Growing up as a mediocre baseball player, you learn at an early age that you’re unlikely to ever earn a paycheque for your athletic abilities.  Still, in the back of every kid’s mind who competes in sports is a quiet hope that somehow you’ll overcome great odds and have your true talent discovered by an interested scout who would then go ahead and make you a top draft pick and start you on your way to a professional career.

As you grow older you end up being the one to realize your own true talent and quickly come to the understanding that if you’re really going to make it you’d have to fool someone.  Personally, I always believed that my own route to the Major Leagues would only be made possible by learning to throw a knuckleball, a craft that seems to grow closer and closer to extinction every year.

There are currently only two such craftsmen in all of Major League Baseball: Tim Wakefield of the Boston Red Sox and the New York Mets’ R.A. Dickey.

In addition to Dickey’s unique pitch selection, the Mets starting pitcher is also selective with his sandwiches, preferring wraps stuffed with turkey, bacon, Havarti cheese, lettuce and mayonnaise, but no tomato, according to SNY’s Ted Berg, a sandwich aficionado in his own right.

Dickey was originally selected by the Texas Rangers in the first round of the 1996 MLB draft, and offered an $810,000 signing bonus before a doctor with the team saw a picture of the prospect with his arm hanging at a funny angle.  Further tests revealed that the pitcher didn’t have an ulnar collateral ligament, the part of the elbow that Tommy John surgery famously repairs.  The Rangers offer was reduced to a sympathetic $75,000 and Dickey’s career was thought to be over before it truly started.

After bouncing around the Rangers system for a few years, the pitcher realized that the forkball he had included in his pitching arsenal was actually a knuckleball.  He developed it further, and at the end of Spring Training in 2006 was given the role of the team’s fifth starter.  It didn’t work out, as Dickey gave up six home runs in his first start, tying Wakefield for the modern day record.

Dickey then bounced around a few organizations on Minor League deals before signing with the Mets at the start of last year.  He was eventually called up and became one of the few bright spots in a disastrous season for Mets fans, earning 2.9 WAR while showing above average control and putting up a lower ERA and xFIP than the staff ace Johan Santana.  This offseason, the knuckleballer signed a two year contract worth $7.8 million.

Here he is talking to Berg about the knuckleball and how he controls it.

All this talk of baseball and sandwiches reminds me of something.  Real Talk: Bobby Valentine invented the wrap, thereby earning some credit for having a hand in creating The Dickster.

And The Rest

Baseball Reference lists the top Canadians in Major League Baseball by WAR.  If you’re convinced that Larry Walker deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, please have a look at his career home and away splits.  The .200 difference in OPS is rather glaring.

Philadelphia Phillies prospect Domonic Brown, who was expected to earn himself a starting gig in right field this season has fractured his hand and will likely require surgery.

Former Blue Jays catcher Gregg Zaun is set to retire.  Or maybe he just signed a piece of paper and a teammate turned it into retirement documents and then filed them without his consent.

Another former fan favourite in Toronto is hanging up the spikes.  Frank Catalanotto has decided to call it a day.

Ken Fidlin believes that Lyle Overbay could be the steal of the offseason.  I would respectfully disagree.

Murray Chass continues to find new and interesting ways to embarrass himself.

Will Brett Gardner take Derek Jeter’s lead off spot this season?

Keith Olbermann on Bryce Harper because . . . well, just because.

Jonah Keri writes about the Longoria contract for the Wall Street Journal.

The Chicago White Sox smartly lock up Matt Thornton to a two year extension worth $12 million.

Will Leitch on the burden of New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman.

The Seattle Mariners take a smart approach to stop drinking and driving.

Mets fans should enjoy Jose Reyes while they can because Joel Sherman figures he won’t be around for long.

Salon looks at African Americans in baseball.

Finally, Todd Zeile is definitely a Gnarls Gnarlington.  #Winning #TigerBlood

Comments (12)

  1. In my fantasy draft last night, one of the guys (team name: Winning!!!) was acting like Charlie Sheen. It was hysterical. He said he was going to use his kids, or “Warlock Spawn” to field a football team. I couldn’t stop laughing

  2. I wonder if Zaun will end up with Sportsnet this year at all. Makes sense, given that they just dropped Rance and Sam and whatnot.

  3. I wouldn’t object to that. If not for any other reason that it will give me an opportunity to mock his Tennessee funeral parlour owner wardrobe.

    Gregg Zaun’s suits provided by Gregg Zaun.

  4. That, and his hilariously awkward “chemistry” with Jamie Campbell.

  5. Don’t forget having a recovering alcoholic on a show sponsored by hard liquor (Wiser’s)

  6. Walker’s home road splits actually underexagerate the Coors field effect b/c he played quite a bit of baseball before ending up a Rockie.
    At Coors Field he hit .381 with an OPS of 1.172
    I had to calculate his away from Coors stats manually but Away from Coor he hit .282 with an OPS of .872 a difference of .300

  7. Incredible! Good notice, Peter.

  8. Wow, Bobby V is a windbag

  9. Home OPS Road
    Wade Boggs: .934 .781
    Jim Rice .920 .789
    Ron Santo .905 .747
    Ernie Banks .886 .773

    If that’s our metric, then Ernie Banks was an average-hitting shortstop and a below-average first baseman, and Ron Santo is rightfully excluded from the Hall because of Wrigley. Boggs goes from a professional hitter with a high OPS to a slap-hitter with an empty .300 average because of Fenway. Rice looks even worse.

    Three things about Walker’s splits:

    First, look at the home/road splits in 1997, his MVP year. He hit better on the road (1.176-1.169). That also leads me to wonder about the actual affect of the Coors environment: If the effect was that pronounced, why wasn’t Walker putting up a 1.500 OPS at home that year? What other effect does leaving and returning to that environment have on a hitter? Can it be quantified?

    Second, the “road Walker” even in the big Coors years has a, what, .872 OPS with a HR every 20 ABs, while being a plus defender? That’s still an elite player.

    Finally, BR has a tool to park and period-adjust batting stats at the bottom of the page. If you put Larry Walker in a 2010 run environment and a neutral park, he slashes .303/.388/.545 with 369 HRs over his career. It’s safe to assume still as a plus defender.

    It’s easy to fall back on the Coors argument against any 1990s Rockie. And there are other reasons to exclude him (playing time, for example). But Walker still raked in the environment presented to him, and still provided plus offensive value on the road. The Home/Road splits shouldn’t be the end of the discussion.

  10. Great interview with Dickey. Very thoughtful and well-spoken ballplayer.

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