Rick Ankiel was once a left handed stud pitcher for the Cardinals. He was going to be the biggest ace in the history of the franchise.
He became uncontrollably wild, throwing balls wayyy over the catchers head during postseason play. At worst, he was a laughing stock and at best, a case to be pitied. He never regained his form after that and was ready to walk away from baseball altogether. However, he decided to come back as an outfielder with amazing results.
His once valuable pitching arm became a canon from center field and his power was unmistakable. It became ridiculous to think that this guy was only going to be hitting once every five days. He worked his way back to the majors and became the Cardinal center fielder
His road eventually led him to the Nationals, but upon returning to St. Louis for the first time, he did a very classy thing. He extended a thank you to all of St. Louis for being behind him, supporting him and getting to play in front of the best fans in baseball. He did this by taking out an ad in the local paper and it was well received. Ankiel is definitely in the fold of, “Once a Cardinal, always a Cardinal” and will be remembered by Cardinal Nation forever. He won’t be remembered as the young kid with the amazing left arm, but as the power hitting center fielder who left St. Louis with dignity and humbleness.
So why bring this up?
It’s no secret that recently named ex-closer Ryan Franklin has been struggling. His ERA had skyrocketed up past 11.00 and he was giving up home runs left and right. In save situations or not, he was not pitching many scoreless innings and blew 4 of 5 save opportunities. There was some murmuring of boos (certainly not a loud chorus of them) and these were Franklin’s words.
“Just because you spent your money to come here and watch us play, and
somebody happens to make one bad pitch and gives up a homer, you don’t
start booing them. I’ve been here for five years, and four years I’ve
been pretty good. You should go write stories about the fans booing.
They’re supposed to be the best fans in baseball. Yeah right.”
Many many ballplayers far greater than Ryan Franklin have agreed that Cardinal fans are the best in baseball. Players have again and again commented on it after coming to St. Louis after playing for another organization. It’s an organization that players with the caliber of Lance Berkman seek out to play for. And Franklin says, “Yeah right” to all of that?
He renounced his comments later, but the damage had already been done. The boos were not that loud before and I have personally never booed Franklin. But now? If he hears the boos, it’s his own fault. How cocky to think that it’s all on the fans and he deserves none of the blame? And how arrogant to say he’s being booed over “one bad pitch.” No, you’re being booed because in 5 chances, you’ve only managed to save one game. And you’ve given up umpteen home runs. Quite a bit more than “one bad pitch.”
Franklin, you can learn something from Ankiel. Ankiel was once a cocky kid who had to let some adversity come his way to teach him a little humbleness. He learned from it and became a better man and baseball player for it. You would do well to do the same. And maybe not make those kinds of comments at the people who pay your salary.
Ankiel, always a Cardinal,
I drove to Kansas City and watched the Royals play the Indians on a very, very chilly night of baseball. Felt like I should’ve been watching the Chiefs, as cold as it was. I rooted for the home team, but they eventually fell in extras thanks to some poor work out of the bullpen. But I got to see my first Major League game of the season. I’ll be going soon to Busch.
On to Cardinal baseball.
Today was a double header, which the Cards ended up splitting with the Nationals. You always want to win 2 obviously, but I’ll take the split and hopefully tomorrow we will take the series win as well. As the saying goes, if you can win every series, you’re doing pretty good.
It was even better combined with the Cubs splitting their double header and losses by the Reds and Brewers. These four teams are now tied for first atop the central division, all at .500.
Both games with the Nats and the Cards, the teams were two runs apart. In the first game of the doubleheader, Westbrook was far from sharp. But he also didn’t get a lot of help behind him. The problem with the Cardinal defense is that it is simply ‘adequate.’ Sometimes things that aren’t recorded as “errors” is still sub-par defense. A ball that Theriot only knocks down that a better shortstop would record an out on. Tyler Greene making a poor throw to 2nd, allowing them only to get 1 out instead of the double play. And then the obvious errors: the drop balls, the missed catches, etc. We knew from the beginning that the defense would not be the best it’s ever been. And that’s why the pitching and the hitting needs to be as sharp as possible.
Ankiel getting his first plate appearance in the first inning of the first game got a nice round of appreciation applause, which was great to see. Ankiel took out a half page ad in the paper thanking them for their support. Great move, Rick.
In the second game, Jaime Garcia was again plagued by poor defense, but managed to pitch good enough to nail the win, both for himself and the team. Also in the night game was the first save opportunity since LaRussa announced that Ryan Franklin would no longer be his pitcher of choice in save situations. Mitchell Boggs got the nod and locked in the save. And all of Cardinal Nation breathed a sigh of relief.
In both games, the Cardinals continue to rake. Everyone was getting hits, even guys like Punto and Descalso. And the big guys continue to do what they’ve been doing. 23 hits among the two games is certainly not too shabby.
