By Steve Silverman
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You can tell something about a pitcher once he faces adversity.
Adversity has not truly visited R.A. Dickey this season, as he and his fabulous, nearly unhittable knuckleball have dominated the National League as the season nears the midway point.
The closest thing to adversity he has known this season came last Sunday, when Dickey was on display in a nationally-televised game against the Yankees. He was coming off back-to-back one-hitters and he had his chance to make the Yankees hitters take the walk of shame back to the dugout.
But on that night, the Yankees had the edge. Dickey gave up five runs over six innings and the Mets lost the game.
Surely that would be the beginning of the end for Dickey, and the rest of baseball would finally be able to figure out his power knuckleball and start hitting him around.
Throw that idea out the window. Dickey was back to his spectacular ways against the Dodgers last night, limiting Los Angeles to three hits over eight innings as the Mets rolled, 9-0. If you needed a reminder, Dickey is 12-1 this season and has been the best pitcher in either league. Period. No doubt.
As a 37-year-old pitcher who has been through many inventions of himself, Dickey was not about to get emotionally overwhelmed because he did not have his best game against the Yankees. He is fully capable of evaluating his performances honestly, learning from them and moving on from there.
“I didn’t have a terrible knuckleball last time, and I didn’t approach this game any differently,” Dickey told reporters after the game. “It just came out of my hand nice tonight, and I was able to repeat my mechanics and stay in the strike zone.”
While the rest of the world may want to anoint Dickey and bask in his consistency, Mets manager Terry Collins can take comfort from the fact that Dickey considers himself a work in progress. He is not satisfied and he doesn’t think of himself as some kind of sensation. He thinks of himself as a pitcher who has to work on his craft from the start of the season to the finish in order to get better.
He understands completely that if he is not getting better and not working at it all the time, he is not doing his job to the best of his ability.
In short, Dickey has the kind of attitude and outlook that makes him a professional. Few big leaguers have this kind of work ethic when they are performing so well. Most want to bask in the limelight, but Dickey’s maturity makes him single-minded in his approach.
However, that limelight is most likely going to come screaming at him. When you are the best pitcher in baseball, deductive reasoning says you are also the best pitcher in the National League. When you are the best pitcher in the National League, you should start the All-Star Game.
That’s been the universal conclusion of most baseball observers, but most baseball observers are not managing the National League All-Star Team. Bud Selig has given that honor to his old buddy, retired St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. He will decide who starts for the National League.
There’s little doubt that La Russa was a smart manager throughout his run with the Chicago White Sox, Oakland A’s and the Cardinals. However, he also believes that he was the smartest guy in the room, and he’s going to do things his way.
That may or may not include allowing Dickey to start. La Russa has always been an “I’ll show you” kind of guy. He has been quite complimentary towards Dickey and said he has talked about him with former Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan.
But he has not committed to starting Dickey, saying that it’s something to think about.
Why is La Russa even managing this team? He’s not managing any longer. Selig has decided to give him an honor by letting him manage the All-Star Game. Here’s another way to honor him: Let him throw out the first ball and sit in the stands.
La Russa needs to go away. The Cardinals beat the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Championship Series. The Brewers were managed by Ron Roenicke and he remains on the job. Let Roenicke manage the National League.
Perhaps Roenicke wouldn’t make a song and dance about it. Perhaps he would just hand the ball to Dickey and let him start the All-Star Game.
Do you think that Dickey has earned the right to throw the first pitch for the National League at the All-Star Game? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…