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The article is translated from A mound of troubles
The New York Times Magazine-- Pat Jordan

In 1998 and 1999, Rick sailed through the minors, never lasting more than a few months in one league before being promoted to the next level. His first year, he was 3-0 at Peoria before advancing to Prince William, where he finished 9-6, with 181 strikeouts in 126 innings. In 1999, he started the season at AA Arkansas, where he won six times without a loss, and was promoted to AAA Memphis, where he went 7-3. With that, the St. Louis sports media began clamoring for Rick's promotion to the Cardinals.
98與99兩年,Ankiel在小聯盟晉升地相當順利。98年在紅雀1A Peoria 投出三勝零負之後,被升到高階1A的 Prince William,126局中投出181次三振,取得九勝六負。隔年 (1999),他從2A Arkansas出發,六勝零負的完美成績又將他帶到了3A Memphis,留下七勝三負的成績,當地媒體就紛紛討論著該讓安凱爾上大聯盟了 (這兩年的 SO/BB 更是接近4:1,詳見)。

Rick Ankiel (by Rick Bowmer/AP)

The team at first resisted, with one executive saying, "We won't rush this kid no matter what the pressure is," and then promoted Rick to the major leagues in September. Pitching in relief, he was 0-1, with one save, but he had an impressive 3.27 E.R.A. and struck out 39 batters in 33 innings. The Cardinals had no choice now but to put Rick in their starting pitching rotation in 2000. They never noticed the warning signs that had appeared during his two successful minor league seasons. 
紅雀一開始堅持無論各方的壓力如何,他們不會急著將他帶到 MLB舞台。但在九月還是將他升上來了,擔任中繼的 Ankiel在33局內投出39K,零勝一負以及令人印象深刻的防禦率3.27。於是在2000年,紅雀也不得不將表現搶眼的 Rick擺進先發輪值內。他們並沒有注意到連續兩年成功的小聯盟球季背後所帶來的警訊。

Most players coming out of high school stumble in their early years in the minor leagues. Away from home for the first time in their lives, they miss the comforting routine of the only life they ever knew, their family, friends, girlfriends. But Rick loved getting away from home, being "in new places with new people," possibly because life with his father was never all that comforting. Furthermore, Rick's game never went bad. He never had to stand in a phone booth crying to his father: "I can't get anybody out! What should I do?" Rick says: "I never had a bad year. I was always moving up. It was fun." 
大部分從高中剛畢業的球員,在小聯盟初期都表現不好,由於第一次遠離家裡,無法像以往一樣常見到家人,朋友,情人。但Rick喜愛遠離家園這回事 (可能是父親的原因),在新的地方與新認識的人們生活。此外,由於他的好表現,他也用不著在電話那頭向父親哭訴,Rick說"我一直往上升,那很有趣"

In retrospect, admits Mike Jorgensen, the Cardinals' director of player development, this probably wasn't the best thing for Rick. "Very few pitchers go through the minor leagues without adversity," he says. "It's very difficult to make adjustments in the major leagues if you haven't had adversity in the minor leagues." 
Cards的球員發展部經理 Mike Jorgensen回想以前的經驗,Rick這樣的成功可能不是好事"很少投手在小聯盟中不會遇到困境的 "Jorgensen又說"如果你在小聯盟都沒失敗過,在來到 MLB後會很難再做些調整"

While in the minors, Rick became such a hot property that Cardinal officials insisted he be given special treatment. He was not allowed to throw more than 100 pitches in a game. His pitching coaches were forbidden to teach him a slider, for fear it would hurt his arm. His pitching coaches, possibly afraid to tamper with such a precious commodity, overlooked a few minor flaws in his motion. "If you've got a race car that's leading the Daytona 500, you don't bring it in for a tune-up," Jorgensen says. "All we did was fine-tune a couple of things with his motion, but nothing major." Besides, Jorgensen adds, "We have a pitch count for all pitchers in the minor leagues." 
小聯盟時期的 Rick被視為球隊的珍貴資產,也有些特殊待遇。一場球不能投超過100球,投手教練被禁止教他 slider (滑球),怕傷到他的手臂。教練在擔心損害"球隊資產"的同時也忽略了Rick動作中的一些小缺點"就像你的跑車已經在 Daytona 500 (註一)領先的話,也就不會想去做調整" Jorgensen說"對他的動作頂多是做些微調罷了" Jorgensen又補充"球隊對於小聯盟的所有投手都會做球數控管的"

2008年 Daytona 500 50th的 logo (from Wiki)

Once again, though, this special treatment did not escape Rick's notice. If others thought his talent was so fragile, then maybe it was. "If it goes, what do I have to fall back on," he says. "Really nothing. It's scary." 

