At the same time the Brewers were finalizing their deal with starter Matt Garza, outfielder Ryan Braun was making the rounds with the media and fans at the “Brewers on Deck” event at the Wisconsin Center earlier today. He was asked about a variety of topics, but mostly about his use of performance-enhancing drugs. Braun, of course, had his 2013 season was cut short in late July when he accepted a 65-game suspension for his involvement with Biogenesis. As Todd Rosiak of the Journal Sentinel details, Braun was apologetic, even mentioning that he had made personal phone calls to suite owners and season ticket holders.
Braun is also confident in his abilities in 2014 and beyond:
If Braun is unsure whether he’ll be able to put up numbers without the ‘extra edge’ he had previously, as one questioner put it, he certainly isn’t letting on.
“I think I’ll be better than I’ve ever been,” he said. “Very confident in that.”
Prior to his suspension last season, Braun had been dealing with some neck problems and a nerve injury in his right hand, resulting in a month-long DL stint. The hand injury sapped him of his power. In his final 31 games, between May 11 and July 21, Braun hit just one home run.
Braun turned 30 years old in November and he still has $24 million in salary remaining between 2014-15 before his five-year, $105 million extension kicks in. Obviously, the Brewers have a lot invested in Braun’s ability to both stay productive and out of trouble.
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.