I don’t get FOX Sports Midwest down here in Texas so I’m probably a little behind on this one, but I saw a little blurb in an ESPN article that Rick Ankiel is going to attempt a comeback in 2019 as a reliever. Ankiel, as you know, started as a pitcher, struggled with throwing pitches in the zone, converted to a position player, and had a solid career there. He played the bulk of his career (1999-2010, with a lot of injury time) with the Cards before becoming a journeyman for the last few years of his career.
My question is: why? Why make a comeback at the age of 40? Let’s discount the answer every single player gives in a comeback attempt, which is “I feel the itch to play again, I feel I can still compete, etc.”
One possibility is publicity, to get into the national spotlight, or enhance a portfolio, which is why Tim Tebow is a Met. (Before you jump on me on that one, he plays on a team, where, if he makes it to the bigs, happens to be one of the two biggest cities in the country and is a media capital. I’d believe his attempt if he played, in say, Cincinnati, but New York? Publicity stunt, plain and simple.) Ankiel hasn’t stated how he plans to approach the comeback, but I assume the usual open tryouts. Which team (if he gets multiple interests) will decide the publicity stunt factor.
Lets say, however, that it’s not a publicity stunt. After all, he’s got a comfortable gig as an analyst for FOX Sports Midwest. (Yes, I know Tebow was an analyst too.)
My guess offhand is that he’s trying to prove he has conquered an old foe. Not injuries, which would be many people’s assumption, as he had a few as a pitcher, but rather, the aforementioned wildness. That and injuries are why he converted to an outfielder. Ankiel wants to shown he’s overcome that and can pitch.
Why he waited so long to prove it (he retired in 2013) is another story. Could be he has been training all this time or it could in fact be the itch factor. Also, even if he can now find the zone without a compass (color me skeptical until he proves me wrong.) I have to wonder if his stuff is still there, and if it isn’t, if he’s found a new approach that would make him effective.
I will definitely be watching and wish him good luck. Unless he plays in New York or Los Angeles. Then it’ll likely be publicity and I’ll likely ignore the whole thing.
As always, thanks for reading.