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.
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