I sincerely wish R.A. Dickey had continued his recent Rad ways against the Marlins in festive San Juan instead of throwing his first indisputably Icky start. Of course I do. Still, an infinitesimal bit of me is mildly relieved to discover R.A. Dickey is essentially like the rest of us.
Seriously, I was beginning to have my doubts. The man was not only unbeaten in six decisions prior to Monday night, but he seemed just a little too good to be true, moundwise and otherwise. R.A. Dickey was a walking human interest story everywhere he showed up. His lack of a ligament was interesting. His relationship to his catcher’s mitt was interesting. His comeback from obscurity was interesting. His choice of what he reads and doesn’t read — and the fact that he likes to read — was interesting. R.A. put me in mind of XX, a.k.a. those Dos Equis commercials featuring “the most interesting man in the world”.
His car arrives home before his pitches do.
Batters take two strikes from him and then tip their cap.
His knuckles throw a Dickeyball in tribute.
The final straw, so to speak, came Sunday when I watched Mets Weekly cover the club’s string of admirable “Teammates in the Community” events. One of the stops involved planting a garden in Harlem. Who should be calmly explaining the making of flower beds as if he had a degree in horticulture but Professor R.A. Dickey? I half-expected him to gently touch the dirt and instantly create foliage.
That’s when it hit me who R.A. Dickey really might be: not Phil Niekro or Wilbur Wood or Tim Wakefield but Chance the Gardener from Being There. Simple Chance the Gardener, commonly mistaken as erudite Chauncey Gardener, was the sheltered Peter Sellers character who spoke in nothing but mundane gardening terms, yet his every utterance — “There will be growth in the spring” — came to be taken as the sagest of wisdom. Chance unwittingly rides his obliviousness to Washington’s most powerful salons and, by the end of the movie, he’s considered presidential timber. Chance the Gardener can do no wrong.
Monday night we learned R.A. Dickey is no Chance. But we’ll take our chances with him another day.
As for Ricky Nolasco, who shut down every Met but Jason Bay, I must confess the one thing I always think of when he pitches is this exchange from The Sunshine Boys between cantankerous Willie Clark (Walter Matthau) and clueless Al Lewis (George Burns) upon their first stilted encounter after eleven years of estrangement:
WILLIE: You know Sol Burton died?
AL: Go on. [Pause] Who’s Sol Burton?
WILLIE: You don’t remember Sol Burton?
AL: Oh, yes — the manager from the Belasco.
WILLIE: That was Sol Bernstein.
AL: Not Sol Bernstein. Sol Burton was the manager from the Belasco.
WILLIE: Sol Bernstein was the manager from the Belasco and it wasn’t the Belasco, it was the Morosco.
AL: Sid Weinstein was the manager from the Morosco. Sol Burton was the manager from the Belasco. Sol Bernstein I don’t know who the hell was.
After Monday night, we definitely know who Ricky Nolasco is.
He’s that pitcher from the Mets who threw his glove in the air after he won those big games.