On this date in 2009, the New York Mets had signed knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to a minor league deal with an invite to major league camp.
Dickey was coming off a season for the Minnesota Twins in which he had a 4.62 ERA, 1.62 WHIP and pitched almost exclusively out of the bullpen. The former 1996 first round pick had pitched in the Texas Rangers, Milwaukee Brewers, Seattle Mariners and Twins organizations with a combined 5.39 ERA in the major leagues.
The veteran right-hander allowed five runs in five spring training innings for the Mets in 2010 and was among the first players cut. Dickey was assigned to the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons and got roughed up in his first start.
In his second start however, he pitched a complete game allowing only two runs and he would go at least eight innings in his next three starts that culminated in a complete game one-hitter on April 29. In that one-hitter he allowed a base hit to the first batter and then retired 27 straight.
On May 19, 2010 he would make his New York Mets regular season debut with six solid innings against the Washington Nationals. Dickey would then go on to win his next six starts with the Mets posting a 2.23 ERA during that span.
Dickey would pitch his first one-hitter as a Met on August 13 against Philadelphia Phillies in a complete game shutout. Final numbers on Dickey’s first season with the Mets in 174.1 innings; 11-9, 2.84 ERA (10th best in MLB), 1.19 WHIP and 26 starts. Not bad for a minor league deal that had people ridiculing the Mets.
The UCL-less Dickey signed a two-year deal on January 29, 2011 that paid him $2.25 million for 2011 ($1M signing bonus as well) and $4.25 million for 2012. The deal also included a $5 million option for 2013.
The 2011 season was much of the same for Dickey with a 3.28 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 32 starts while going over 200 innings for the first time in his career.
Then came one of the greatest seasons in Mets franchise history, in 2012 when Dickey became a National League Cy Young winner, an All-Star and finished 14th in MVP voting.
Dickey would win 20 games becoming just the sixth pitcher in Mets history to do so. He also pitched back-to-back double digit strikeout games in May of 2012, the first Met pitcher since Pedro Martinez to do that.
On June 13, 2012, Dickey faced only 29 batters, struck out 12 and allowed only an infield hit to B.J. Upton (Mets unsuccessfully appealed the scoring). In his next start, Dickey would throw another one-hitter becoming the first major league pitcher to throw back-to-back one-hitters since Dave Stieb in 1988.
Dickey would also go on to set the franchise record for consecutive scoreless innings with 32.2, and also the first knuckleballer to win the Cy Young. He would finished the 2012 season with a 20-6 record, a league leading five complete games, three shutouts, 233.2 innings pitched and 230 strikeouts. Also had a sparkling 2.73 ERA, 3.27 FIP, 1.05 WHIP and 4.26 SO/W.
The historic season had Dickey looking for an extension but instead the Mets traded him on Dec. 17, 2012 to the Toronto Blue Jays for veteran catcher John Buck, two Top 100 prospects in catcher Travis d’Arnaud and pitcher Noah Syndergaard and throw-in Wuilmer Becerra.
Dickey wound up going 49-52 with a 4.05 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and threw 824 innings in four seasons with the Blue Jays.
Prior to the 2017 season, Dickey signed with the Atlanta Braves where he made 30 starts yet again and had a 4.26 ERA. Dickey is now a free agent and some question whether he wants to pitch again.
Dickey currently holds the third best ERA in Mets franchise history at 2.95 among starters behind only Noah Syndergaard and Tom Seaver.
The now 43-year-old knuckleballer proved that not all minor league deals are the same.