The last time I spoke to R.A. Dickey it was 2010. It was a late spring morning in Port St. Lucie and he was sitting, legs crossed, on a wooden stool, Mets pinstripe pants, three-quarter sleeved t-shirt, stirrups, no shoes, quietly gnawing on a hot dog and eating baked beans off a paper plate in front of his temporary “space” in the New York Mets locker room. From a distance, Dickey appeared lost and alone amongst the anxious rookies and loud overconfident veterans. In hindsight, he probably was — at that moment in time.
Dickey was in camp as a spring training invitee. He was 35 years old, a “journeyman” in baseball circles, who spent the previous season pitching in relief for the Minnesota Twins. He had never won more than nine games in a single season at that point in his career. For all intents and purposes Dickey was looking to catch on with a major league team and make the 25-man roster. Closer, set-up man, specialist, long relief, starter, spot starter; didn’t matter. He just wanted to prolong his professional career.
At the moment I walked up, shook his hand and introduced myself, Dickey had pitched in seven major league seasons for the Texas Rangers (2003-2007), Seattle Mariners (2008) and the Minnesota Twins (2009). His career record at that moment: 22 wins, 27 losses. We talked about the knuckleball, mostly. He was unassuming and polite. When Mets PR curmudgeon Jay Horwitz told me not to sit on the stool next to Dickey (“because players don’t like that”), Dickey invited me to sit back down. He welcomed the conversation. It was on that day, at that moment, I became a Robert Allen Dickey fan.
Fast forward three years: Dickey has pitched three seasons in New York. Scratch that … three amazing seasons. Since 2010, Dickey has made 91 starts, 616 innings pitched, 39 wins and has a three-year combined earned run average of 2.95. Oh, right, and a Cy Young Award hanging over the fireplace this holiday. He is one of three Mets pitchers to win a Cy Young Award in the team’s 50 year history. Tom Seaver won the Award as a Met three times (1969, 1973 and 1975) and Dwight Gooden won the honor in 1985.
When Dickey recorded his 20th win last season he became the first Mets pitcher since Frank Viola in 1990 and, surprisingly, only the sixth different player in franchises pitching-rich history, to win 20 games in a single season. Past winners include:
- Tom Seaver (1969, 1971, 1972 and 1975)
- Dwight Gooden (1985)
- Frank Viola (1990)
- David Cone (1988)
- Jerry Koosman (1976)
2012 was a banner year for Dickey — on and off the field. Prior to the season he climbed (and conquered) Mount Kilimanjaro. That was a “first.” Yes, Dickey made the climb as a personal challenge, but he also used the opportunity to raise funds and awareness for the Bombay teen Challenge, an organization that rescues and cares for girls in Mumbai who are at risk of being abused and exploited. In May, Dickey released his memoir, Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball; the 340 pages of raw emotion and truth. It was hist “first” as an author. In July, he was named to the National League All-Star team and pitched a scoreless inning. Another career “first.” Here it is December 15 and Dickey is experiencing another career “first” — he is at the center of the Hot Stove trade rumor mill. As of Saturday morning, rumors have the Mets dealing him to Toronto … or Baltimore … or the Los Angeles (Angels).
If traded, Dickey wouldn’t be the “first” pitcher traded coming off a Cy Young Award-winning seaso, but he’d be on a short list of priors. David Cone was dealt to the Blue Jays from the Kansas City Royals after winning the Award in 1994. Four years later, in 1998, Pedro Martinez was traded to the Boston Red Sox from the Montreal Expos. The next off season (1999) the Toronto Blue Jays shipped Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens to the New York Yankees.
For the moment Dickey is still a New York Met. In fact, at 38 years old, he is the oldest member on the Mets 40-man roster, second only to Johan Santana (who turned 33 last September). With a trade inevitable, Dickey is holding on to that notorious honor by a thread.
If, and when, the news is announced that the Mets have traded Dickey it will be disappointing to Mets fans everywhere. In three short seasons he has catapulted into sacred space in a Mets fans heart. He is a rare bright spot on an otherwise dark era in team history. Dickey represents all that is good in the game today. He is authentic and kind, thoughful and thankful for his support. Dickey is — despite the New York spotlight and success — still the same guy chewing on those pig parts three years ago, only now more valuable. In fact, over his nine-year career Dickey has never been more valuable on the market.
That’s good news for Dickey, bad news for Mets fans.