In the end, I think I'm glad he's gone.
No, I won't swear to it. But I think I am.
Rick Ankiel was never really here at all, you know. All we saw was a ghost from the past trying to live out the dream it never got in life. A simple spirit, lost and alone with no curveball, trying to make his way back to Baseball Heaven for that one game.
I never did properly forgive Ankiel for blowing up in the playoffs all those years ago. It's why I didn't fall in love with him the same way on his return as so many other fans did. Don't get me wrong, there were times when I couldn't help but love the guy (the two throws to nab Willy Taveras
in Colorado come to mind), but I usually kept my distance.
Still, now that he really has gone, I wonder what it is I'm actually feeling. It isn't sad, exactly, but I think it's close.
Rick Ankiel wasn't one of the great stories of the past decade. He was one of the great disappointments of the past decade. He was truly the proverbial kid with the golden arm, born to do great things on the pitcher's mound, and he let all that talent just slip away. We should hate him for the great things he never accomplished instead of celebrating the small things that he did.
Somehow, though, I just can't find it in my heart to hate him. Maybe we love Rick Ankiel because none of us are great, either. So few of us ever do big things that when we see someone who has failed at the great still trying so hard for the small, we can't help but fall in love with what we hope to be when our first round of dreams all fail to come true. Ankiel is every person who ever thought to reach for the stars, only to slip and fall into the gutter. The fact he tried so hard to get back up, instead of just lying in the muck, is what makes his story so compelling.
So maybe I do love Rick Ankiel, a little bit, in my own way. Maybe I look at him and I see the kid with the 170 IQ and the big dreams who became the man who works a pedestrian job, buys the brand of laundry soap that's on sale, and sends off a mortgage check every month.
Most of us fail to be someone special, but you still have to be someone.
Good luck, Rick. I think I'm glad you're gone, but I also think I just might be lying.