Sunday, January 24, 2010

Can't Help Rooting for Ankiel

There is so much for Royals' sympathizers to gnash their teeth about. Knowing their team just picked up another in a large collection of low OBP hitters, can't help their pain very much. But unlike some of the other low OBP guys they have picked up in the last two to three years, at least Ankiel is someone to root for. He's the classic underdog.

Most of us know Ankiel's story. A highly prized pitching phenom, he blazed a glorious path in his heady Cardinal debut season. He was awesome (to use an overly used hyperbole). Then we all watched with horror as he developed an inability to even hit the catcher's mitt, never mind the strike zone. Instead of quitting baseball (a la Knobloch, Kline), he grunted it back to the minors and started over as an outfielder.

Tony LaRussa, who is as loyal to those he likes as much as he is nasty to those he doesn't, gave him his second big league wind for the Cardinals and he had flashes of fun. Of course, the PED thing bit him a bit in the butt, but he wasn't the only one there, was he?

Ankiel went from phenom to Joe Everyman. He went from the spoiled, can't miss kid to the grunt. And it was a story we all took to heart and cheered for. Last year took the bloom off the rose for the story though. Ankiel just couldn't get it done last year and despite the most at bats as a Cardinal, he tanked at the plate. The Cardinals, who owed him nothing for their good-hearted, feel-good reclamation of his career, did the right thing and cut him loose.

Now he gets a fresh start with the Royals, who as Joe Posnanski pointed out today in his blog, already have an abundance of outfielders who are similarly challenged at the plate and in the field (Ankiel is no Torii Hunter in center). But maybe...just maybe, last year was a disaster because of a crashed wall and a broken body. Maybe he never recovered. Maybe he just couldn't get it together.

Maybe, just maybe, we can get another taste of a feel-good story and another chance for Joe Everyman to make us all smile. This Fan will be rooting for just that to happen.

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