The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Tuesday, July 03, 2001

 

Loss of Control

The Yanks' recent acquisition of Mark Wohlers has had me thinking a lot about the handful of players who have suffered similar throwing problems. Both Steve Sax and Chuck Knoblauch were second basemen on my favorite teams during their miseries, and as a fan I suffered right along with them. I never particularly cared for Wohlers, but Rick Ankiel certainly drew my attention with his meltdown last fall.

This article on Ankiel, written by Pat Jordan, appeared in the New York Times Magazine back in February. In examining Ankiel's plight, Jordan makes reference to several other pitchers who suffered similar fates and offers his own insights into Ankiel's problems. While his explanations seem like elementary psychology ("Pitchers who forget how to pitch seem to fear not failure but success. They don't want to face the pressure of the expectations of their success...") they are hard-won: Jordan went through a similar nightmare as a young pitcher, back in 1961. "I forgot how to pitch," Jordan tells Ankiel, "I've been thinking about it ever since."

Prior to reading this piece, I knew Jordan only as another name on a crowded bookstore shelf. But this story sticks in my mind. It's a haunting tale, like a ghost story whose narrator is speaking from beyond the grave, a victim of the same fate. This past weekend, with Wohlers, Ankiel, and Knoblauch fresh in my mind, I came across A False Spring, Jordan's book about his own ordeal. I'll report more about it when I finish reading it.

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