We are almost through these horrible doldrums of spring. We have just two more weeks until the first spring training game. Apparently, Jimmy E is starting out the preseason hurt. The line is that it's just him recovering from his offseason injury, and if that is the case, take all of the time that you need. I've always been amazed by how Edmonds can have a lackluster spring training, and come out pounding the ball to death the first month of the season (career April line: .319/.413/.603). It is something to keep an eye on, however, especially if Encarnacíon is starting the season injured.
The upside of this, however, would be that the team would get some extra time to evaluate the outfield prospects slated for Springfield and Memphis. All of a sudden, it would make a lot of sense to give Rodriguez and Amaury Martí a chance at the show, put Stavinoha, Schumaker, and Ankiel in the Memphis outfield, and then there is all of a sudden a lot less pressure on where to put Rasmus and Jay--the organization can stick them in Springfield if Walt feels that they're ready, or leave them in Palm Beach. It would hardly be a boon that would be worth the loss of the ML club's best outfielders for a couple of weeks even, but it would still be an offset to that disaster.
Unless, of course, Ankiel pulls the 2001 Pujols routine, dominates in spring training, and just. won't. get. sent. down. Then, inspired by those here who point out that they made valid predictions about the 2006 Cardinals(read the comment thread on that second link), my (absurdly irrational)prediction follows:
After Ankiel makes the team, he, Duncan, and Encarnacíon form a three man rotation for the outfield during the regular season. The Cardinals make the postseason, despite very streaky play during the regular season, winning 92 games and the Central by 1 game over the Cubs. Ricky puts up a decent season in limited playing time, hitting 15 home runs in 200 AB, and is the regular starter in right against RHP by the end of the season (thanks to his awesome outfield arm). The team slugs out the first two rounds of the postseason, to face the dreaded Yankees in the world series.
The series is tied 2-2 going into game five, each team winning both of its home games going in. This game ends up being a slugfest through eight, with two run HR a dime a dozen, it seems. In the ninth inning, the game is tied 8-8, and Izzy manages to hold the Yankees scoreless in the ninth to force extra innings, making an amazing strikeout of Derek Jeter to cancel out his two walks.
Izzy stays in the game and nearly matches Mariano Rivera pitch-for-pitch in extras, both of them going two more innings and not allowing a batter. In the top of the 12th, Chris duncan drops a two-out flyball, and the Yankees put up a run. Izzy has thrown 40 pitches and is just clearly done. Tony had been holding out hope that he could get that last out and get out of the inning, as the pitchers' spot was up in the bottom of the inning, but with Jason Giambi at the plate, there is no room to give him a chance to open up the game. The whole bullpen is already burnt through, thanks to the slugfest nature of the game.
All of Busch stadium gasps simultaneously when they hear the announcement:
"Now pitching, and batting seventh, Rick Ankiel. Playing rightfield and batting ninth, So Taguchi"
First pitch, ball 1 outside
Second pitch, ball 2, way outside
Molina visits mound
Third pitch, HUGE curveball, over mound, strike 1
Giambi gets around on the fourth pitch and pulls it waaay foul, strike 2
Fifth pitch, in the dirt, ball 3
Sixth pitch, changeup, drops off of the plate, GIANT swing, strike three.
After that heart attack, the Cardinals come up to bat. After that harrowing visit to the mound, Ankiel clubs a double down the RF line against the Yanks' last remaining reliever. Molina strikes out, and up comes So. He has announced his retirement already, and this could be his last at bat, and he clubs it down the line for a game-tying triple. An Eckstein suicide squeeze gives the cardinals the win. And this is forever remembered as one of the ten awesomest World Series games ever. Update [2007-2-21 13:47:22 by Valatan]:A-Rod, who hit homeruns in the first and thrid toward his 4/7, 2HR 5RBI performance, is declared the goat of the game by the NY media because "a true clutch player has to come through in the late innings." Jeter's 1/7, 0 RBI 3K performance is noted by noone.
It could happen...
By the way, if this actually happens, then I will be truly terrified with myself, and I will expect the Freemasons, L. Ron Hubbard, and Bud Selig to all simultaneously be knocking on my door.