Dickey and the Mets: A Perfect Match
R.A. Dickey managed to allow just two runs over seven innings last night, but it wasn’t pretty. He fell twice — once on the mound and once on the basepaths — and he somehow dragged his banged-up butt and foot to first base fast enough to earn him an infield single. And yet it was all wonderful to watch.
Over the past year and a half, Dickey, the knuckleballing, wisdom-imparting wonder, has captured the curiosity and the hearts of Met fans everywhere. ‘Who on Earth is this guy?’ we’ve asked. ‘And could he possibly be the real deal?’ In many ways, Dickey embodies the spirit and the mystery of the 2011 Mets.
The man and his team have much in common:
1. They came out of nowhere. After several terrible years with the Rangers, R.A. took up the knuckleball in 2006 — and proceeded to have several more terrible years. He was sub-par as a reliever for the Twins in ’09. But then the Mets signed him to a minor league deal, and the legend was born. Dickey threw a one-hitter for AAA Buffalo on April 29, 2010, and the rest is history.
The Mets, much like the 36-year-old Dickey, have reinvented themselves after years of disappointment, and have surprised a lot of people in doing so. They are a squad loaded with out-of-nowheres, including Justin Turner, Ruben Tejada, Jason Isringhausen, Pedro Beato, and even Terry Collins.
2. They’re banged up. Dickey tore the plantar fascia in his heel on May 26, and he experienced “left glute tightness” on July 3. Unlike most of the injured Mets, Dickey has continued to play through pain, and since hurting his heel he’s had a 2.63 ERA in eight starts. Meanwhile, David Wright, Ike Davis, Johan Santana, and Jose Reyes — four of the Mets’ five best players — are on the DL.
3. They make the most of what they’ve got. Despite the injuries, the past failures, and the doubters, Dickey has soldiered on, and so have the Mets. Instead of lamenting their misfortunes, they’ve taken the right approach to maximize their success. Dickey is no superstar, nor are most of the men on the Mets’ 25-man roster. But they give everything they’ve got every night, and it’s paid off.
4. They range from very average to very good. In mid-May, R.A. had Met fans wondering if perhaps his 2010 success was just a fluke. And yet, since May 14, he’s lowered his ERA from 5.08 to 3.61, suggesting that he is the real deal. Whether the 2011 Mets are the real deal — well, that’s a different story. But like Dickey, the Mets can either seem to be overachieving-but-still-mediocre, or they can convince you — as they did last night — that they are truly something special.
5. They give us reason to believe. If Dickey can do it, anyone can. This is a man who had a 5.43 ERA and not a single good year from 2001 to 2009; a man who accounts for half of MLB’s active knuckleballers; and a bookworm who named one of his bats “Orcist the Goblin Cleaver.”
A great baseball player? Maybe not. But he’s got the charm and the talent to keep us intrigued.