R.A. Dickey spent three productive -- and at times magical -- years with the New York Mets (of course they weren't magical for the Mets, just Dickey). He was a fan favorite, he was the team's best pitcher and he has been one of the most fascinating players the franchise has ever had. And now he's gone, traded to the Toronto Blue Jays. The deal may make loads of sense logically, seeing where the Mets stand talent- and contention-wise, but emotionally, it will leave a hole in Met fans' hearts. He may be gone, but he won't be forgotten. Here are the Top 5 best things about R.A. Dickey.
[ANALYSIS: Mets make out well in Dickey trade]
5. His rags-to-riches journey: Dickey's journey to success has been remarkable, and one that pegs him as the everyman, and not a spoiled prima donna who hasn't had to work for what's he's earned. When he was drafted in 1996 by the Texas Rangers, it was learned that he was mysteriously missing his ulnar collateral ligament in his right arm, which means he shouldn't be able to throw a pitch without pain let alone have a major league career. He made his big-league debut in 2001, and he didn't fare very well. He eventually transformed into a knuckleball pitcher, and in his first game back in the majors, in 2006, he gave up a record-tying six home runs. Two years later, he tied another dubious record, by throwing four wild pitches in one inning. It wasn't until his first season with the Mets, in 2010, that he finally flourished, at the age of 35.
4. He's just flat-out interesting: Dickey's a little more thoughtful, a little more intelligent and a little more honest than the average professional athlete. He doesn't speak in clichés. His sesquipedalian ways are a refreshing change of pace in the field of post-game interviews (ok, I tried hard to find a really long, erudite word such as "sesquipedalian" that Dickey himself might use). He's an avid reader, and has named his bats for the literary swords Orclist the Goblin Cleaver and Hrunting. His humbleness and intentions have been questioned lately by a few members of the media, especially after his comments at the Mets' holiday party last week. But why in the world did the organization choose Dickey, of all players, to attend and participate when he was in such a delicate position and standing with the Mets? And the questions about his contract status came from a reporter who works for SNY, essentially an employee of the Mets. So the Mets' brass was angry he answered the questions? And he did so in an even-tempered, fair way, as well, without any bitterness or harsh words. Conspiracy theorists would say there was a smear campaign going on.
3. He throws a knuckleball: The unique pitch, which he's mastered wonderfully, is as different and captivating as Dickey himself. Old knuckleballers, such as Phil Niekro, came out of the woodwork to comment on and praise Dickey. The knuckleball's unpredictability is just plain fun to watch, especially with Dickey's amazing way of controlling the uncontrollable pitch. When he won the Cy Young Award, he won it for knuckleball pitchers everywhere.
2. He's a good-deed-doer: While many athletes spend their free time committing crimes or tweeting inane idiocies, Dickey climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. And he, of course, did it for charity, raising over $100,000 for an organization called "Bombay Teen Challenge," which helps those in India affected by human trafficking. He also penned his autobiography, confessing that he was sexually abused as a minor, and now he's an outspoken advocate to end that evil.
1. He's damn good: If Dickey weren't any good, then all the other stuff wouldn't mean very much, or at least we may have never learned about it. He's had three seasons where he's been one of the elite pitchers in the National League, with his Cy Young being the icing on the cake and a tangible prize for his production on the mound. Besides winning 20 games and leading the NL in strikeouts, innings pitched, complete games and shutouts, he had a streak of 32.2 consecutive scoreless innings in 2012, along with tossing back-to-back one-hitters. He also threw a one-hitter in 2010, vs. the Philadelphia Phillies, with Cole Hamels getting the lone hit. In his three years with the Mets, Dickey went 39-28, with a 2.95 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. He struck out 468 batters in 616.2 innings (6.8 strikeouts per nine innings) and walked only 150 (2.2 per nine innings), threw eight complete games and four shutouts, and had a 129 ERA+ and 12.1 WAR.