A Portrait of the R.A.-tist as a Young Man


Giving us shades of Bob Ross, J.S. Mill along with a bit of Tom Candiotti thrown in there, R.A. Dickey is almost a contradictory baseball player.  He is humble, shy and down-to-earth but is well-spoken and doesn’t mince words in his interviews; he processes his game cerebrally but is not a head case on the mound; he is a Mets pitcher who is getting paid his worth…well, what we can say about that except that it’s about time the Mets realized the term “value” and “pitcher” can indeed go together.

Dickey has become one of my personal favorite characters and players on the Mets going into 2011.  And by “characters,” I mean a literary figure.  You see, I favor R.A. Dickey not only because I never have a heart attack when he starts a game, but also because he’s a fellow (former) English literature major.  Dickey is someone I can relate to: he can discuss and interpret literature as easily as baseball.

Instead of discussing literature though, he is now writing a piece of it: over the weekend it was announced that Dickey would be entering the pantheon of memoir writers, channeling his inner James Joyce by creating his own self-portrait, but instead of his portrait of an artist, it’s the portrait of an art of pitching and his life.  Most baseball players’ memoirs or even autobiographies are less “auto” and more of a story told by the ghost writer.  Dickey plans to do most of the book himself, and with a publishing timetable of one year, should be an admirable feat in and of itself.

We all know what an innately feel-good story the evolution of Robert Allen Dickey is.  His most diligent of fans got to appreciate his post-game quotes and his inner lyricist.  As Greg Prince at Faith and Fear in Flushing wrote in his Most Valuable Mets of 2010 post, “He earned consideration through his pitching. He clinched the award the minute he cleared his throat.”  In fact, their annual post highlighting the achievements of an overperforming Met at FAFIF may have been a precursor to Dickey’s memoirs of the Quotable R.A.

Prince was certainly not the only one who appreciates Dickey.  Mike Silva over at NY Baseball Digest wrote that Johan Santana’s absence in 2011 is more palatable because of the emergence of Dickey.  Even as far as Seattle, Larry Stone related how Dickey’s journey has led to as permanent of a role pitching for the Mets (using even a literary term “Odyssey” to describe Dickey’s Homeric triumphs of epic proportions).

Earlier, I was a little hesitant about giving R.A. Dickey more than a one year contract, but with the Mets avoiding arbitration with Dickey and agreeing to a two year contract worth $7.8 million, this is the type of low-risk/high-reward transaction that the Mets have been lacking in their pitching staff (not to mention the whole team) for awhile.

I am not only eager to see R.A. Dickey’s performance in 2011 but also to see how he performs in the realm of Renaissance Man: the rebirth of pitching as an art form and the portrait of a budding writer.

And whatever you do, don’t compare Dickey to fellow knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.  “If I spend a lot of time trying to be Tim Wakefield, I’m going to lose who I am…And that spells bad news.