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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
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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43 Ways to Leave Your Pitcher

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.

13 comments to 43 Ways to Leave Your Pitcher

  • Jon Shafran

    Very sorry to see RA traded. The potential might someday prove fruitful but this was NOT the guy to trade for potential. I am all for traded guys as they should have done with Reyes and they did with Beltran. Not RA though. I believe he would have persevered through the next 3 seasons and been on a team with a shot as he would have helped with the maturation of Harvey, Wheeler and Mejia. It was up to Aldersen to somehow find offense and not risk traded not only a pitcher who has found success but a great man as well

  • If Greg is so torn by the trade, I feel better about my own mental dilemma. I too understand how badly the Mets need a competent catcher and would also take this D’Arnaud as the next John Stearns if that’s what the baseball gods have in mind. What I seriously doubt is the Mets stumbling upon a standup guy and neutralizing pitcher like R.A. Dickey. It was 22 years between 20-game winners and 27 years between Cy Youngs for the Mets. Yes, the same people who tell me this is a no-brainer trade will tell me 20 wins don’t matter, but having players like Dickey matter. This kid catcher has big shoes to fill–Dickey and Bad Dude’s. Stearns never made anyone forget Tug McGraw, but the Dude gave all he had, which was a lot.

  • Joe D.

    And to think that Christmas party was indeed the last time we ever saw R.A. wearing a Met uniform at Citi Field. So heartless.

    Yes, we went through the Grant era but fortunately that came and went quickly and so for other than that, let’s face it Greg, this is not what the New York Mets meant to you, I and others growing up. Whoever owned the club understood the meaning of dignity in the way in conducted itself. It would never make it’s players think the front office had no faith in them one year and then kick them in the teeth the next one.

    That is our Christmas present. They could win the world series in 2013 and we would be so happy for those wearing the uniform but it would not just be the same – except that we could have pride that the team itself rose above the front office which would do anything to undermine it in order to save a buck.

  • 9th string

    Stearns was one of my all time favorite players and one of the imfluences that led me to try put for the Mets in 1982. (Hint – didn’t make it. But i digress). A good defensive player who could hit, steal bases, beat up unwanted fans jumping onto the field – everything but stay healthy. I could care less about Tug – Stearns has the big shoes to fill (for me that is) . But more than anything he had a lot of character, a pretty rare trait. While not as important as talent, an important piece to consider when acquiring talent.

  • Haines

    This team is owned and run by a Giant Pile of Creeps. And Ha
    ppy New Year to them…in JAIL!

  • Patrick O'Hern

    Travis D’anaurd 2035 “The Monster is out of the Cage!”

  • Andee

    Dickey may have gotten out just in time. I’ve always said that if Carlos Beltran had had a 4-year contract instead of a 7-year deal, he’d be remembered as the greatest position player Met of all time. What if Dickey had remained a Met and regressed to what he was the year before? Or not even performed at that high a level? Or gotten badly hurt and not performed at all? He’s 38 and nothing can be taken for granted in a player that age, no matter how atypical he is.

    I think of this as the Mets as doing R.A. a favor as much as themselves (even if only the latter was intentional). Not only does he get to leave on a high note, almost universally beloved by the fans, without a single one calling him a bum, ever (that’s Ken Davidoff’s job)…but he gets a shot at jewelry right away. A really good shot. And it’s really the only thing he’s missing. And he gets to drive Yankees fans up the wall doing it!

    As for D’Arnaud…yeah, of course I worry about the pressure being put on a kid like that. This is the second Cy Young winner he’s been traded for; who else can say that, before he’s ever had a major league at-bat? But he’ll be coming up with Wheeler, who will also have high expectations placed on his head because of who he was traded for and the fact that we’ve waited two years to see what he can do. So that will take some of the laser focus off him and put part of it on Zack. If they stay healthy, they should eventually be a special battery…but of course Mets fans are not known for their patience. They booed Piazza, for gods’ sake.

    • Matt from Woodside

      And the Davidoff piece was what it was. Link bait for the New York Post. It was tasteless, and he didn’t even have any anonymous quotes. A “Mets Official” saying “yeah, we hadn’t planned on contract negotiations becoming a topic at the Christmas party. We’re still working on all of that and we’ve been trying to keep it confidential.” Became the Mets throwing him under the bus according to Davidoff. Screw that and screw him.

  • Tom

    I like when “off-field” activities of Mets’ players (Ike Davis, R.A. Dickey – when he was a Met) are criticized, meanwhile the owners’ “off-field” activities included investing money with Bernie Madoff.

  • Bryan

    In answer to No. 16: Nothing less than Buster Posey or Gary Carter, if not Mike Piazza.
    No. 37 at least warmed my heart thinking R.A. is now in the company of these favorites, particularly the poet Ed Charles. How poetic, indeed, that perhaps the two most literate Mets are linked as three-year Mets as well.

  • Andee

    Don’t forget, though — Noah Syndergaard is part of the equation, too, although we’re not likely to see him in the majors for a while. (He’s supposed to start in PSL, and could move to Bingo mid-season if he’s really mowing ’em down in hi-A. So probably the soonest we see him is mid-to-late 2014.) So if Syndergaard turns out to be, say, Ron Darling, and D’Arnaud turns out to be John Stearns, would Darling + Stearns be a sufficient return? (In terms of talent, that is. Nobody is going to replace Dickey’s charisma; even Tom Seaver is boring compared to him.)

    And also don’t forget, the Jays also took our two stinky catchers, and threw in John Buck (their stinky catcher) plus one Wuilmer Becerra, who might have a non-odiferous career himself, though it’s probably four or five years in the offing. So overall, I’d say that we have to give it at least two years and maybe three before we know if we came out ahead or not in terms of on-field talent. Dickey could win 90 games in the next three years, and D’Arnaud could have an air conditioner fall on his head next month.

    The question is whether it was good process or not, and given what Sandy had to work with (including having to deal with Jeff, which is probably a little like having to walk around every day blindfolded and barefoot after a litter of puppies has deposited random dinglebombs throughout your office), Sandy probably did the best he could do.

  • James Allen

    The thought of the Mets defending Cy Young winning taking the mound in Canada on opening day 2013 leaves me heartbroken this Christmas season. I know Alderson “had” to do this. More’s the pity. That’s all I can say now.

    On a much more important note: Merry Christmas to all! Remember the people that are special to you, and cherish them. Cheers!

  • […] driven home very clearly by Greg Prince in the Faith and Fear in Flushing blog post entitled “43 Ways to Leave Your Pitcher,”  which clearly shows not only his genuine sadness at Dickey’s departure but expresses some […]