‘From the Pressbox’
By Ernie Palladino
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Forget how silly Terry Collins looked Thursday as he appealed what was clearly a base hit in R.A. Dickey’s one-hitter against the Rays Wednesday night. For a club that often can’t get out of its own way perception-wise, they’ve done a couple of good things the past few seasons.
And they’re totally unrelated to each other.
The first was their taking a chance on Dickey and his knuckleball in the first place in 2010.
The second was a survey question about whether fans would welcome a “Quiet Section” in Citi Field.
At the risk of getting too far ahead of oneself, especially in the world of marketing and ticket sales, let’s just say that the very concept of a quiet zone comes as, um, nice, for a team that has habitually sought to squeeze every ounce of revenue out of its fans. According to a story published on this site, the Mets say the proposed section in the second deck in left field would allow families of autistic children a calm place where all could enjoy a ballgame.
The decibel level of the PA announcements would be lower there. They would somehow mute that blaring music between innings — wouldn’t it be nice if they eliminated it from the ballpark entirely?
Presumably, the section also would, by its nature, dissuade any foul-mouthed blowhards who believe it fun to down a truckload of expensive, warm beer and ruin things for everybody else from parking their keisters there.
It would simply stand as a place of calm where families of those traumatically affected by crowds, loud noises, and the general chaos of a sporting event, can go to help their child take one more step out of the darkness.
It’s far from a done deal. So far, it’s only gone as far as a question on a survey, and the fans’ overall response will go a long way toward either further exploration or abandonment.
But wouldn’t it be nice if the Mets made it happen?
Let’s hope that idea works out as well as extending the contract of Dickey, whose 32 2/3 innings of scoreless ball exceeded Jerry Koosman’s 1973 franchise record by an inning. Only a ninth-inning run, scored on an error, two passed balls, and an RBI groundout, prevented the streak’s continuance.
Despite that, there is no doubt that Dickey has paid off on any gamble the Mets made on him. Before last year, the term “journeyman” perfectly summed up the 37-year-old Dickey’s career. He’d been a professional since 1997, but had only spent all or parts of seven seasons in the majors, mainly with Texas, before the Mets snapped him up in 2010.
He has certainly found a home here. An 11-9 record in ‘10 started his longest consecutive tenure in the bigs. But no one could have predicted what this year had in store for him after an 8-13 mark last season, despite the solid 3.28 ERA that went with it.
Absolutely nobody could have seen a potential Cy Young candidate and potential All-Star starter in the making back then. But now, the way he has kept batters off-balance and constantly guessing as he mixes in an occasional fastball that tops out at a tortoise-like 83 MPH with a nasty, nasty knuckler, expectations for the 10-1 righthander continue to rise exponentially.
Now, it will be a surprise if he gets bombed. And that’s a nice thing for Collins to have as a balance for a shaky bullpen and the sieve that passes for a defense.
On an evening where the Giants’ Matt Cain became baseball’s 22nd pitcher to go perfect, Dickey came within a bare-handed grab at third of throwing the Mets’ second no-hitter in history.
In a season shadowed by fan anger over the loss of Jose Reyes and a cut in payroll that has manifested itself by half-empty stands, the Mets made a human gesture toward some challenged kids.
For whatever else they screw up this year, give them credit here.
Should the Mets lock up Dickey long-term? Be heard in the comments below!