A.M. Quickie below or here. And be sure to read all the way down on this post for Updates.
Rick Ankiel is a cheater?! No!! I am surprised at how crushed I feel by this news that in 2004, Rick Ankiel got a year's supply of HGH.
I'm so disappointed. (Cripes: I can only imagine how Will Leitch feels. Or lead Bonds-basher and Cards fan Bob Costas. UPDATE: Here's Will's take, which has all the depth and nuance and, yes, mixed emotions you could ever want from an analysis of this story.)
This is WORSE than Barry Bonds. Yes: Worse.
Why? Because everyone already thought Bonds was juicing. It was already built in to our definition of him. Bonds' pain for fans was a dull chronic one; Ankiel's is a shattering career-ender.
With Ankiel, it is truly heart-breaking: His comeback story was one of the best of the year/decade/era, in a year where we needed it. He was a restore-your-faith-in-the-game poster guy.
But yet his instant legend is as performance-enhanced as the rest of them. (Honestly? Damn you, Rick Ankiel, for obliterating what was left of my sincere faith in the sport.)
I've been thinking a lot about the "worst" player names that could emerge from this scandal. It says a lot that I didn't even CONSIDER Ankiel, but -- as it turns out -- he's up there high on the list.
It's one thing to be an established or aging superstar be a cheater; it's another thing to have your phenom – your "Natural" – be a cheater. Cripes: It's like finding out that Roy Hobbs juiced.
Should we have suspected, given the magnitude of his transition from pitcher to super-hitting outfielder? Probably.
But it seemed like we all completely suspended our disbelief -- our natural cynicism -- because we *wanted* to believe in Ankiel's story.
That's what makes the news so much more painful. Yeah, in hindsight, we probably should have suspected.
But we didn't, and so this news seems to be shattering what little faith I had left in baseball.
It's made all the more ironic by the fact that Ankiel had his best day yet: 2 HR and 7 RBI in a Cards win. Hey: Ankiel IS "The
UPDATE: As I begin to move through fan stages of shock, then anger (leading to saying things like "This is more distressing than Barry Bonds," I'm now quickly heading into resignation.
Technically, I understand that Ankiel wasn't cheating. (Was he even playing then?) HGH wasn't against the rules. Everyone does it. There's no evidence he is using PEDs now (or recently), only assumption and speculation. Yada yada yada.
It's just so damn... disappointing. That's all: Pure disappointment, from a normally cynical fan who enjoyed believing in a great story (for once).
Unfortunately, my net feeling ends up being: It was SUCH an amazing story, it was too good to be true...and it was...as it usually is. (Boo: Cynicism wins...again.)
UPDATE 2: In re-reading Will Leitch's take for the third time -- admiring its level of nuance (which some might call sympathy, which is totally reasonable given the writer's relationship to the subject) -- it lends itself to the question: Have you ever willfully turned a blind eye to a serious -- even fatal -- flaw of a sports hero of yours? I'm going to think about that this weekend, because it's an amazing concept and one of the biggest stories at the heart of this Ankiel story, given that it's more about disappointment than anything else. (h/t: Jamie "Mr. Irrelevant" Mottram, with whom a morning IM about this subject helped articulate this particular angle.)
Update 3: Blog reader Gerry came up with a terrific example of willful fan blind spots: Mickey Mantle. But that gets into an era -- a long era -- where fans knew NOTHING about their heroes, beyond the myths that the media -- speaking of turning a blind eye! -- kept hidden.