Today's New York Daily News is reporting that Rick Ankiel received shipments of Human Growth Hormone or HGH starting in 2004 and continuing into 2005. Those shipments supposedly ended before Major League Baseball included HGH as a banned substance in 2005. But it has put quite a damper on what had been, in my opinion, the best story to come out of baseball in a year in which Barry Bonds broke Hank Aaron's most hallowed home run record under a huge cloud of steroids and HGH.
For those of you who don't know the story, Rick Ankiel was the Minor League Player of the Year in 1999 for the Cardinal's organization. He had a more than solid rookie year in 2000, going 11-7 with close to 200 strikeouts and finishing 2nd in the Rookie of the Year voting. But in September of that year, he lost the ability to find the plate. I'm talking Nuke LaLoosh at the beginning of Bull Durham. It continued into the post-season, where he walked 11 batters in 4 innings sprinkled in with a shitload of wild pitches. His career as a pitcher was flaming out.
After trying to comeback in 2004 as a pitcher, and failing, he decided to hang up his pitching glove and trade it in for one used by an outfielder. His transition was completed this past August when he was called up as the Cardinal's newest outfielder. And it has been quite a month. Last night he hit 2 home runs and drove in 7 RBI to cap a ridiculous 30 days in the bigs. 9 HR and 29 RBI in just 23 games. That's Ruthian by any one's standards. Babe Ruth, by the way, was also a pretty good pitcher before becoming a pretty good hitter. Just so ya know.
This is tragic stuff folks. I want to root for stories like Ankiel's. It's just such great stuff. People had even started calling him "The Natural" after Robert Redford's famous film character who went from pitcher to home-run king after a tragic incident. Oh, the irony!
Baseball has to find a way to test for this stuff and get it the hell out of our house! I have been scouring the box scores every day since Ankiel first arrived back in the bigs just to see what magic he performed the night before. Now I'll await a statement from him or his dick-wad of an agent, Scott Boras, to find out if he makes some lame excuse or an outright denial. Either way, a small part of my baseball soul died today. Sniff.
Next: Tomorrow I will try to rid myself of the HGH demons by talking about the MVP candidates from NY this year. Maybe it will help. Maybe.