Over his six year tenure as general manager of the New York Mets, Omar Minaya made hundreds of acquisitions. Hours of going over stats, phone calls with scouts, negotiations with agents, all in an effort to put the best possible 25 players on the field come Opening Day. Minaya had made some oustanding acquisitions over the years, others; not so great. R.A. Dickey was definitely one of his better ones, but where does that incentive-laden minor league deal that brought the Mets and Dickey together rank amongst Minaya’s all-time signings over his years as GM of the Mets?
Does he deserve to be placed among some of his best? Yes. While many signings such as Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and Jason Bay will go down as some of the worst signings in franchise history, there have been some excellent acquisitions such as Carlos Beltran, Billy Wagner, Johan Santana, Carlos Delgado and of course, R.A. Dickey.
Of the better ones, I would place Dickey, Santana, and Beltran in his top three. From there however, how does one compare? In terms of what the Mets have given up, Dickey clearly takes the cake. Minaya gave up some once star prospects who eventually turned out to be busts plus $137.5 million to lock up Santana. He wrote a $119 million dollar check to Scott Boras for Carlos Beltran. For Dickey however, all it took was a minor league deal with a $600,000 bonus and a hunch. In terms of overall performance, one could make a case for any of the three.
Beltran, a solid five tool player for New York, who had three exceptional years from 2006-2008 then overcame two years of injuries to put up all-star numbers when he could make it on the field with exception to 2010. Unfortunately by many, he is known for one pitch not swung at in Game 7 of the ’06 NLCS, but his career in New York should be known for so much more than that and is very much underappreciated. He went out there every single day and was one of the veteran leaders of that team from when he signed in the winter of 2005 to ultimately his being traded for Zack Wheeler in 2011. A five-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove Award winner for New York, Beltran was truly one of the greatest Mets of all-time.
Santana has a similar story, many injuries, but a workhorse. He will work himself until he cannot crawl onto the field, he’s pitched through a torn meniscus, elbow chips, and countless other problems to go out there until his body doesn’t allow it and gives the Mets every last ounce of energy he has left. Overcoming a career threatening shoulder injury, Santana has returned to his old form in 2012 and that was most exemplified on June 1st when he threw the Mets first no-hitter in their storied 50-year history.
Dickey, unlike the other two mentioned above, didn’t come here a perennial all-star. He wasn’t a major acquisition of any sort, in fact the move was mocked on SNY and the fanbase. This was a former first round pick who just could not figure himself out. The New York Mets were one of his last chances, and man did he take advantage of his opportunity. Since being called up on May 19th of 2010, the knuckleballer hasn’t missed a start, going 30-23 with a 2.91 ERA in his 73 starts for the New York Mets. As dominant as he was in 2010 and 2011, Dickey has been in a world of his own in 2012. Now sittting at 11-1 with a 2.31 ERA and 106 strikeouts in just 14 starts, R.A. Dickey has been one of the top reasons why the Mets remain in contention in the Nation League East. He has become an ace alongside Johan Santana, and does it with unfathomable control on a historically uncontrollable pitch. He is one of the greatest stories in sports right now and the ultimate tale of perserverance and determination.
R.A. Dickey has come from columns desribing him like this:
“Unlike Javier Vazquez, who joined the Yanks, Dickey is not a 15-game winner with an ERA under 3.00, but the signing is a move of some kind for the relatively quiet Mets”
–Daily News’ Roger Rubin on the Mets and Yankees acquisitions in December of 2009
To glowing nuggets such as this:
“R.A. Dickey’s impeccable control with that dancing knuckleball has made him the most dominant pitcher in baseball.”
–Associated Press after Dickey’s back-to-back one-hitters
Dickey is easily one of Minaya’s shining legacies left on the New York Mets, but is it his greatest acquisition with New York? Maybe too early to tell.
However, if R.A. Dickey can continue to perform anywhere near this level for another 3-4 seasons, he will without a doubt go down as not only Minaya’s best signing, but one of the best players to ever wear a Mets uniform. He has reached heights that most ballplayers, at one point including himself, couldn’t even dream of (and I’m not just talking about Mt. Kilimanjaro). Yet here he is, R.A. Dickey, the probable NL starter for the All-Star Game. R.A. Dickey, the leading Cy Young candidate. R.A. Dickey, the legend, being born before our very eyes. His legacy as New York Met has only just begun despite being 37.
…and it all started with an innocent minor league signing, a little determination and a nail file.