Rick Ankiel’s weird career has taken another interesting turn, as the retired pitcher-turned-outfielder has been hired by the Nationals as a “life skills coordinator” as part of their minor-league coaching staff.
According to the team’s press release the 35-year-old Ankiel “will draw on his vast experience as a player to help mentor Nationals farmhands.”
Few players showed as much promise as Ankiel back when he was a young starting pitcher, few players went through a darker period than when he ceased being able to throw the ball over the plate, and few players totally changed the direction of their career like when he became a major league outfielder.
So who knows exactly what the job of a “life skills coordinator” entails, but if nothing else Ankiel is a very interesting pick for the gig.
When last we checked in with Dontrelle Willis the former Rookie of the Year had been released by the Giants in April and was talking about potentially becoming a pitching coach.
Apparently nothing came of that, because now Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com reports that Willis has signed with the Bridgeport Bluefish of the independent Atlantic League and will make his debut Friday night.
Willis is still just 32 years old, but he hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2011 and hasn’t been effective in the majors since way back in 2006. Since then he has a 5.65 ERA in 404 innings as a major leaguer, with some similarly ugly numbers in the minors of late.
I still wonder what might have happened if Willis had given up pitching in 2009 or so and focused on becoming a full-time hitter, like Rick Ankiel. At this point that ship has sailed too, unfortunately, but he’s a career .244 hitter with nine homers and a .665 OPS in 447 plate appearances.
After I claimed that the Cespedes throw was the best I’ve ever seen, a commenter made a great point: the best part of the throw was that it inspired everyone to seek out great examples of other throws and share video. Which is totally correct. Ranking things subjectively can be fun, but why bother when we can just have some outfield assist porn?
There were five throws from four players which kept coming up in comments and on Twitter this morning: Bo Jackson nailing Harold Reynolds, Jose Guillen’s “mutant throw” from right to nail a runner on third, a Vlad Guerrero missile from back in his Expos days and two throws from Rick Ankiel in the same game, with the idea that quantity matters too.
Hard to argue with any of them, really. And of course it’s hard to judge these or Cespedes’ throw against old school throws which went down before video of great plays became as commonplace as they are these days. Personally I think Guillen’s is the most impressive due to the distance and how rarely you see someone nailed at third by the right fielder compared to base runners getting nailed at home. But like I said, it’s hard to argue.
But why argue? Let’s just watch:
All of them great, and I’m sure there are many others which match them. But I hope we can all agree on something: watching cool throws like this is way better than any home run highlight reel.