons seem silly because it’s simply undeniable that Puig is the better player than Francoeur ever was at any time in his minor or major league career and has the potential to be much, much better. We cheapen him with a comparison based on the most superficial first impression of each and the “hype in the social media age” stuff. Even at the time of his 2005 breakout most observers knew that Francoeur was playing way above his head. Most observers now likewise believe that — though his current stat line is a bit inflated by a fast start — Puig is not doing anything that is truly unexpected.
So, yes, it’s an unfair comp. It’s like clicking on the Buzzfeed article in question, seeing lots of pictures and large text and thinking that it’s a publication aimed at preschoolers.
And that’s not the case at all, is it?
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.