Blake Swihart, came into spring training, looking to rebound after missing the end of the 2016 season after sliding into the wall playing left field going after a fly ball. What was originally diagnosed a sprained ankle, became surgery. However, the 2011 first round draft pick, a catcher out of New Mexico was back behind the plate catching Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello. Um, it didn’t start too well. He had a number of errant throws back to the pitcher.
Here’s video of an example of the issues Blake Swihart had this morning in throwing back to the pitcher. pic.twitter.com/ceKkBHbtqn
— CSN New England (@CSNNE) February 17, 2021
While there is plenty of time for Swihart to work out any kinks before the games become real, it made me think of a number of other major league players who all of a sudden couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn and looked more like the Wild Thing from the movie Major League.
Remember Rick Ankiel of the St. Louis Cardinals, drafted in the 2nd round as a southpaw. This is a player who came in second in Rookie-of-the-Year voting in 2000, despite having a disastrous third inning against the Atlanta Braves in game 1 of the NLDS, throwing 5-wild pitches.
As a pitcher, he never quite recovered, but salvaged his career by converting to and becoming a serviceable outfielder.
Later that decade, a hard throwing set-up man for the Red Sox named Daniel Bard who had a great three year run from 2009-2011, recording 213 strike-outs and a 2.97 ERA over 196.3 innings of work, who two years later vanished into thin air due to loss of control.
Daniel Bard has faced 18 batters this year for Low-A Hickory and has only recorded two outs. Absolutely incredible. pic.twitter.com/JvIsTNYR5w
— Cespedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) June 15, 2020
However, there are rumors that he is trying to make a comeback, with the St. Louis Cardinals no less.
Chuck Knoblauch, known for his contributions to the New York Yankees championship teams as the double-play tandem alongside Derek Jeter in the late 90’s, was a 4-time All-Star and Rookie-of-the-Year winner with the Minnesota Twins. However, in 1999, a case of the yips, which usually manifest itself as a sudden inability to throw the baseball accurately, surfaced where he had 26 errors, a number of them due to throwing the ball away intended for the first baseman. It continued the following year, where Knoblauch reached a boiling point as reported in a Buster Olney piece for the New York Times in the summer of 2000 where it read:
“After throwing away three balls in the first six innings of last night’s 12-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox, Knoblauch left the game. Then he left Yankee Stadium as well, walking out in his street clothes while the game was in progress.”
He would ultimately play two more years until retiring after a stint with the Kansas City Royals, as a left fielder.
The most famous of them all might have been Steve Blass, who pitched for the 1971 World Series Champion Pittsburgh Pirates and won 19-games the following year, posting a 2.49 ERA, 11-complete games and an All-Star selection. However, his name is more infamous for the phrase, “Steve Blass Disease,” coined after his swift fall from grace. The following year his ERA ballooned to 9.85, he walked 84-batters in 88.5 innings, where he walked that many the year before in 249-innings pitched. His -4.0 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) remains one of the worst for a pitcher in MLB history.
Just another reason why you should appreciate the greatness of players, here in the now, because just like that, they can fade into oblivion.