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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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We Are R.A. (And The Precedent We Set)

The name “R.A. Dickey” has become to us Mets fans what “Maria” was to Tony in West Side Story.

Say it loud and there’s music playing
Say it soft and it’s almost like praying

Now, with the 2012 Cy Young Award voted R.A. Dickey’s way by veritable landslide, suddenly that name will never be the same again.

It’s only gotten bigger and better in the seven weeks since Dickey essentially clinched the prize the Baseball Writers Association of America announced was his Wednesday night. R.A. Dickey has been in nonstop ascent in our esteem from the Wednesday night he first fully appeared in our midst, high socks and all, in Nationals Park, May 19, 2010. He took over a spot in the Mets’ starting rotation from John Maine and surprised us then with six innings of two-run ball.

Soon enough, it stopped being surprising that he pitched well. The interesting part about him was what happened when he spoke after pitching. A few had come along out of what we on the sidelines consider nowhere to succeed on the ballfield. And a few had opened their mouths to reveal multisyllabic words forming complex thoughts in the unlikely forum of the postgame media scrum. It doesn’t reflect badly on the players who couldn’t pull it off. The required skill set is baseball, not eloquence. But R.A. could do the first and he possessed the second. He wowed us so completely that in an otherwise dreary year he was our runaway choice for Most Valuable Met of 2010.

We hadn’t — we would learn in grammar R.A. Dickey himself would likely reject— seen nothin’ yet.

The BBWAA celebrated R.A. last night. We do it every five days for six months out of every year. And we’re doing it again like we did it in ’10, as we ape Jack O’Connell and declare a bit of history. For the first time in the eight-season history of this blog, Faith and Fear in Flushing awards Most Valuable Met status to somebody for the second time.

Of course R.A. Dickey is our MVM for 2012. That’s an “of course” in the face of competition conceivably as compelling as Clayton Kershaw within the context of what we tend to think about here. Conceivably, we could have tabbed David Wright (who won it in 2007) for rewriting the uppermost lines of the Mets record book while carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. Or we could have chosen Johan Santana (2008’s winner) for a reason that will never have to be explained to anyone who lived it. Or we could have instituted a no-repeat rule on the fly and cleverly saluted somebody who symbolized something or other among the valiant if overmatched vast second tier of New York Mets players.

But that would be crazy, because of course it’s R.A. Dickey. R.A. Dickey is the Cy Young winner. R.A. Dickey is our winner. R.A. Dickey is our heroic figure whose stature within the borders of Metsopotamia isn’t so much larger than life as it is otherworldly…accessibly otherworldly, somehow.

We’ve never had anybody like this guy. We pretty much knew that before. We know it for certain now.

It seems superfluous in the shadow of 20 victories, the most strikeouts in the National League, the second-lowest ERA, two consecutive one-hitters, the redefinition of the knuckleball as a quasi-power pitch and the All-Star start that wasn’t his but clearly should have been to recount what makes R.A. Dickey extraordinary besides all that.

Like the best-selling, emotionally searing memoir. Like his advocacy on film and in real life of the pitch that transformed his career and the pitchers who blazed his trail. Like his literally breathtaking climb up Kilimanjaro, both for the immense physical feat and the cause for which it was undertaken. Like the gleefully geeky hobbies he doesn’t mind sharing with his fans. Like the bond he has forged with us overall, a two-way appreciation street between the man who gets how overwhelming the support on his behalf was as it crested in September of 2012 and the supporters who were so grateful to have a Met so worthy of sincere boosterism in yet another otherwise dreary year.

He’s still that articulate clubhouse voice from 2010, but we almost don’t notice the use of language anymore. We take R.A.’s participation in his dialogues with reporters as kind of a baked-in value-added asset to his total package by now. And we’d known for two years prior to 2012 that he could pitch (if not necessarily pitch like this). Perhaps what’s grown, aside from the depth of his baseball accomplishments, is our understanding of his singularity.

There’s never been another Met like R.A. Dickey.

There will never be another Met like R.A. Dickey.

As fans, we often lean on precedent to express ourselves. In the early R.A. days, we might have pointed to Terry Leach’s 1987 or Rick Reed’s 1997 and said this is what Dickey reminds us of, another journeyman who zipped from low-risk to high-reward. As we made a habit of listening to his actualities or reading his quotes, we might have harked back to Keith Hernandez or Todd Zeile or Cliff Floyd to remember what it was like to want to hear what a person who wore a Mets uniform was thinking as he peeled off his jersey. This year, as the numbers piled up with most pleasing constancy, we were invoking the likes of Al Leiter (17 wins), Bobby Ojeda (18), eventually Frank Viola (last Met to 20). And now, as R.A. Dickey makes room between his pair of Faith and Fear MVMs for his Cy Young — though, to be honest, our award will look best on his mental mantel — we are moved to accurately mention Met royalty. Tom Seaver won three Cy Youngs. Dwight Gooden won one. So has R.A. Dickey.

