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The big story Thursday came out of Jupiter, Fla., where the Montreal Expos
walked three consecutive times. That’s an amazing feat for a team
routinely near the bottom of the league in walks drawn, and an encouraging
sign for those of us who expect the Expos to make at least some noise in
the NL wild-card race.

The walks were drawn by Peter Bergeron, Milton Bradley, and
Fernando Tatis. Bergeron is having a lousy spring; the walk was just
his third in more than 50 plate appearances, and his OBP is lingering below
.300. Bradley’s walk was his sixth in nearly 70 PAs; he’s hitting
better than Bergeron, and may go from trade bait to Expos regular if that
continues. Tatis, who will likely bat behind Vladimir Guerrero when
Jose Vidro is healthy, walked for the fifth and sixth times of the
spring. Tatis posting a .370 or so OBP is going to be a critical piece of
any Expos improvement on the scoreboard.

OK, you may have heard the story spun a bit differently, something about
the pitcher involved, but it’s good to remember that there are always two
sides to a baseball game. And one, in this case, had a big positive to it.

The better-reported side, of course, was that Rick Ankiel had a
first-inning meltdown, coughing up those three straight walks in front of a
Vladimir Guerrero grand slam, a continuation of his inexplicable wild
streak. After the Guerrero bomb, Ankiel pitched a little better, allowing
two more runs in three total innings of work, and throwing enough strikes
to make it his second encouraging outing of the spring.

I’d like to say I have some great insight into Ankiel’s future, but I
don’t. It’s safe to say that he is beyond the point of chalking his control
problems up to mechanics or other baseball-related issues, and that we’re
into an area where outside analysts are going to come up short.

There’s no shame in saying, "I don’t know," and unfortunately
that’s the answer I’ve been providing people who ask me about Ankiel. I
don’t believe–maybe I don’t want to believe–that he’s going to be lost
for this season. He’s had enough positive stretches to convince me that the
ability to throw strikes and get batters out is still there.

But that’s as much "hope and faith" as anything else, because I
get a sick feeling in my stomach when I think of what this must be like for
Ankiel. I hope everyone who can help him does so, and that the rest of us
just shut up and stay away for a while.

USC 99, Duke 97

Fight on!


Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Contact him by

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