By Ernie Palladino
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R.A. Dickey won the Branch Rickey Award on Thursday for his humanitarian work around the world.
That’s nice. Truly. The award, founded in 1991 by the Rotary Club of Denver, recognizes the knuckler’s efforts to spread the gospel of baseball in South America and other charitable pursuits.
A nation-wide panel selected him just months after he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa, where he raised $100,000 to help the plight of women forced into prostitution in India.
We all know Dickey’s a good guy so it’s no surprise he’s getting the award, or that he’s going into the Baseball Humanitarians Hall of Fame out there on Nov. 10. But really, what we’re really interested in here involves his decidedly uncharitable on-field performance.
Has Dickey been stingy enough, sly enough, and devastating enough with that 80-mph knuckleball to walk away with the Cy Young Award this year?
It’s an interesting question. Dickey, 18-5, 2.68, probably has four more starts this season to get those two victories to reach the magical 20-win mark. Let’s assume he makes it and becomes just the Mets’ sixth pitcher to win that many, joining Tom Seaver (four times), Jerry Koosman, David Cone, Dwight Gooden and Frank Viola. Viola was the last to accomplish it in 1990.
That’s a pretty select group, and 20 would certainly be a distinction for this all-around good guy. But Cy Youngs aren’t supposed to be handed out based on sentimentality.
Though it’s not necessarily a pitcher’s MVP award, there is an element of team-wide success that gets rightly factored in by some voters. Those top pitchers in the pennant races will likely garner the lion’s share of the ballots unless Dickey comes up with something huge over his last four appearances, like a no-hitter.
Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez is a clear front-runner right now. Not only has he led a fantastic pitching staff to the best record in baseball, but he’s on a bit of a tear himself after allowing just eight hits and no runs over his last 16 innings.
He’ll be hard to leave off the ballot, even if he doesn’t reach No. 20. But if he does, he might as well start moving the knick-knacks off the mantlepiece.
Johnny Cuerto of the Reds, at 17-8, 2.71, also has a shot as the Reds have run away with the NL Central. One also might look at last year’s recipient, Clayton Kershaw of the West’s second-place Dodgers. He’s probably not going to get too many votes because of their positioning and a 12-9 record. But he put together baseball’s most impressive string of the year — 44 2/3 innings over five starts where he allowed zero earned runs and pitched consecutive one-hitters.
Dickey? Great year. Great story. Lousy team.
It’s too bad the Mets’ record could muddy up the waters for this guy. The 38-year-old journeyman, who came to the Mets as a major question mark two years ago, has already made a great Cinderella story the past two years. And who doesn’t love a good fairy tale?
The feeling here, though, is that Dickey has to win 20 to have a chance.
It shouldn’t be that way. He’s had a Cy Young season as the only Met worth watching anymore in 2012.
Maybe he’ll just have to be content with the Branch Rickey Award, the one bauble where being a good and inspirational guy counts for something.
Do you agree that Dickey deserves the Cy Young Award? Make your case in the comments below…