R.A., though, I believe is going to transcend that kind of reflexive listing, even as “Seaver, Gooden and Dickey” will be very valid (and a helluva trinity of which to be part) and “Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Dwight Gooden, David Cone, Frank Viola and R.A. Dickey” are very much the only six Mets to have been 20-game winners as Mets. Yet Dickey’s in his own dimension as a Met. There’s not much use grouping him with anybody else because, assorted statistical accomplishments and surface characteristics aside, who else has been R.A. Dickey?

Nobody. And maybe that’s why we love him so much. He’s singular and he’s ours (contractual/transactional status pending, but let’s not think about that right now). We discovered the R.A. Dickey who became a Cy Young. Not some other team or some other team’s fans, but we did. Technically, R.A. Dickey came up with himself and the Mets were smart enough to cloak him in their regalia when they (or anybody) probably had no true idea what they had, but it all comes out in the laundry and on the bottom line of the back of the baseball card:

R.A. Dickey, New York Met.

Another Met rolls out two one-hitters in two straight starts, chances are we’d high-five twice and move on. Another Met works the kinks out of a heretofore novelty pitch, we’d dwell on where the knuckleballer fits in among the fireballer, split-fingerer and change-of-pacer. Another Met takes 12-1 to the All-Star break and it’s not necessarily a slap in the face to all for which we stand that a non-Met National Leaguer takes the ball first in the All-Star Game. Another Met, we should live so long, edges up on 20 wins, maybe we remember to tune in on a Thursday afternoon to see how he’s doing.

R.A. Dickey, New York Met, we treat much more affectionately, carefully and with a great deal more proprietary handling.

When R.A. Dickey went for No. 20, it was Feast Day for the Metropolitan Soul. It amounted to, as few things have in the Met era that’s more or less dripped along since before Dickey got here, nine incandescent innings. We weren’t Mets fans on September 27. We were Team R.A. We weren’t rooting for a pitcher. We were pitching. We were striking out 13 Pirates until we had nothing left. We all spoke volumes that required an Oxford English Dictionary app stay open. We all gripped the seams in an unorthodox manner. We had all broken through at age 35 and we were all emerging as the best in our business at age 37 in an arena where that simply doesn’t happen.

We all held on for dear life when Alex Presley took Jon Rauch deep and we all exhaled into a roar when Mike Baxter nabbed a tricky liner off the bat of Jose Tabata and we were all a 20-game winner and a Cy Young recipient-to-be. Then we came out and tipped our cap at ourselves as we chanted our name because we’d grown ever fonder of it the more we got to know it.

We set a precedent, R.A. Dickey and us, in 2012. Good luck matching it, future.

FAITH AND FEAR’S PREVIOUS MOST VALUABLE METS

2005: Pedro Martinez

2006: Carlos Beltran

2007: David Wright

2008: Johan Santana

2009: Pedro Feliciano

2010: R.A. Dickey

2011: Jose Reyes

Still to come: The Nikon Camera Player of the Year for 2012.

27 comments to We Are R.A. (And The Precedent We Set)

  • 5w30

    There’s never been another Met like R.A. Dickey.

    There will never be another Met like R.A. Dickey.
    ================================

    And soon there won’t be a Met named R.A. Dickey.

    • Tough angle to leave for another day, but man, I just can’t picture it. Then again, you can field a September roster with all the Mets I just couldn’t picture going when they went.

      • open the gates

        Well, last year the Mets let Jose Reyes walk after winning the first batting title in franchise history. And in 2000 they let Mike Hampton walk after he pitched them into the World Series. And in 1977…

        Long story short, if you’re gonna be a Mets fan, you learn to live in the present. And what a present we got with R.A. Dickey. Let’s hope he’s in our future, too.

        • Dak442

          If we give away th reigning batting champ in 2011 and the reigning Cy in 2012, is there any doubt David Wright will win the MVP in 2013 and then be sent to LA?

  • John B.

    Masterful as always, Greg. I wasn’t missing that Thursday afternoon for the world and as usual you hit it right on the head.

    • Thanks John. To be fair to Niese, Gee, Harvey, pitchers unknown, I’m sure it would be a big deal if No. 20 was on their docket…but not like it was for R.A. He had built a ton of equity heading into the home stretch.

      Niese, I get the feeling, would be surprised to learn how many wins he had at a given juncture of the season.

