Former pitcher/outfielder Rick Ankiel had perhaps the most watched battle with the yips, also known colloquially as “Steve Blass Disease,” the sudden inability to throw a baseball to its intended target. In Game 1 of the 2000 NLDS against the Braves, Ankiel uncorked five wild pitches in the third inning and was unable to complete the frame.
Ankiel wrote a book about his experiences, titled, The Phenomenon: Pressure, the Yips, and the Pitch that Changed my Life. As Craig wrote about earlier this year, Ankiel said he drank vodka before that Game 1 start against the Braves. Ankiel said of his anxiety, “It didn’t fight fair so I felt like I wasn’t going to fight fair either.”
USA TODAY has a great feature on mental illness in sports by Scott Gleeson and Erik Brady. Ankiel is one of the athletes profiled. Speaking about athletes’ reluctance to seek help, Ankiel said, “There’s such a stigma, especially with men, that you can’t falter, and that you shouldn’t get help.”
Sadly, many fans find it hard to empathize with athletes who face these problems because of the notoriety and money they have. Ankiel said, “We’re getting paid millions, but that doesn’t mean we’re immune to inner pain and torture.”
The whole thing is worth a read, but if you just care about baseball, then Ankiel’s section should get five minutes of your time.
Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.
That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.
Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.