“A couple weeks ago, I was asking anybody if they’d seen or heard from Ray,” Jocketty said to Strauss. “He’d just dropped out of sight. I got a call from his agent and was told that (Lankford) missed playing. I talked to (Lankford) a while and got the sense he had a desire to come back home to St. Louis. I think he’s highly motivated.I love RetroSimba, even when he's dredging up bittersweet 2004 memories. Looking now it's hard to actually see in the end of Ray Lankford's career all the sullenness that was read into it at the time, because he's already got a really familiar career narrative: Fast outfielder with line drive power bulks up, peaks late, moves to left field, and like a lot of Hall-of-Very-Good guys is no longer a first-division starter at 35.
“He’s had a year away from the game. Sometimes that will change a guy’s outlook toward things to the positive.”
Which is not to say it doesn't exist; I wasn't there, and Lankford butting heads with La Russa is public record. But now we can also see a 33-year-old whose late peak was fueled by a two-year batting average on balls in play of .365.