Well, describing that game as deflating is almost an absurd understatement. It's almost grown boring talking about these blowout losses that the team is suffering. It was especially disheartening to watch Marky Mark get clobbered to the degree that he did. I wrote last week that I believed that Mulder was the key to the team's success this season, and I still stand by that. The fact that he seems to be having issues getting things together for this season indicates to me that the season is, likely over. I will still cheer loudly for a miraculous winning streak to bring them back into contention, but it's an eventuality that just doesn't strike me as particularly likely.
It's nice to see Jimmy E finally post an OPS of .850 over the course of a month. Similarly, it's nice to see that Chris Duncan's just been injured for the past month, and wasn't slumping in such a way as to indicate that opposing pitching have simply just figured him out. I've been thinking that he's been running strangely for a while now, so a groin injury makes sense. He, at least, has a chance to rest and heal and come back next year. It's entirely possible that the disaster that was Adam Kennedy's season last year was simply a fluke caused by his injury. Yadi's progress on offense has been encouraging, to say the least, and Albert has been at least holding together, and staying in the MVP race. All the team realistically needs is a short stop.
That is, if this recent slump by Ankiel is just a slump. He's an aggressive all-or-nothing power/strikeout hitter. It was inevitable that he was going to get hot and that he was going to get cold as soon as he came up to the majors. It's also undeniable that he has been heckled pretty aggressively since the hGH story was broken. The heckles last night were particularly painful and clear over the television broadcast. You can see that look of bravado and confidence not quite so present in him. Also, there's the fact that the timing of this slump is just so conspicuous.
If we were inclined to overanalyze things (and this is a blog, after all), I would be inclined to make a parallel to the previous treatment that Rick received from the powers that be: before, when the decision to start him in that game one was made, he was "shielded from the press" by having Darryl Kile make the pregame press conference, and then having Ricky start as a surprise, and then, with what happened, he didn't end up being shielded at all.
This time, you had the allegations surface, and you had the team/his handlers "defend" him by having him stand up and make a non-denial denial and gradually slink away from the microphone. That is not consistent with allowing someone to build confidence in himself. That is not consistent with the bravado that he showed at the plate during his first month in the majors. That is not a reflection of the attitude of "I did nothing wrong, and now I'm going to take this bat and beat you using my talent and skill alone."
In encouraging Rick to give that weak statement, whoever was talking to him essentially was telling him that they didn't believe in him. I don't believe that his psyche is that brittle to be broken by something like this, but I can believe that he likely has bigger things then baseball on his mind right now. Here's to hoping that he pulls out of it.
Update [2007-9-12 12:12:34 by Valatan]:: Here is a worthwhile read on steroids in professional wrestling. Let's hope that we just don't come to tacit acceptance of steroids in baseball.