Monday, January 30, 2012

Player Profile: Rick Ankiel

I have nine cards of Rick Ankiel. This one is from 2010 Topps Opening Day.

Playing career: Rick Ankiel has had one of the most unusual careers in baseball history. He came up with the Cardinals as a pitcher and had a great regular season, going 11-7 and finishing second in the NL rookie of the year voting. Then he suddenly and completely lost the strike zone in the playoffs against the Mets and Braves, walking 11 batters and allowing 5 hits in just 4 innings over 3 games. He was unable to regain his form the next year, went down to the minors and hurt his arm. He decided to come back as an outfielder and not only worked his way back to the major leagues but became, if not a star, at least a credible regular, hitting 25 home runs in 2008 for the Cardinals.

Where he is now: He is a free agent after hitting .239 with 9 HR and 37 RBI in 122 games for Washington last year.

My memories: I remember thinking that we would never see him again once his wildness problems hit him full on. It’s amazing how he turned himself into a legitimate major league hitter.

Interesting stories: Many believe Ankiel’s mental problems as a pitcher came from his relationship with his father, who pushed him very hard, often against his wishes, into becoming a great baseball player. Earlier in 2000, his father was arrested for running a cocaine-smuggling ring. You can read more about the Ankiel family here. He used to have a rather strange website called Rick Ankiel Online. The site is gone but you can find some of the highlights here.

Google Autocomplete results: He is second when you type Rick A, between Rick Astley, singer best known for RickRolling, and Rick Adelman, former Houston Rockets head coach. There do not appear to be any other prominent Rick Ankiels.

Coming up next: The next profile will be Willie Ansley.

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