Two for one baseball,
In 2000, the Cardinals won the Central Division and was paired against the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS. Cardinals manger, Tony LaRussa made a surprising move, opting to start rookie pitching sensation, Rick Ankiel in Game 1 of that series, rather than established starter Daryl Kile. In the 3rd inning, millions of Cardinal fans watched Ankiel implode on the mound. Ball after ball sailed over the catcher to the backstop as suddenly Rick Ankiel could no longer find the strikezone. He ended up walking 4 guys, throwing several wild pitches, allowing 4 runs to score.
Ankiel and Cardinal fans alike called it a fluke. And because the Redbirds advanced to the NLCS, it seemed like nothing more than an answer to future trivia questions. But in the NLCS, Ankiel again could not find the strikezone against the New York Mets. He was booted after only 20 pitches when 20% of his pitches again found their way to the backstop.
This time the Cardinals would not advance, as the Mets went on to take the series and advance to the World Series.
Flash forward to 2010.
This time Ankiel is a name known to all baseball fans. But he’s no longer known as a hard throwing kid in his rookie season, sporting highlighted blonde hair. He’s a griseled veteran, who has transformed himself into an outfielder with an elite arm. He worked himself back to the Majors, as a potential offensive threat as well. He did well with the Cardinals until there was no room for him any longer. He spent some of the season, playing with the going-nowhere Kansas City Royals before being traded to Atlanta.
How interesting it is that Rick is back in the postseason, playing for the very team that he first fell apart against. But this time he has stepped up to the challenge. Not only has he been successful, he has been the hero. In game 2, Ankiel hit the game-winning home run in the 11th inning.
A 3 games series against the Cubs. A series that we could have
swept, just as easily as we could have lost all 3. So I am somewhat
thankful to escape with at least 1 win against the boys from
The odd thing was that the games were remarkably similar. Let's have
a recap, shall we?
- Cubs go up 3-0 within in the first 2 innings.
- Cardinals tie it 3-3, thanks to a 3 run shot by Albert.
- Cardinals go on to win the game in the bottom of the 9th thanks to small good old-fashioned small ball
- Final Score: 4-3 Cardinals
- Cubs go up 4-1 within the first 2 innings.
- In the bottom of the 9th, Albert gets things going with a double and is followed by a Ryan Ludwick home run, which leaves them just shy of a game-tying run.
- Final Score: 4-3 Cubs
- Cubs go up 3-0.
- Pujols gets things going with a run-scoring double, following a walk by Aaron Miles.
- In the bottom of the 9th, the Cards had 3 different runners on, but couldn’t seal the deal.
- Final Score: 3-2 Cubs
In all 3 games...
1)...the Cubs started out with a 3 run lead.
2)...the Cardinals mounted a comeback; 1 of them successful, two of
3)...the Cardinals made the 9th inning worth watching.
4)...the difference one tiny run.
5)...Albert Pujols was the rallying point, either the
first to score an RBI or a run and in one game, both.
Pujols went 5 for 13 (.385 AVG), with two doubles, a home run, 4 RBI
& 2 runs. Not surprising. He's always hit well against Chicago.
If only we could get him a little help. Yeah, Ludwick hit that
dinger and Miles was scrappy as always, scratching out walks and
infield hits, but come on. A couple of doubles by ANYBODY and we
could have had these games. The injuries are not helping.
Glaus has this shoulder problem now, which really isn't a big deal
for this series. The Cubs have had his number all year, save the 2
home run game he had after going like 1 in 500. But we could really
use him the rest of the series.
Add to that Ankiel, Molina and a host of other guys bit by the injury
bug and it's really a wonder we're still in this thing. It makes you
wonder that even if we do make it to October, how healthy of a team
we could put on the field. We know we're practically useless in the
postseason without Carpenter on the team and now it looks like he
won't even be back in a bullpen role, as previously thought.
The one really bright spot of the series? (Besides Albert,
of course.) I can't believe I'm going to say it, but the pitching.
They really came through. They were far from perfect, but they kept
us in it the entire game. The starters and the relievers teamed up
to pitch some pretty good ball. They got out of countless jams:
bases loaded, runners on the corners, you name it.
5 pitchers allowed 3 ER over 9 innings.
The Cubs left 8 on base.
5 pitchers allowed 3 ER over 9 innings.
The Cubs left 18 on base.
4 pitchers teamed up for 1 ER over 9 innings.
The Cubs left 9 on base.
The relief corps were especially impressive, with only 1 of those
runs being charged to a reliever.
Now what? Well, the Brewers fell to the Phils, so we keep pace
with them, but lose a game to the Phillies and the still streaking
Astros who crushed Pittsburgh 6-0 thanks to another outstanding
showing by Roy Oswalt. He went the distance in a shutout
performance, where he only allowed 3 hits.
Hopefully the Pittsburgh bats stay ice cold because we start our
next series against them tonight. And if we can't beat this last
place team, in the midst of a 6 game losing streak, then we don't
deserve to see October ball. We MUST take 2 of 3, if not a sweep or
I will declare it to be over for the Redbirds.
Moving on to Pittsburgh,