Of course I’m very glad that Joe Mauer is at the All Star game – more importantly, I’m very glad that his PLAYING has actually deserved a spot at the All Star game. Would I like to have more than one representative? Of course. Do I think we have other players that are as important to the Twins as Joe Mauer? Absolutely – especially since this IS a team sport people. Do I think that a team’s MVP is the one who should represent them at the ASG? no, not necessarily. If voted on today, is Joe Mauer the Twins MVP? Maybe… Who cares? That’s who’s there for us and I’m glad that it’s someone who is hitting the ball well right now – good for everyone all around.
I am much more intrigued by someone else’s story and the controversy that surrounds where he plays in the game.. NL Pitcher, RA Dickey. I’ve always had a soft spot for him because I really enjoyed watching him play as a Twin. I thought he was good for us, fit in well here and I would have liked to see him stick around. That’s just not how the business of baseball works though sometimes so I have followed his career after he left us and am AMAZED at what he’s doing with the Mets this year. And I’m not alone. The fact that he’s not the starting pitcher has really angered and baffled a LOT of NL fans. I think Matt Cain is also an incredible pitcher and is equally deserving of consideration so I’m not as flummoxed as some east coasters seem to be. I see that not every CATCHER is prepared to handle a Knuckleballer so it makes a lot of sense to start a more traditional pitcher if you think your starting catcher might not be up to the game. More smart strategizing than deliberate slight. This is what you do when you put together a lineup after all.
I planned to do a little profile on RA before tonight’s game just because he’s always been a favorite around here – both for the namesake pitch, his personality and his originality. In fact, I fully intend at some point to feature a review of his autobiography Wherever I Wind Up here on Knuckleballs at a later date. But in my research, I actually found a really well-written piece that I decided to share with you instead – in its entirety which is something we rarely do here. Skip to the bottom if it doesn’t interest you but I find his story to be fascinating.
R.A. Dickey’s career as a major league pitcher has been as unpredictable as his signature pitch, the knuckleball.
And on Tuesday night, the New York Mets’ 37-year-old phenomenon will hit a new pinnacle: the pitching mound at baseball’s All-Star Game.
He won’t be starting for the National League — manager Tony La Russa chose Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants for that honor. But the manager says says Dickey will pitch.
This guy isn’t the best story in baseball because he’s the best pitcher in the National League. If anything, Dickey is the pitcher he is because of his story. He believes there is a direct line between the pitches he throws and the person he is, which is the only time you’ll ever hear his fluttering knuckleball compared to a “direct line.”
Back in 1996, Robert Allen Dickey was a first-round draft pick of the Texas Rangers as a conventional flamethrower. He was 21 years old and about to be paid more than $800,000 to play the sport he loved.
“[I] flew down to Texas to sign my contract, throw out the first pitch … do all the things that I dreamed about doing my whole life as a baseball player. The first thing I had to do when I landed was head over to the doctor’s office to get a physical, and it was there that they kind of were alarmed at what they saw,” Dickey says.
What they saw, or more accurately didn’t see, was a UCL — an ulnar collateral ligament. Dickey was born without that ligament in his throwing elbow. Doctors said he should be in excruciating pain just turning a doorknob, and yet he had no problem reaching 95 miles an hour on the radar gun.
But past performance didn’t matter to his new club. He was damaged goods, and 90 percent of his signing bonus was revoked.
It was a serious setback in the one area of Dickey’s life that was supposed to be a refuge. Dickey’s parents had divorced when he was a child. His father was distant as R.A. grew older, and his mother was loving but a drinker. He was, while still a boy, sexually abused by a baby sitter and a teenager from his neighborhood.
Even as Dickey entered his 20s, he struggled.
“I began to really hate who I was, and, you know, I was having suicidal thoughts and just all kinds of terrible things running through my mind. You know, I was using the unhealthy ways to escape pain,” Dickey says.
Eventually, Dickey found a few things that helped: his mind, his wife, his faith, and a pitch that’s impossible to own. But if you’re dedicated, it can be leased to great effect.
Learning To Throw Like ‘The Jedi’
A knuckleball is confounding, both going and coming, because it’s thrown with almost no rotation. The baseball’s laces interact with the air, turning it into a Godard jump-cut of pitches.
Currently, Dickey is the only regular knuckleballer in the major leagues. It’s a hard pitch to learn, but there is a fraternity of knuckleballers who can offer advice.
“The people that poured into me and lent me their wisdom and acumen were Tim Wakefield, Charlie Hough and Phil Niekro,” Dickey says. “And so speaking from that experience I can tell you that there’s nobody on this Earth that knows more about it than they do.”
Dickey calls those former major leaguers “The Jedi Council.” In addition to throwing a quirky pitch, he loves Star Wars and The Lord Of The Rings. He names his bats after swords in Beowulf, and the music he has cued up over the stadium PA when he walks up to bat is the theme to Game Of Thrones.
There’s also Dickey’s literary side. His revelatory memoir, Wherever I Wind Up, is clearly written by a lover of language who entertained thoughts of becoming an English professor.
And then there’s the side of Dickey that wants to teach others his recondite skill. Though Cy Young award winner Frank Viola is the pitching coach of the Savannah Sand Gnats, the knuckleball is as baffling to him as string theory. But Dickey eagerly passed along what he knew to minor leaguer Frank Viola III.
“He’s amazing,” the elder Viola says. “R.A. invited him to the games he pitched, invited him to his side sessions to watch; they planned on having Frankie tape a couple workouts and then sending it to New York and having R.A. look at it to critique it and get back to him. I mean he just shared his wealth with Frankie.”
Speaking of wealth, Dickey is in line to be rewarded with the first truly huge contract of his career. Last off-season, Dickey scaled Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for exploited women in Mumbai, then published his memoir. In it, he dwells on the interplay between his psyche and the knuckleball.
“Oftentimes the more cerebral you are about pitching, the more apt you are to make small changes that might take you out of where you really need to be,” he says. “So for me, there’s a fine balance between being self-aware and really believing in what you can produce on the field organically.”
So far, Dickey has produced back-to-back one-hitters, 10 straight wins, a 12-1 record and his first All-Star invite.
For opponents he’s produced befuddlement; for the Mets, he’s helped produce a winning record. And every fifth night he produces the only extant link in the chain of a confounding and fascinating pitch.
So, with all that? yeah, I’m looking forward to watching him pitch even if it is for the “opposing team”. At least he’s not a Yankee, right? 😉
|C. Gonzalez DH||COL||D. Jeter SS||NYY|
|M. Cabrera CF||SF||R. Cano 2B||NYY|
|R. Braun LF||MIL||J. Hamilton LF||TEX|
|J. Votto 1B||CIN||J. Bautista RF||TOR|
|C. Beltran RF||STL||P. Fielder 1B||DET|
|B. Posey C||SF||A. Beltre 3B||TEX|
|P. Sandoval 3B||SF||D. Ortiz DH||BOS|
|D. Uggla 2B||ATL||M. Napoli C||TEX|
|R. Furcal SS||STL||C. Granderson CF||NYY|
|M. Cain SP||SF||J. Verlander SP||DET|
OUCH! That just SUCKED for the AL. I’m pretty sure that no one expected such a tough outing from Justin Verlander – including him – but yeah, that was most definitely not his best.
It was fun to get to watch RA finally come out for an inning. It wasn’t anything all that exciting but he did hit Konerko with a pitch which is kind of fun.. *grin*
I decided I was too tired to wait for who was finally decided upon for the MVP.. gotta admit, I didn’t really care all that much but it’s reportedly between Sandoval & Melky Cabrera.. whoever gets it, congrats.