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.