R.A. Dickey has been having one of the most dominant half seasons in Major League Baseball history, but it apparently wasn’t good enough to get him the nod to start the All-Star Game.
In an announcement this afternoon manager Tony LaRussa said he was giving Giants pitcher Matt Cain the start over Dickey. It’s a curious decision to say the least.
The Giants’ righthander is having a fine season, and his perfect game was a great accomplishment, but the Mets knuckleballer is better of just about every front. Dickey has the most wins in the National League, more strikeouts and a better earned run average than Cain. His numbers for June were unreal, and possibly unmatched in baseball history. He went 5-0, giving up just five earned runs in 48 1/3 innings. During that stretch he threw consecutive one-hitters, had a stretch of 44 2/3 innings without giving up a run and averaged more than 9 strikeouts a game.
Looking beyond the stats—Cain beats Dickey only in innings pitched, with Cain throwing 120 1/3 innings to Dickey’s 120—the Mets’ player has had one of the most pitching performances ever through half a season. If you caught any of Dickey’s performances this season, you know that the numbers don’t even tell how dominant he has been. The last remaining knuckleballer in the majors, Dickey is nothing like the slow-throwing knuckleball pitchers of the past, CNN noted. He throws with greater speed and much more control and mixes in an effective fastball, leaving hitters flustered.
His story also makes for a much more compelling narrative for the All-Star Game, even with Cain’s perfect game. The 37-year-old, who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in the offseason, reinvented himself as a knuckleball pitcher after a journeyman career that saw him pitching in AAA ball just a few seasons ago. In an autobiography released in the offseason Dickey also revealed that he was sexually abused as a child and didn’t come to terms with it until he entered counseling in 2006. Which, by the way, was when he rejuvenated his career.
LaRussa had hinted at the decision in a conference call last week, sharing concerns that the NL squad’s catchers weren’t used to catching knuckleballs and wouldn’t be able to handle Dickey. But unless he doesn’t plan on pitching Dickey in the game at all, they will have to deal with it at some point and starting him gives them the most time to get acclimated. Buster Posey, the game’s starting catcher, even said he would phone Mets catcher Josh Thole for some tips on how to catch knuckleballs, the New York Daily News reported.
Now that the All-Star Game is no longer a meaningless summer spectacle—the winner of the game determines home-field advantage for the World Series—it’s unfair not only to R.A. Dickey but all fans of NL teams to keep him on the bench.