On Wednesday, Fox Sports radio station 104.3 WYKE in Florida invited me on their afternoon show to preview the Mets-Rays game that evening. The 10-minute interview lasted nearly 30 minutes, not because of anything I said or did, but because Richard and Bryan (the show’s hosts) took a serious interest in R.A. Dickey. They’re not the first — and if he continues to pitch the way the has over his first dozen starts of the 2012 season — they won’t be the last to make Dickey the focus of sports talk radio conversation.
A few short hours after my interview Dickey went out and did what he now does better than most major league aces: dominate the opposition, tossing his second career one-hitter in a 9-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. Dickey is 8-0 in his last 10 starts, allowing 11 earned runs over that period. He is now 10-1 on the season, making him the first pitcher in the majors to reach 10 wins. Dickey has never won more than 11 games in a single season and he’s 10-1 on June 14.
R.A. Dickey pitched in 35 games out of the Minnesota Twins bullpen in 2009, finishing 1-1 with a 4.62 earned run average. That off season Dickey was a 34 year old free agent with a career record of 22-28. He was a retread. He was trying to “catch on” with a team, any team, one more time. Who knows, maybe he could make a good long reliever. Still, the New York Mets invited to spring training on a minor league contact.
Little did the Mets know at the time, but that RSVP would become the life of the party.
Wait a minute, did those two guys on that radio show just ask me if Dickey should be a Cy Young consideration? The man has no ulnar collateral nerve in his throwing arm. Dickey throws between 65 and 85 miles per hour. Is this some kind of joke? Am I dreaming?
Then, without an ounce of sarcasm, a wink of an eye or the slighest snicker, they asked me: Should R.A. Dickey being the starting pitcher for the National League on July 10 in Kansas City? I almost asked them to repeat the question just so I was certain what I was hearing. It’s been less than two weeks since Johan Santana, the two-time Cy Young winner, four-time All Star and undisputed Mets ace, pitched the first-ever no-hitter in Mets team history and it’s Dickey’s name who’s getting all the All-Star mentions?
I was taken aback, a little anyway. But as the evening wore on and I watched Dickey toss another complete game, chalk up another win and lower his ERA to 2.20, it hit me: something really special is happening right before my eyes. Don’t take what R.A. Dickey is for granted. He is literally one-of-a-kind. Not only is he the only active major league knuckleball pitcher, Dickey is dominating opponents with a one pitch.
“It was like a roller coaster, you just don’t know what it’s going to do,” Rays first baseman Carlos Pena said after Wednesday’s game. “You could almost expect it to do a couple things, but those few things are just too much to handle. It could cut, it could drift up and away from a hitter … he can throw it harder, throw it slower. It was an unbelievable pitching performance.”
Dickey has come as close to mastering the knuckleball as anyone I’ve ever seen who has thrown the pitch. Phil Niekro and Charlie Hough could make the knuckleball dance like Fred Astaire, Tim Wakefield had a knuckler that could mambo too, but Dickey is dancing with the stars.