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Rick Ankiel is retiring

Mar 5, 2014, 1:31 PM EDT

ankiel high five

Via our own Matthew Pouliot, who was watching the Cardinals spring training broadcast just now when the announcers revealed this: Rick Ankiel has officially retired and apparently hopes to join a front office in some capacity.

Ankiel ended up having just one good full season as a position player after his hugely promising pitching career was ruined by extreme control problems, but event that’s pretty damn remarkable considering he didn’t become a full-time hitter until age 27.

Ankiel smacked 25 homers in 413 at-bats for the Cardinals in 2008, but then hit just .229 with a grand total of 38 homers and a .676 OPS in 431 games from 2009-2013 while bouncing around with a bunch of different teams.

It’s a shame we never got to see what he was fully capable of as a pitcher, because based on his minor-league track record, stud prospect status, and excellent rookie season he was on a path to become one of the best left-handers in baseball. He still ended up having a very memorable career, though, and made an awful lot of fans along the way.

  1. tfbuckfutter - Mar 5, 2014 at 1:36 PM

    I hope he holds a press conference and when he’s done he drops the mic like Chris Rock.

    Because someone in the stands will get to go home with the microphone that hit the guy sitting next to him.

  2. spudchukar - Mar 5, 2014 at 1:37 PM

    He was easy to root for. Thanks for the memories Rick.

    • spudchukar - Mar 5, 2014 at 8:44 PM

      I am fond of a lot of players. Rick Ankiel I loved. Knowing what he overcame only solidified my feelings. He is so genuine. If there were a HOF for good guys he would be first ballot.

  3. cohnjusack - Mar 5, 2014 at 1:40 PM

    Possibly my favorite regular season memory of all-time

    • ereed1286 - Mar 5, 2014 at 1:49 PM

      I was there!

    • blues1988 - Mar 5, 2014 at 2:17 PM

      just got chills. such a cool moment.

    • Patrick R. - Mar 5, 2014 at 5:53 PM

      Best part about this is the commentator wondering aloud if Doug Brocail will walk Rick Ankiel to face ALBERT PUJOLS, with two (!!) outs!! He then plays it off like, “Oh yeah. Brocail has better success against left-handed batters,” which is wholly irrelevant when comparing Rick Ankiel to Albert Pujols.

      Then again, Ankiel took him deep, so what do I know.

      I’ll miss him. Loved watching him play. I had his MLB Showdown card. He had horrible control, but if he got his advantage, he was lights out!

    • stevequinn - Mar 6, 2014 at 7:04 AM

      Thank you for posting the video. It was hard not to pull for Ankiel. What impressed me the most though was his throwing ability from the OF. He had a gun. I recall him throwing a runner, who was tagging up, out at 3B from the outfield wall. Shocked everyone in the ballpark especially the guy who had tagged up. Sorry, can’t recall the specifics.

      • forsch31 - Mar 6, 2014 at 12:56 PM

        Not sure if this was what you were thinking off, but in one game, he threw out runners twice who were tagging up. I’ll see if I can find the highlight reel when I get home; I think it’s still floating around on

  4. cohnjusack - Mar 5, 2014 at 1:49 PM

    It’s easy to forget what a monstrous prospect he was. His first two years in the minors during his age 18 and 19 seasons , he went 25-9 with a 2.50 ERA and 416 Ks in just under 300 innings, nabbing a MiLB PLayer of the Year and the top prospect ranking via Baseball America. Then, he was a starter in the Majors at age 20, ranking 9th in ERA and 2nd in K/9.

    What could have been…

    • okwhitefalcon - Mar 5, 2014 at 7:43 PM


      Easily the best Cards pitching prospect I’ve ever scene in person as a minor leaguer on their way up, and it’s not even close.

  5. moseskkim - Mar 5, 2014 at 1:53 PM

    did he hurt his ankiel?

  6. holleywood9 - Mar 5, 2014 at 2:05 PM


    • cohnjusack - Mar 5, 2014 at 3:45 PM

      …not even technically accurate. It was HGH.

      • skerney - Mar 5, 2014 at 5:23 PM

        I think it’s funny that people give the thumbs down the fact you just reminded them of.

  7. chill1184 - Mar 5, 2014 at 2:08 PM

    2000 NLCS Game 2 Weirdest Game I’ve watched to date

    • eshine76 - Mar 5, 2014 at 2:56 PM

      I remember exactly where I was an who I was with during that game. We sat in stunned silence.

      • stlouis1baseball - Mar 6, 2014 at 11:04 AM

        Yep…I remember it like it was yesterday shine. Stunning indeed.

    • cohnjusack - Mar 5, 2014 at 3:19 PM

      Well, that was Part II of the Ankiel meltdown. It all started during the NLDS:

  8. accipiterq - Mar 5, 2014 at 2:12 PM

    I remember it was my freshman year of college, I was at a small college in Worcester, outside of Boston…I was back from class watching the playoff game where he had that meltdown. As chill1184 above me said…it was such an odd game. I think they were playing the Braves, and he kept throwing those wild pitches, and then right in the middle of it, I’ll never forget he threw the best curveball I’ve ever seen in my life. Not sure if anyone else remembers watching that game, but I do. I remember you could hear a ‘whoah’ erupt from the entire crowd all at once. It was then that I realized how razor thin the divide between throwing filthy stuff and a wild pitch truly is; it’s such a fine line. He was on the wrong side of it for most of that outing, but in the midst of it all reigned it in just enough to throw one of the best pitches I’ve ever seen. It still blows my mind that after that game he was never the same. Happy trails Rick!

