Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, no stranger to presiding over sluggers suspected of using something-or-other to
gain an edge recover quickly, tells the St. Louis Post Dispatch’s Joe Strauss scrutiny of pitcher-turned-outfielder Rich Ankiel is unwarranted. And he may have a point — it’s not like Ankiel fell asleep at the wheel or something.
On Sept. 6 Ankiel included two home runs and seven RBIs among three hits in only seven innings of a 16-4 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium. A report surfaced during the team’s charter flight to Arizona of Ankiel’s connection to HGH. The next day Ankiel began an 0-for-19 slump. The Cardinals suffered a series sweep that started a nine-game losing streak and a 2-14 vanishing act from the NL Central race.
Ankiel managed two hits and no RBIs in his first eight games after the revelations were made public.
“It would be tough to say I didn’t struggle with it,” Ankiel said. “Clearly, I was affected by it. I don’t want to make it an excuse. I picked up toward the end. I think it was good for me to go through something like that and find it again.”
La Russa said, “As long as these guys are human beings and somebody is accused of something when they really haven’t done anything wrong ¦ I’m not sure who it’s not going to bother unless it’s the coldest guy on the face of the earth.”
Ankiel received the prescription for HGH from a Palm Beach, Fla., doctor without the club’s knowledge. He took possession of a year’s supply in eight shipments, according to the report. However, La Russa insists Ankiel did nothing illegal and is the victim of media overkill.
“I think the responsibility is with the media that takes a story like that that’s exciting and controversial and gets a lot of publicity. Then all of a sudden, when there’s a reasonable explanation, it gives it one-tenth the amount of attention,” La Russa said. “If I was Rick, I wouldn’t answer another question about it. He’s already talked to MLB about it. He answered questions at the time.
“What bothers me is you get accused of something dramatic ¦ when something comes around to explain it and the guy’s not really guilty, that doesn’t receive anywhere near the same attention.”