  • Scott M.

    Yep. That Thursday goes into the books as most legendary final home game/20th win/R.A. Dickey love fest EVER. We might not have clinched anything that day except the Cy Young but only a playoff game is going to match the intensity, excitement and overall FUN of the day.

    Best to R.A. and, as usual, Greg – great wrap-up of a special Met moment for us loyal Met fans & FAFIF readers.

  • Dave

    Great piece, great Met, great moment in franchise history. But for the love of all that is sacred, can’t Alderson reconcile the possible risk of slightly overpaying him in, say, 2015 or 2016 with the fact that they’ve been paying him pennies on the dollar for 3 years going on a 4th? Come on, works out over time.

    But trying to avoid the buzzkill, look forward to seeing RA take his rightful place as the Mets’ Opening Day starter in April and start the drive for back to back CY’s.

  • Andee

    In the end, it’s probably not Sandy’s decision to make whether or not to “overpay.” If he had his druthers, I’m sure he’d much rather have another $30 million or so to play with, and therefore this wouldn’t even be a topic of discussion. But as it stands now, the owners have probably set a firm cap on what they are willing to pay *any* pitcher over 40, and for how long, and Sandy can’t overrule them.

    Beautiful tribute, though.

  • November and December is the best time of the year to be a Mets fan..With the season forgotten all hope is restored.

    As for R.A..He is that beautiful girl you dated but in the back of your mind you knew it would’nt last…

    Rich P

  • Kevin From Flushing

    Well done. I’m so glad to have experienced RA Dickey this season. Being too young to have appreciated Gooden in 85, and being born post-Seaver/Kooz, this was unquestionably the best, most unbelievable season I’ve ever seen a Mets pitcher put forth. It was a surreal joy to watch and I’m so happy to see it end with proper recognition. What gets lost about the final home game that made it extra special is the fact that it was Wright hitting the clutch 3-run homer to give everyone in the park breathing room–in what was possibly HIS last game at Citi Field as a Met. An all around amazing day.

    …and I still can’t believe Feliciano was MVM in 2009. I’m not arguing against it, I’m just in awe of what a TERRIBLE year 2009 was.

  • open the gates

    BTW – maybe my memory’s going, but Pedro Feliciano? Really? Were the Mets that bad in ’09?

  • Will in Central NJ

    Great piece on R.A. I do hope Dickey is on the team in 2013, but there’re divergent opinions on what should happen this offseason with him, as you know.

    After reading the first paragraph, I had a comic vision of the Wilpons and Katz doing a sychronized, finger-snapping version of “Cool”, addressed to the Mets fan base.

  • Guy Kipp

    BTW – maybe my memory’s going, but Pedro Feliciano? Really? Were the Mets that bad in ’09?

    Yes. They were that bad.

  • Seth

    Of all possible choices in Mets history; I feel R.A. most resembles Sidd Finch. And that’s not to say he’s pure fiction; but his story sure as hell reads like it.

  • Tom

    A batting title last year, a Cy Young award winner this year. You’d almost think the Mets’ had a competitive team.

    Wilpon!

    • There’s something very Rod Serling about that. Like being told in 2005, “Good news! Your team is about to become a perennial contender. For the next three years, you’re going to be in down-to-the-wire pennant races and find yourself poised for the World Series. All you have to do is sign here…”

  • NostraDennis

    Greg – Here’s a question you or one of those in the FAFIF blogosphere may know. How many times have two pitchers who eventually won the Cy Young award played each other in that same season?

    It can’t be many, but I, along with my buddies Johnny, Leon and Steve, was fortunate enough to see it happen in St. Pete back in June. It. Was. AWEsome.

    • I do believe we have a first on our hands. I looked at Cy Young winners’ game logs on bb-ref during the Interleague era and found no instance of a Dickey vs. Price-type matchup. Even Rick Sutcliffe (boo!) didn’t face the Tigers before being traded to the NL in ’84, meaning he didn’t start a game in which Willie Hernandez came onto relieve.

      We did have half of the first next-year Cy matchup in 1989 when Viola faced Hershiser after Frank was traded to the Mets, and now we have this.

      • NostraDennis

        And for all the disappointments of this season for Mets fans, Johan’s no-no and R.A.’s Cy Young are two things they can’t take away from us.

  • Jeff

    You guys nail it every time.

    I grew up idolizing Tom Seaver (best game I ever attended was Phil Rizzuto day in the Bronx in 1985), still remember Doc’s most mesmerizing starts and yet I can’t think of a post-season award that I more wanted someone to win than RA for Cy this year. I know there is no such thing as “can’t” with these Mets, but they just can’t trade him.

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