More than any other organization in Major League Baseball, and for as long as I canremember, the New York Mets have been the object of my greatest disdain. Mr.Met, the ridiculous apple popping out of the hat during each home run, and the incessant curtain calls during the mid-80’s where it seemed like an infield single in the first inning merited an additional round of applause all helped shape my feelings towards the second-rate organization in Queens. From Mookie, Mex, Doc, Straw and the Kid to Reyes, LoDuca, Wright, Beltran and our old friend Billy Wagner to the absolute joke that the organization has become today there is no team in baseball whose misery I enjoy more. If the Nationals are the obnoxious kid brother that won’t stop following us around then the Mets are the uninvited party guest that just won’t leave and continues to make a fool out of himself long after it stopped being funny. Imagine then the self-conflict that engulfed my soul as I cheered the selection of R.A. Dickey as this year’s Cy Young Award winner. At this point, it would make sense to deduce this
rooting interest as part of an “anyone but Gio” mentality and admittedly that was a slight factor; but the truth is that after examining all the facts about just how extraordinary this man’s journey has been, I truly wanted to see Robert Allen Dickey recognized with this tremendous honor.
There is no pitcher in baseball that exemplifies the label “journeyman” as well as Dickey as he exhibits all of the commonalities of an unremarkable career. Since 2001 the 38 year old right hander has posted two winning seasons prior to his Cy Young campaign, has a lifetime ERA pushing 4 and has bounced from Texas to Seattle then Minnesota until finally finding a home (for better or worse) with
the Mets with trips back to the minors in between. His only other season posting double digit wins was in 2010 when he posted eleven and his previous high in strikeouts was last season when he K’d 134 batters, nearly 100 fewer than this season. This isn’t a guy that you would have expected to remain in a Mets uniform by season’s end not because of inability to get together on an extension but because it stood to reason that they would need to get younger and quite frankly, better in their rotation if they hoped to compete in the division. I guess that’s why I never paid much attention to him until spring training.
By the time he had arrived in Port St. Lucie, Florida, he had recently performed the incredible feat of scaling Mt. Kilimanjaro not for some sort of offseason escapade but to draw attention to human trafficking in India raising $100,000 in the process. Although we are sometimes disappointed by the conduct of professional athletes it is always refreshing to read about acts of unselfishness, principle and sacrifice and Dickey’s endeavor to raise awareness to a cause he felt strongly about while jeopardizing his 4.25 million dollar salary was an impressive accomplishment on many levels. This, however, was just a warm-up act as Dickey’s autobiography was about to draw attention that his baseball career
In the honest account of his life, Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball, he made the difficult decision to disclose his experience as a victim of childhood sexual abuse as well as his struggles with suicidal thoughts as an adult. Journeymen pitchers don’t write autobiographies unless the subject matter is greater than the game itself; and in a country where we have seen entirely too much hurt as the result of abuse and the aftershocks that are felt well into the victim’s adulthood, Dickey’s book is exactly that. For an individual to possess the motivation of helping others that have suffered the same plight to the point of complete transparency in telling their own personal nightmare is in fact heroic. It was at this point that the purpose of the man transcended the uniform he wore and I became an R.A. Dickey fan.
I simply hoped that he would put together a nice season and by the end of April his record stood at 3-1 but with an ERA of 4.45. Not exactly the stuff of legends and nowhere near what you would consider to be a Cy Young candidate but it looked like he would have a fine year and have a growing platform for the causes he sought to draw attention to, then the calendar turned to May and R.A. Dickey went about becoming the best pitcher in the National League. Dickey did not lose a game in the month of May or June and after polishing off the Dodgers on June 29th he had not only earned his twelfth win of the season but he had also dropped his ERA to 2.15. By the time it was all over he had set career bests in wins (20) ERA (2.73) complete games (5) shutouts (3) strikeouts (230) and WHIP (1.053) and had defined himself as one of the premier pitchers in the league.
Maybe it would have been different if this were just another ordinary pitcher that happened to have a great season or perhaps I wouldn’t have even cared had the Phils put together a better year; but I doubt it. The truth is I enjoyed rooting for R.A. Dickey and hoped that he would win the Cy Young not because of his past, as no award could ever wipe away the reality of the abuse he endured, but because it would expand his opportunities to draw attention to not only the horridness of the act but also the ability to recover from it as he clearly has. There are times in sports when the actions of an athlete transcend the uniform that they wear and we cheer them not for their team affiliation but because of their commitment to decency and humanity.
I still have no love for the Mets organization but have no choice but to cheer on a man that has overcome the worst parts of his life and chooses to inspire others with the story of his pain and victory over it. A New York Met earned the Cy Young Award; and I couldn’t be happier.