    • hojo20 - Mar 5, 2014 at 8:50 PM

      Anna Maria?

  9. blues1988 - Mar 5, 2014 at 2:13 PM

    one of my favorites. hope he joins the cards front office and stays with us for a long time. thanks for the memories!

  10. karlkolchak - Mar 5, 2014 at 3:09 PM

    My favorite Ankiel moment was at Nats park when he caught the ball on the warning track in centerfield with a runner on third and threw a perfect strike that hit the catcher right in the chest. The runner didn’t even move. Dude certaily had a cannon on him.

    • sportfandc - Mar 6, 2014 at 2:00 PM

      The greatest arm I’ve ever seen for an outfielder. Seemed to be a good guy, too. Too easy to strike out, though. Thanks for the memories!

  11. gloccamorra - Mar 5, 2014 at 3:35 PM

    An incredible pitching prospect, ruined by Tony LaRussa. Koufax had blazing speed and lots of walks early, but wasn’t hounded about throwing strikes. Nolan Ryan had blazing speed and lots of walks, but wasn’t hounded about throwing strikes. Randy Johnson had blazing speed and lots of walks, but wasn’t hounded about throwing strikes. Rick Ankiel had blazing speed and lots of walks, but was hounded about throwing strikes, yanked out of games, and had his throwing motion constantly tweaked. Too bad they didn’t let him find the zone on his own, like Koufax, Ryan and Johnson.

    • okwhitefalcon - Mar 5, 2014 at 3:45 PM

      Totally false.

      Hilariously false.

      Unless you were going for the “unbelievably goofy” angle (not narrative) that is.

      • stlouis1baseball - Mar 6, 2014 at 11:07 AM

        Give him a break Falcon. He has glaucoma for crying out loud!

    • cohnjusack - Mar 5, 2014 at 3:48 PM

      Errr….umm…okay. Ankiel’s complete mental meltdown on the field was the result of being told to throw strikes…that is…crazy.

      All those pitching coaches need to learn a valuable lesson about telling their pitchers to throw strikes. What good do strikes do anyway?

    • spudchukar - Mar 5, 2014 at 6:36 PM

      I have an idea Glocca, let us pretend your head is the strike zone, and let the retired Ankiel throw at it.

  12. billybawl - Mar 5, 2014 at 4:19 PM

    Because nobody ever told Koufax, Ryan or Johnson to throw strikes more often. And because neither LaRussa or his pitching coach, Dave Duncan, ever developed a top flight pitcher.

  13. seeinred87 - Mar 5, 2014 at 6:01 PM

    I say this without a hint of sarcasm or irony or anything negative.

    Rick Ankiel is one of my favorite players of all time. Sad to see him retire.

  14. mtr75 - Mar 5, 2014 at 6:54 PM

    What makes anyone think we didn’t see his full potential as a pitcher?

    • cohnjusack - Mar 5, 2014 at 7:30 PM

      Many things.

      1. Most pitchers don’t peak during their age 20 season. And fact, virtually no pitchers peak at age 20. And he was already pretty good at that age.
      2. His downfall was clearly a mental collapse, not pertaining to health or talent.

  15. dirtyharry1971 - Mar 5, 2014 at 7:33 PM

    I have always thought he should have stuck with pitching, I think the right coach could have corrected his wildness. But for a guy who switched positions in mid career I have to admit he did pretty good when you consider

    • cohnjusack - Mar 6, 2014 at 9:18 AM

      Well, the had a lot of different coaches working with him. He was sent down to the minors, worked with sports psychologists…it wasn’t a matter of simply correcting a mechanical flaw. The problems were obviously in his head.

  16. sportsfan18 - Mar 5, 2014 at 7:35 PM

    Great competitor. No, he didn’t have HOF talent, but he competed.

    So many would have been crushed and had their career ended when they could no longer make it at their position, especially a pitcher.

    He had enough talent and drive to compete and remain in the big leagues for many more seasons.

    Put it this way… out of the $12.2 million he earned in his MLB career, basically $10 million of it came AFTER he was done pitching.

    I’m not putting down $2 million dollars but after his MLB pitching career was finished, he found a way to earn another $10 million in the bigs…

    A tip of the cap to you Rick.

  17. metalhead65 - Mar 5, 2014 at 10:36 PM

    ex-cardinals are not officially retired until they have signed 1 last contract over paying them from uncle walt and the team he runs now the Reds.

  18. stlouis1baseball - Mar 6, 2014 at 10:56 AM

    Wonderful career (considering the obstacles he had to overcome). And a canon for an Arm that was second to none. I could watch him throw lasers from the outfiled all day long. Dude threw seeds.
    I hope the Cardinals find a spot for him in the organization.

  19. granadafan - Mar 6, 2014 at 12:24 PM

    I was always impressed that Ankiel had enough talent to make a position change from pitcher to hitter. It’s tough enough to make the big leagues as a pitcher or position player, let alone be talented enough to do both. Pitchers usually make horrible hitters. The guy is a good source of inspiration to overcome mental issues and persevere.

  20. psousa1 - Mar 6, 2014 at 2:30 PM

    In both of their short windows of a career Bo Jackson and Rick Ankiel had two of the greatest OF throwing arms I have ever seen.

  21. docboss - Mar 6, 2014 at 6:44 PM

    He marketed a decent wine. Seriously.

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