Media Criticism & The R.A. Dickey Situation


Last night, after R.A. Dickey was named the National League Cy Young Award winner, most of the area writers went to work penning salutatory pieces about him.  They discussed who he was as a man, as an athlete, and what winning the award meant to both Dickey and the Mets.  Some of the articles glossed over Dickey’s contract status, but one article (by Dave Lennon of Newsday) turned Dickey’s night into an excuse to bash the Mets.

In the opening to his article, here’s what Lennon had to say about Dickey winning the Cy Young, and his hope that Dickey would be at Citi Field to start for the Mets on Opening Day in 2013:

"It’s one of the only things the Mets really have to look forward to in what already is shaping up to be another cold, depressing winter."

First of all, what New York winter isn’t cold (at least relative to the rest of the Country)?  Second, what basis does Lennon have to claim on November 15th that the Mets’ winter will be “depressing?”  Here are the main things that have happened so far this offseason:  The Mets have cut ties with Jason Bay, freeing up more money for 2013 in the process.  R.A. Dickey has won the Cy Young award.  David Wright has been offered a contract extension, and his agents have submitted a counter-proposal.  The conventional wisdom, is that Wright will be re-signed.  Is it less than ideal that the Mets are still under financial constraints? Yes.  Does that fact necessarily mean that the winter will be “depressing?”  No.  Even if the Mets were flush with cash, it wouldn’t be very wise to enter the market for Josh Hamilton, Shane Victorino, or any of the other highest priced members of this poor free agent crop.  Aside from external free agent splashes, there are a host of things the Mets may do this winter (the likely extension of Wright, possible extension of Dickey, trades) to solidify and/or improve the club.  Again, it’s November 15th.

Sep 27, 2012; Flushing, NY,USA; New York Mets starting pitcher R.A. Dickey (43) waves to the fans after recording his 20th win of the season in the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citi Field. Mets won 6-5. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-US PREWIRE

After his opening shot, the remainder of Lennon’s article focused on bashing Sandy Alderson for admitting that trading R.A. Dickey wasn’t an impossibility if the pitcher’s contract demands were exorbitant, labeling the franchise a “mess,” and stating that R.A. Dickey “needs” to be on the Mets for Opening Day in 2013 for the sake of it.  Lennon doesn’t disapprove of the Mets keeping Dickey for the start of the season before trading him during the summer, but it’s the franchise he’s labeling as “a mess.”  The “mess,” is his less than brilliant idea of keeping Dickey for part of a season simply to appease the fans – which would likely result in the team getting much less back via trade.

Lennon goes on to opine that trading Dickey this winter would be akin to “flushing 2013 down the toilet.”  I haven’t seen one writer (local or national) state that they expect the Mets to contend in 2013, so what exactly is being flushed?

Aside from that, the Mets’ main area of strength is their starting pitching (both at the Major League and Minor League level), so trading from that strength to fill needs at Catcher or in the Outfield would actually be logical.  To imply that dealing Dickey (before we even know what the return is) would equal “flushing 2013 down the toilet” is both reckless and baseless.  Let’s revisit the fact that Lennon called the franchise a “mess.”  You know what a “mess” would be?  Going into 2013 with R.A. Dickey on the Mets, with Sandy Alderson knowing full well that the team has no intention of keeping him beyond midseason.  Then, with a few days to go before the trade deadline and Dickey having another tremendous season, he breaks his ankle and is lost for the remainder of the year.  It’s a serious injury, but one that doesn’t reduce his value going into free agency.  He ends the season on the disabled list, signs with a different team after the year, and the Mets are left with nothing.  That would be a mess. I wonder if Lennon would then pen an article excusing the Mets for their misfortune.  I highly doubt he would.

After having read the above, you may have come to the conclusion that I think the Mets should trade R.A. Dickey.  I don’t think they should, nor do I want them to.  You may think that it’s easy for me to separate my emotional attachment to a certain player from the business side of things, but it’s not.  But if even I (a fan, not a beat writer) can admit that trading Dickey this winter has to be an option if he refuses the Mets’ offer, why is it so hard for Dave Lennon to see the same thing?  In three years, R.A. Dickey has become one of my favorite Mets ever.  He’s one of my favorites not only because of what he’s done on the field, but because of the man he is off the field.  I read his book, and to say it’s eye opening and inspiring would be a gross understatement.  I want Dickey to stay a Met from now until the day he retires.  I want to see him spraying David Wright with champagne after the Mets win the World Series (even though R.A. doesn’t drink alcohol), and I would be crushed if the Mets traded him.

Still, while emotion and fan sentiment should be factored in when the front office makes decisions, those things cannot be the deciding factor.  The deciding factor has to be what’s best for the ballclub.  If R.A. Dickey’s contract demands turn out to be exorbitant (both in terms of dollars and the amount of years he’s seeking), I won’t begrudge the Mets if they decide to trade him – as long as the potential return is worthwhile.

Dave Lennon is a good writer, but the article he wrote was hyperbolic and foolish.  It’s the kind of needless media attack that causes casual fans to become angry with the Mets, even though the team has yet to do anything wrong.  Frankly, it aggravates me to have to read this type of article from a man who should have known better than to submit  it for publishing.

We’ve heard that R.A. Dickey is seeking a five year extension, and that the Mets are only comfortable offering two years.  As I pointed out in an article a few days ago, what we’ve heard was likely the result of intentional leaks from the interested parties (one in an attempt to drive the price up, the other in an attempt to drive it down).  No one knows for sure what Dickey wants, or what the Mets are willing to give him.  What we do know, is how R.A. Dickey feels about his future.  In an interview this afternoon with Mike Francesa, Dickey had the following to say:

Regarding his involvement in the negotiations, Dickey said he was very involved,” and that he enjoyed the process.  So, we know that these negotiations aren’t being done exclusively between the agents and the Mets.  Dickey is right in the middle of the discussions.

Responding to a question about whether the higher velocity knuckleball he throws would hurt him down the road, Dickey said that he can probably throw a knuckleball 86 miles per hour,” and that he’s working at 70 percent capacity,” meaning the wear on his arm is still substantially less than that of conventional pitchers.

After being asked about the future of the Mets, he replied that hehad a conversation with (Mets General Manager) Sandy (Alderson), and he has convinced me that the Mets are going to improve.  And I think he’s done a very good job of convincing David (Wright).

One of the final things Dickey said to Francesa, was that he wanted to stay and be loyal to the Mets, because they were the only team that gave him a chance when 29 other clubs looked the other way.  He said that his relationship with the fanbase and his desire to remain a Met transcends monetary value.”

If you take what Dickey said at face value, it’s clear that he wants to stay, and it’s clear that he isn’t after every last penny.  Still, even though he may not be after every last penny, he has a responsibility to both himself and his family to get a fair deal.  What’s fair for a 38 year old former journeyman coming off a Cy Young campaign?  If I were the Mets, I’d rip up his $5 million dollar contract for this year and offer him three years guaranteed at $12 million per.  I’d add a vesting option based on innings pitched over the first three years of the deal.  If he insists on a few million more per year, work with him.  My gut tells me this is going to end with R.A. Dickey on the Mets for the long-term.  However, if the Mets offer him a deal like the one proposed above and he turns them down while deciding to shoot for the moon, the team has to look into trading him.  It would be an unfortunate ending to a terrific story, but it would be the right baseball move.  For the sake of the fans and R.A., let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.