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Ankiel Agonistes


Some athletes—Barry Bonds comes to mind—seem to thrive on the tension that usually accompanies accusations of performance-enhancing drug use. Cardinals outfielder Rick Ankiel (below) doesn't appear to be one of them. Ankiel has acknowledged that, as the New York Daily News reported on Sept. 7, he received a shipment of human growth hormone in 2004. The report sent Ankiel's season spiraling. In his first 23 games after being called up, the pitcher-turned-slugger hit .358 with nine home runs. In the 15 games after the HGH news, Ankiel, 28, fell into a 7-for-55 slump and didn't homer. "I'd be fooling people to say, No, it wasn't a distraction," Ankiel, who finally homered last Saturday, told The New York Times. "The hard part of being a major leaguer is dealing with this stuff."

The Ankiel revelation was also the point at which the defending champions' season turned sour. St. Louis, a game behind the NL Central--leading Cubs and Brewers on Sept. 7, went on a nine-game losing streak after the news, the franchise's worst run since 1980. Rumors have it that manager Tony La Russa and G.M. Walt Jocketty will leave after the season, perhaps to take jobs with the Mariners.