Knuckleballers… They Are Like The Kickers Of MLB

It comes as no surprise to most Mets fans, but the team has officially been eliminated from the NL East race. They are 22 games behind the NL East leading Washington Nationals and only have 21 games to play.

The team has little to play for the rest of the way, and the majority of the team has probably started booking some off-season vacations. The one player who still has a lot to play for is RA Dickey. With a potential Cy Young Award hanging in the balance, we can only hope the Mets will put those off-season plans on the back burner, and focus on playing mistake free baseball while Dickey is on the mound the rest of the way.

Image Credit: Charles Miller

Dickey, with all of his success this season, still seems like an underdog to win the Cy Young this year. The reason is obvious – he is a knuckleballer.

Early Wynn won the Cy Young in 1959, and used the knuckleball as part of his arsenal, but he was never considered a knuckleballer. Famed knuckleballer Joe Niekro only finished as high as second in Cy Young award voting. Could this be the year that a knuckleballer finally gets recognized as the leagues best pitcher? Mets fans, don’t get your hopes up just yet.

The knuckle ball is still considered a gimmick pitch. Baseball traditionalists will tell you that the art of pitching is changing speeds, moving the ball around the strike zone, and keeping hitters off balance. It’s a game of cat and mouse, and the pitcher is usually the cat. The pitcher holds a huge advantage over hitters because the hitter has no idea what the pitcher is going to throw next. The hitter has to decide whether to swing at a pitch in the blink of an eye when that ball is released from the pitcher’s hand. Hitting a baseball is still the most difficult thing to do in sports, and as the old adage states, good pitching beats good hitting any day of the week.

When a pitcher is on that mound, putting the ball wherever he wants, mowing down hitter after hitter, it’s like hearing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. It’s a masterpiece. You don’t get that same feeling when it’s a knuckleballer. There is just something about that knuckleball pitcher that doesn’t feel right. It’s almost as if a pitcher was striking guys out using the eephus pitch. In the MLB, you have pitchers…then you have knuckleballers. That says it all. Just like in football you have football players…and then you have kickers. Kickers are important, teams rely on them to win games for them, they wear helmets and pads, have to make tackles like the other football players…but they’re kickers, not football players.

Will knuckleballers ever gain the respect they deserve? Maybe if Dickey wins the Cy Young Award this year, they will for a little while. But it will be short lived. The knuckle ball will always be viewed as a gimmick pitch, and knuckleballers will never receive the type of respect that traditional pitchers do. They will always be the kickers of the MLB.