RA Dickey – From Journeyman to “The Man”

Professional sports, especially baseball, have a way of sensationalizing the efforts of millionaires.  These folks are after all only human, but even still there are times when things just seem too good to be true.  Take for instance the career path of RA Dickey.  I would call his time with the Mets a resurgence,  but that would give the impression that Dickey has done this before, when in fact he has never come close.  Drafted more than sixteen years ago by the Texas Rangers, Dickey’s path to stardom is as unorthodox as the 37 year old knuckleballer himself.

Many of you know the origin of Dickey’s life story.  A first round selection out of the University of Tennessee, he was set for a big pay day, having agreed to a signing bonus of more than $800,000.  That was until a photo on the front of Sports Illustrated alerted the Rangers medical staff to an..abnormality if you will, in RA’s right arm.  That abnormality was the lack of an ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his elbow, which greatly impacted his suspected ceiling as a professional pitcher.  The discovery not only cost him significant money, reducing signing bonus to only $75,000, but it also sent his once promising pitching career into a tailspin.

The next ten plus years of Dickey’s career were less than inspiring.  He did not crack the Major League lineup in Texas until 2001, and ultimately spent more time pitching out of the bullpen than the starting rotation.  That was until 2006 when he was advised that the knuckleball might be his only path to success at the big league level.  And so he practiced his new craft, eventually moving on from the Rangers and pitching a year each in Seattle and Minnesota.  Again, in both cases seeing more time out of the bullpen and having disappointing levels of success.  It wasn’t until 2010 that then Mets General Manager, Omar Minaya, took a flyer on the aged hurler.

Dickey didn’t find his way into the Mets rotation until mid-May of 2010 immediately winning his first six decisions, but since then he hasn’t looked back.  Dickey’s 11-9 contribution that year earned him the first guaranteed multi-year deal of his life, keeping the journeyman in Queens for the foreseeable future.  Last season witnessed Dickey pitch far better than his 8-13 record would indicate, often falling victim to poor defense and even poorer run support.  This season though, he has had no such tough luck.

Dickey’s rise to stardom has as much to do with his persona off the field, as it does with his performance on it.  The well educated, well-spoken “veteran” has connected with multiple portions of the fan base, whether it be through his journey into the realm of twitter or his outspoken love of Star Wars.  Then there is his tell all book this spring detailing everything from childhood sexual abuse, to steroid use in the Texas Rangers clubhouse.  Dickey, despite being one of those aforementioned millionaires, comes off as much like you and I as anyone else in baseball.  He doesn’t raise himself up above his teammates, or even his fans, making him that much more loveable.

Fast forward to last night.  A dominant complete game one hitter in which Dickey broke Jerry Koosman’s scoreless innings streak, with 32 2/3’s of his own and it appears that Dickey has finally arrived.  Tied for first in the Majors with ten wins, Dickey not only deserves a spot on the all-star team, he should be in discussion to start the game.  Dickey hasn’t lost a decision since April 18th, and has gone at least seven innings in his last five starts (all wins).  In all likelihood, as much a surprise to himself as it is to us, RA Dickey has turned into an inspiration.  After a decade and a half of professional disappointment and rejection, RA Dickey has finally found his path and his home.  Yes, sports fans, RA Dickey is officially “The Man” in Queens.

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