RA Dickey delivering a knuckleball as a Toronto Blue Jay
Ra Dickey performed spectacularly in 2012. He dominated or did really well in all of his starts except for one — one rainy night in Atlanta. His dominating performances, consistency and strike outs earned him 20 wins and Cy Young Award despite playing for the hapless Mets. Then the Metts do what they do best: trade or abandon their best players. Dickey is a Blue Jay.
Before we could start salivating about a Harvey and Dickey one-two punch, the Mets pulled the trade. Not many teams trade a reigning Cy Young and I know Dickey had his heart set on a career in New York. But it was onto another team. Playing musical chairs with different organizations has become a part of RA’s life as a baseball player.
The American League East is a completely different beast than the Nation League East. The AL East boasts the most expensive teams in the game with fan bases that demand championships. The high-priced Yankees, the big-bopping Red Sox, the feisty Rays and the young-and-hungry Orioles all populate the Blue Jays’ own division. The new environment brought Dickey a whole new challenge.
There’s also something about the Rogers Center. That place seems to send the ball into the stratosphere. It is a veritable launching pad. This poses another challenge to a knuckleballer because the knuckle ball tends to be a fly ball pitch.
Dickey embraced the challenge, as he always does. But he had some struggles. His struggles in 2013 weren’t all that bad. he threw a string of strong games, but had a few duds. This inflated some his numbers. Overall, the 2013 wasn’t a waist, but fans were disappointed. The Jays traded for the Cy Young, extended a multi-million dollar deal and got a pedestrian AL East pitcher.
But a knuckleballer doesn’t become a knuckleballer without knowing himself. You really need to dissect everything that you do on the mound to understand exactly which movements produce a ball with no spin. You really have to have some intestinal fortitude to stand on the mound throwing butterflies at Major League Hitters. You can’t just throw knuckleballs up there and hope for the best.
RA Dickey’s path of self-discovery, through his own personal life and through baseball, leads me to believe that 2014 will be a big year for the MLB’s only knuckleballer. He’s gone through the struggles, embraces challenges and knows that he has it in him. As a knuckleballer, I know he’s work harder than anyone else in the MLB to refine his game.
And there is one simple reason that I know — a knuckleballer can throw all year and throw more pitches that anyone else.
Expect big things from the young Mr RA Dickey this season.