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43 Ways to Leave Your Pitcher
Posted By Greg Prince On December 22, 2012 @ 1:25 pm In 1 | Comments Disabled
1. “And at Christmas, you tell the truth,” or so I heard it said in Love, Actually.
2. But I’m still seeking the truth in the trade that has left us Dickeyless in New York City.
3. Is it true somehow that sending away our singular Cy Young recipient was the brilliant Aldersonian chess move for which we’ve all been waiting two years?
4. I’m not trying to bait anyone or restart the same debate that dominated the week in Metsdom.
5. It’s more a rhetorical question, as we cannot know the answer just yet.
6. I admire the element of sophistication in those who see its brilliance.
7. And in a phrase I’ve heard repeated over and over again since Monday, I get it.
8. I get the potential payoff, I get the straits this organization has been in for too long, I get who was most likely to bring long-term value as a trading chip.
9. Still, though, I can’t quite say “yay!” to all that, because we just traded 20-6, 2.73, 230, 233.7, 1.053…and those are just the spectacular numbers.
10. That leaves aside the spectacular persona, which, when woven amid those award-winning statistics, gave us that rara avis known as the One and Only.
11. There was the One and Only R.A. Dickey, he pitched for our team, and our team told him to go pitch in another country.
12. But I get it — or I hope to at some point between 2013 and 2016 when Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard and perhaps Wuilmer Becerra develop, emerge and become intrinsic cogs in the next Met juggernaut.
13. I don’t need a litany of the Met prospects who misfired; I can name them myself.
14. I want to believe in these kids whom I’ve never seen and until recently I had never heard of.
15. I want to believe the outfielder will fill one of those holes that’s never more than patched up; that the pitcher will throw hard, consistently, elusively and for a long time; and that the catcher is the catcher he’s been billed as during his six-year climb through the minor leagues.
16. By the way, what does Travis d’Arnaud have to be to have been worth it?
17. It’s probably too much to ask that someone who’s been coming along kind of slowly in the minor leagues (having suffered a couple of ascent-slowing injuries) to step up and become Buster Posey, but will we settle for something within the realm of John Stearns?
18. This trade defies easy historical parallels, but the one that comes closest in my mind is the one that, in essence, sent a franchise icon named Tug McGraw to Philadelphia for a stud catching prospect named John Stearns.
19. McGraw wasn’t at the top of his game when the trade was made in December 1974, but he would eventually recover his form and do great things for his new team, most notably record the final out of their first World Series championship six year later.
20. Stearns, who served the Mets from 1975 to 1984, never led his new team to the heights of its profession, but when healthy, he filled his position admirably and played the game passionately.
21. Would we be satisfied if d’Arnaud produces more like a Stearns than a Posey?
22. We’ve just limped through five seasons of Brian Schneider, Ramon Castro, Robinson Cancel, Omir Santos, Rod Barajas, Henry Blanco, Ronny Paulino, Rob Johnson, Kelly Shoppach, Mike Nickeas and, most disappointingly, Josh Thole (entombed with his Pharaoh so as to catch him in the afterlife), each of whom gave us a moment or two or glory, none of whom left us very comfortable with catcher on a long-term basis.
23. The second coming of John Stearns would be a dream by comparison, but Stearns wasn’t the catcher of his era by any means.
24. Not that d’Arnaud (originally, like Stearns, a first-round pick of those Phillies) is necessarily The Dude Reincarnate or, for that matter, a Grote or Hundley, but it’s probably too much to ask for a Posey, never mind a Piazza.
25. Dickey, on the other hand, almost always delivered everything for which he was asked, including honest answers.
26. I bring that up because, as mentioned previously, I was at what turned out to be R.A.’s final Met appearance, at the now infamous kids holiday party, and I want to reiterate what happened there.
27. Dickey headed into the main dining room with Ike Davis; he was greeted warmly by the Mets’ guests; then he was brought behind a curtained-off area to meet the media corps the Mets invited.
28. The press had one line of questioning on its mind and it expressed it without hesistation: “What about your contract negotiations?”
29. Dickey started answering and kept answering as long as he was asked.
30. No children were harmed during the Q&A portion of the morning — it was all out of view and out of earshot of the children from Far Rockaway.
31. Whatever R.A.’s perceived agenda, there would have been a small riot among the reporters and camera people who were at Citi Field solely to get R.A.’s thoughts had he brushed off their inquiries.
32. The kids kept on with their toys and their brunch, not at all scandalized, and one of them (a little girl whose picture I tried to take but she quite reasonably jumped for joy when Mr. Met entered the scene) wound up with the blue DICKEY 43 jersey he wore briefly.
33. Any other criticisms of Dickey as self-promoter or unpopular teammate strike me as sudden, shallow and opportunistic, and those who level them reveal the perils of being paid to write frequently when they have nothing of value to add to the overall baseball conversation.
34. Dickey, meanwhile, goes out on top, not just by performance but in esteem.
35. Although three years of R.A. Dickey as a New York Met don’t seem like enough, it might be that we had him for the perfect time span emotionally.
36. There are a bunch of relatively high-profile Mets who spent parts or all of three seasons here who, historically speaking, stayed just long enough to make an everlasting positive impression but not so long as to wear out their welcome.
37. Three-year Mets include Rod Kanehl, Ed Charles, Donn Clendenon, Ray Knight, Rico Brogna, John Olerud, Robin Ventura and now R.A. Dickey; all are remembered eternally fondly and none was burdened in real time by gripes about uselessness or contracts and none was subject to the kind of selective “what have you done for us lately?” amnesia we tend to inflict on our icons when they dare to be more enduring than fleeting.
38. Dickey also replaces the likes of Kanehl and Brogna and anybody you’d care to name who played for the Mets exclusively in the “pantheon” of seasons that include only 1962-1968; 1974; 1977-1983; 1991-1996; 2002-2004; and 2009-2012.
39. That is to say R.A. Dickey was surely the best Met never to play on a Mets team that compiled a winning record.
40. That’s an unfortunate distinction, of course.
41. And it helps explain, as painful as I’ve found thinking about it this week, why it helps to be sophisticated about the trade that cost us (to borrow a phrase Roger Angell applied to Tom Seaver upon his 1977 forced departure from New York) our sunlit prominence.
42. I will deeply miss writing about R.A. Dickey in the present tense, but I hated the “he’s the only good thing about this team” context that pervaded so many of those dispatches, and it is my fondest Mets wish that this transaction changes the context dramatically.
43. And that’s my truth this Christmas.
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