By Ernie Palladino
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R.A. Dickey struck a blow for all the journeymen out there when the 38-year-old right-hander captured the Cy Young Award Wednesday night.
For every guy who bounced around from job to job, be he a major league pitcher, insurance salesman, teacher — whatever — Dickey lifted them onto his shoulders as soon as he joined Tom Seaver and Doc Gooden as the only Mets to win that award.
And wouldn’t it be great now if Dickey could just stick around for a few more years, perhaps to give those suffering Mets fans the thrills they deserve after sitting through yet another debacle of a season.
Unfortunately, that may not be possible. Ultimately, the storybook Dickey’s unique kind of knuckleball scribbled out en route to 20 wins and a 2.73 ERA may end here with a departure. His. You see, the journeying days may not be over for the journeyman-turned-hero.
Unless they’re leading team to pennants and World Series titles, Cy Young winners are more novelties than anything. Had the award gone to, say, Gio Gonzalez of Washington, who finished with one more win than Dickey, we might have regarded it as a look to a bright Nationals future. Gonzalez is, after all, a young piece of a young pitching corps headed for greatness.
Dickey, though, has limited time left in his career. Even though he throws a knuckler, he throws it with speed, and that can’t help but put stress on an aging limb. You simply don’t build a rotation around someone like that. So, for all the feel-good emotion of seeing a Grade-A guy getting pitching’s highest award after experiencing the lowest of the low in life and on the diamond, we can only look at Dickey as a novelty.
A fantastic, heart-warming novelty, but a novelty nonetheless.
The problem is, at this point in their history, the Mets can’t afford a novelty. There are way too many holes to fill elsewhere.
In other words, Dickey will never be as marketable as he is at this very moment. If they can get a starting position player or two, and perhaps a good young prospect who is rising through the minors with a bullet, they had better take advantage of their lone asset now.
This is not how most Mets fans would prefer Dickey’s stay to end. That’s understood, and totally understandable. They’d like to see the knuckleball version of Nolan Ryan, a guy who struggled his early years, blossomed late in life, and continued to blow batters away well past the age of 40.
How great would it be if Dickey, a guy whose inner candle guided him through the darkness of childhood sexual abuse, whose hope guided him through baseball obscurity, signed a long-term deal with the Mets, and then another, and maybe another, and finally walk into retirement gray, a champion several times over, and a short jump from social security? There’s not a better choice out there for something like that.
But sports is all about the present. Except for Dickey, there hasn’t been much of a now. With the tomorrow of 2013 lurking around the corner, the Mets sorely need to fill some holes.
The outfield needs fielders. The lineup needs hitters who can drive in runs.
Dickey can bring those people, and that’s something he may not do in a year, especially if he acts like so many aging players and takes a step backward.
The Mets are in no position to risk losing Dickey’s market value. He wants to stay. We all want him to stay. It’s always great to have a living fairy tale on your squad.
Baseball is not about that, however, and the Mets can’t afford the luxury.
Ask the question.
Would you rather see Cinderella or a World Series?
Where do you stand on R.A.’s future? Be heard in the comments below!