On rare occasions, he did falter in the minors. "Every now and then I'd hit the backstop with a wild pitch," he says. "But when I asked my pitching coaches what I was doing wrong, they wouldn't say a word to me. They'd just say, 'I'm not allowed to mess with you."' 
他在 minors時鮮少時候會顯得猶豫"在我暴投球打到本壘後方的護網時,我問教練我哪裡出現問題,但是他們都不會說什麼,教練們頂多說他們不被允許打亂我"

Rick's special treatment continued into the major leagues, even during last summer's stardom. He was put on a strict pitch count because the Cardinals -- and his agent, Scott Boras -- didn't want to overwork his delicate young arm. In his first four major league starts, Rick averaged 101 pitches. He was taken out of two games while working on a shutout and finished the four-game stretch with a 1.50 E.R.A. Rick chafed at the pitch limit. "I want to throw more pitches, but they won't let me," he says. 
Rick的特殊待遇持續到大聯盟。他的投球數被仔細地計算,因為紅雀隊與他的經紀人 Scott Boras (這個經紀人大家應該都多少有些認識吧,A-ROD的也是這位)都不希望讓 Ankiel珍貴的年輕手臂太過操勞。他在2000年的前四場先發平均投101球,包含兩場在沒失分的情形下退場。Rick對於投球限制感覺焦躁"我想投更多球,不過他們不允許我這樣做"

In the middle of the 2000 season, Rick's parents were divorced, adding another shattering element to the emotional turmoil that began with his father's imprisonment. "I can't even fathom all he has to deal with," Denise said, "the choices he has had to make at 17, 18, 19 and 20. He does not have a normal 20-year-old's life." There is no way to establish a simple cause-and-effect relationship between the emotional shocks and Rick's subsequent troubles on the mound. But one thing is clear. By the time he was 21, pitching in the playoffs, Rick's career and his young life began to unravel. 
在兩千年球季中 Rick的父母離婚,在他父親入獄之外又給了他增加了另一個情緒上不安的因素。這情感上的震撼彈與Rick接下來遇到在投手丘上的麻煩,我們無法簡單地理出出它們的因果關係。不過有件事很清楚,當他21歲在季後賽投球時,他的生涯與年輕時期開始崩壞。

Rick Ankiel (AP)

During his three playoff appearances against the Braves and Mets, Rick's pitching was pitiful to the point of embarrassment. "It was tough to watch," a fellow Cardinal pitcher, Andy Benes, said at the time. After throwing five wild pitches against the Braves, even Rick had to admit that he was, as he said: "A joke. You've got to laugh." Then he talked about the mechanical things he was doing wrong: "I wasn't keeping my left shoulder in. It was so obvious, and I didn't finish my pitches. I just need to dig deep." 
在他三場季後賽面對勇士以及大都會的出賽 (也是迄今唯一三場),Rick的投球內容還真是難堪地令人同情"那(投球內容)令人很難看下去"當時他的隊友 Andy Benes說。在他面對勇士投出五次暴投之後,就連他自己都這麼說"我看起來像個笑話"隨後談及他投球技巧上的缺失"我的左肩明顯開了,我也沒完成我的投球(指定局數),我恨不得挖個洞躲起來"

Before his start against the Mets, he claimed he'd figured out what he was doing wrong. "It was mechanical, totally," he said. "I feel great." Then he went out and threw 5 of his first 20 pitches off the home-plate screen. The Cardinals tried to play down his collapse. The pitching coach, Dave Duncan, said he just needed to go out to the mound and "have a nice easy inning and probably get back on track." So the Cardinals sent Rick out to the mound in a low-pressure situation, the seventh inning of a game they were losing, 6-0, to the Mets. He walked two batters and threw two wild pitches. "For some reason," Rick said, "it just didn't click." 
在國聯冠軍系列戰碰上Mets之前,他宣稱已發現他哪裡有問題"全部都是投球技巧上的"他又說"我感到十分舒服"。在 NLDS隊上勇士的前20球就投出5次暴投之後,紅雀試著減低他瓦解的程度。球隊的投手教練 Dave Duncan說"讓他在沒有壓力的半局上場。也許能把他拉回軌道上來"所以球隊面對 Mets的第五戰,在六比零落後的第七局派他上場,但 Ankiel仍投出兩次四壞球+兩個暴投。(該系列梅子以4:1晉級,後來在WS輸給洋基)。

After his three disastrous performances, Rick called his father in prison. "You were sorry," his father said. "Are you hurt?" 

Rick said, "I'm O.K."
 
"Then what the heck were you doing?" 

"I couldn't figure it out." 

"Aw, you'll be all right." 
在那三場災難式的出賽後,Rick打給他在監牢的父親
"對不起", 父親問 "你受傷了嗎?"
"我沒事"
"那你怎麼表現成這樣"
"我也無法理解"
"你會沒事的"

Rick Ankiel賽前在3A Memphis Redbirds 的dugout (by CHRIS LEE/P-D)

Back in Florida, his high-school pitching coach, Charlie Frazier, had watched Rick's self-destruction on TV. "I never saw him lose his motion like that before," says Frazier. "I saw mechanical flaws. He was throwing across his body; he was standing up in his follow-through. I asked him what his pitching coaches told him. He said, "They don't tell me anything!" 
在佛州,他的高中投手教練 Charlie Frazier也從電視上看到了 Rick的表現。"我從來沒見過他那樣,動作都不對"

....待續

 


註一:  Daytona 500為 NASCAR每年二月在佛羅里達州 Daytona海灘辦的賽車比賽,共要跑200圈。

本系列其他部分
Rick Ankiel的過往日子 (1)
Rick Ankiel的過往日子 (2)
Rick Ankiel的過往日子 (3)
Rick Ankiel的過往日子 (5)

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