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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Somebody's Favorite

First off, a fearless prediction: R.A. Dickey is not going to win the Cy Young award.

He’ll be deserving — he’s got a good chance to lead the league in strikeouts and maybe wins, and he’ll be up there among the ERA leaders. And I have no doubt that he’ll be mentioned alongside Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain and Kyle Lohse and Johnny Cueto.

But he won’t win.

Why not? Because he’s a knuckleballer, and because too many baseball writers and coaches and front-office people still regard knuckleballers as sideshow attractions, somewhere between freaks and cheats. During Dickey’s recent run of less-than-stellar starts, you could see this narrative come to the fore — even his own manager followed the script. (As did I, back in the beginning.) Dickey wasn’t just having a bad stretch, like nearly every pitcher does during a long season, for reasons that can rarely be pinned down beyond shrugs and guesses. No, the problem was that Dickey’s knuckleball — that fickle weirdo muse of a pitch — had deserted him. That’s the conventional wisdom, which in baseball gets carved in stone: The knuckleball is in charge, and the pitcher is just its agent. Which is a fancy way of saying a knuckleballer isn’t a “real” pitcher.

This same knuckle-dragging prejudice kept Dickey from starting the All-Star Game, as he should have. (Plus denying R.A. gave the vile Tony La Russa one last chance to make everyone to talk about him instead of the game.) Get used to it: Even if Dickey winds up redefining the knuckler by demonstrating that you can change speeds with it and locate it fairly precisely, he won’t get the credit for a long time, if ever. Baseball is slow on the uptake:¬†It will take an additional generation of Dickeyesque knuckleballers using the pitch like a tumbling cousin of the split-fingered fastball to change perceptions and shut up the last few Neanderthals.

Fortunately, we won’t be among them — though but for some shrewd scouting by Omar Minaya (OH MY GOD YES I TYPED THAT) we could have been. Not so long ago, as Mets fans we knew about as much about the knuckleball as we did about no-hitters: Momentary Met Dennis Springer had thrown one, as had Bob Moorhead way back in the day, but besides those two all we had were guys who’d toyed with it here and there. Now, every fifth day we’re knuckleball aficionados. Certainly we were yesterday, when a masterful R.A. gave us our first win since before the All-Star break. He’s now 15-3, and in line to become our sixth 20-game winner* and our first since Frank Viola in 1990, which all of a sudden is an ungodly number of years ago. (Well, unless something goes wrong. Which it sure could, as that “first win since before the All-Star break” thing should remind you.)

R.A. aside, the marquee name in the matinee was Andres Torres, who tormented Josh Johnson (and Chad Gaudin) with a double, homer and triple. (Nobody much mourns when you wind up a triple shy of the cycle, but the lack of a single stings, doesn’t it?)

I don’t have much use for Torres, who hasn’t been much of an upgrade over Angel Pagan: He doesn’t walk hit enough¬†[actually he leads the team in walk rate — must have been my dislike for him talking] and mixes graceful outfield play with too many head-scratching misplays. (Before you start complaining, remember we were all pretty tired of Pagan by the end.) So I was a bit taken aback when the Mets arrived in San Francisco and Torres got a standing ovation, stepping out of the box and doffing his helmet. But of course the Torres of 2010 was a wonderful player on a championship club, reaching heights he’d never reached before and most likely never will again. I may not have much use for him, but he’ll never buy a beer in San Francisco, which isn’t a bad thing to have in your back pocket. With more days on his resume like yesterday, maybe we’d feel the same way.

* Seaver (four times), Koosman, Gooden, Cone, Viola.

8 comments to Somebody’s Favorite

  • Not missing Pagan one little bit. One of the lowest baseball IQs I’ve ever seen on a player. Still, Mets need an upgrade at every outfield position. If they can get a real leadoff guy – basically Tejada with speed – someone who can walk, get base hits, play decent outfield, this could be a very good offensive team.

  • boldib

    Dunno. I’m starting to like Torres more as the season goes on. The early injuries seem to be in the past and he’s getting into a much better rhythm the last month or so.

    The numbers are improving.

  • I was glad to see Torres get the “Endy” treatment in SF…

  • Z

    Dunno, it’s seemed to me that sportswriters love RAD–his book, his back story and all that. Plus they usually do go by the numbers. If–if–he ends up (as he presently is) leading the NL in wins, Ks, innings, and WHIP and stays in the top 5 for ERA, I think they’ll make the obvious choice.

    • Dave

      I wish I could have your confidence in the sportswriters, Z, but when it comes time for people to vote to reward players, whether it’s writers for the major awards or fans for all-star teams, Met players are inevitably shafted. Everything from Seaver not winning MVP in 69 or Doc in 85 or Straw in 88 or Piazza in 99 to the Cy Young with Kooz in 76 or Cone in 88 to Wright in this year’s so-called All-Star Game. There’s still nearly 2 months of baseball to be played and lots can happen, and I sure hope I’m wrong, but I’m with Jason on this. RA will be up there in the voting, but the award will go to someone else, most likely Cain, in a repeat gross miscarriage of justice.

      • Dak442

        I am hoping the anti-Met bias you amply cited is outweighed by all the RA extracurriculars: climbing Everest to help kids, all the adversity overcame in the book revelations, et al.

        • Dave

          I hope so too, but given how many complete a-holes have won awards and wound up in Cooperstown, I don’t see the fact that RA is a smart, articulate, caring human being who realizes the world is bigger than him necessarily working in his favor.

  • mikeL

    yup, mets got shafted big-time in the all star game…result wright and dickey were brought in to late to be relevant to the game’s outcome and larussa could claim eveb-greater-geniushood for going against (correct) conventional wisdom on who should have gotten the start.

    beyond that, dickey is a complex individual that goes against the preferred soundbite-ready norm – and i fear the award will go to someone who better fits the jock stereotype.

    i hope i’m wrong though.

    meantime wishing mr harvey a very dominant first time in flushing. may he be permitted to pitch to his strengths as he did the first time out.