Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The most interesting man in the world (of baseball)

              Everyone loves a late bloomer story, especially about someone who over came so much adversity.  Even before his break out season this year, R.A. Dickey had already written a book entitled "Wherever I wind up: My quest for truth, authenticity and the perfect knuckleball", which was released at the start of the 2012 season, a season that would see R.A. make his first All-Star team at the age of 37 with a 12-1 record.  Many people, including myself, believe he will actually start the game, making him the first knuckleballer to do so since Dutch Leonard in 1943 (Not to be confused with the turn of the century pitcher of the same name, who was lefthanded and posted the lowest ERA in modern baseball in 1901 at 0.96)

               When he came up with the Rangers, his stuff was nothing special, so when he decided to try throwing a knuckleball, which was actually a hard forkball he had been working on, the Rangers let him do it.  The initial results were not good, as he let up 6 home runs in his first start with the new pitch.  He was then sent down to the minors and eventually released.  Over the next few seasons he spent time with the Brewers, the Twins and the Mariners with mediocre results.  Then in 2010, the Mets signed him to a minor league contract.  This time, though, he was ready.   A call up to the big leagues led to a 11-9 record and 2.84 E.R.A.  The Dickey era ( not to be confused with E.R.A., of course) was under way

        Another thing that people like about the man is his honesty.  He admits to being sexually abused, having an alcoholic family, and thought about committing suicide in 2006 (although in his defense, the Rangers were terrible that year). Amazingly well-read and not pretentious about it, R.A. also likes to climb mountains, take spiritual journeys, and other things not associated with the modern ball player...he is in fact, the baseball version of the guy from the Dos equis commercial.  The fact that he kind of looks like an extra from "Deliverance" also adds to the mystique.  It's not like looking at a Greg Maddux or Ron Darling, guys who just "look smart"...just saying, his long hair and moustache look is straight out of the backwoods...

    As of this writing, Dickey is the only knuckleballer in the game, although if the history of  baseball is any indication, he won't be for long.  It's a copycat business, after all, so once something is successful, teams will try to find a way to duplicate that success.  So don't be surprised to find a bunch of over the hill early '30s types trying out the pitch.  Hey, it worked for Tim Wakefield, and he pitched until he was 73 (actually, 45).Charlie Hough, Phil Neikro, and others also pitched until they were almost 50.  All you need is patience, and a good manicurist.  Hell, my dad used to throw one in college, and he had tiny hobbit hands.  Point is, you can't throw 95 mph forever...unless you're Nolan Ryan, of course, so if nothing else, R.A. is showing there's another way to be dominate.  How dominate?  How about 2 one hitters in back to back starts.  Eat your heart out Johnny Van der meer.

1 comment:

  1. I hope you're right about the copycat thing. I feel like there should always be at least two knuckleballers in the bigs at any given time. We've been waiting for Charlie Haeger to get it together for years now... I was hoping Dontrelle might go that route, but it doesn't look like it.