Over the next week, The Wanderer will recap the best local stories, from the University of Alberta to City of Edmonton as a whole. However, there must also be room for the best stories from the wide world of sports. This is one of them, as we profile pitcher R.A. Dickey and his climb to fame with the New York Mets.
The 2012 Major League Baseball (MLB) was once again surreal at moments. When Seattle and Oakland opened the season on March 28 in Japan, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper were prominent up-and-comers, with all-star status still several years away. The Boston Red Sox were a significant question mark, with pundits wondering whether they could rebound from the “chicken and beer” disaster that blemished the previous season. Oakland, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Washington were not high-end MLB teams, with the Pirates throwing away the National League Central division in 2011. But much of this changed. In hindsight, 2012 was a turning point in baseball: fresh faces firmly established themselves among the MLB’s best, several traditional basement-dwelling teams emerged as playoff favourites, and the Red Sox were never able to shake the ghosts of 2011.
Certainly, the examples above are all among the great baseball stories of 2011. Unless one is an avid Texas Rangers fan, what is there to dislike about the rise of Mike Trout? As a young adult, the man tore up the Show, nearly propelling the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to a post-season spot. The release of Moneyball, a film starring Brad Pitt (based on a book by Michael Lewis) showcasing the stats-based approach to the Oakland Athletics front office, seemed to run in parallel with the 2012 Athletics’ push for the post-season. At the same time, the New York Yankees only edged the worrisome Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays for the American League East crown. In short, it seems that baseball has been turned on its head; Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and much of the Old Guard have stepped aside for the newcomers, such as Mike Trout. And the once-hegemonic Yankees and Red Sox must now concern themselves with every other club in the division, including Toronto.
Nevertheless, I believe that one player distinguished himself as the MLB story of 2012. This man is R.A. Dickey, an eloquent writer, Tennessee Volunteers college standout and now, Cy Young knuckleballer. Prior to the 2012 season, Dickey published a book along with Wayne Coffey and Blue Rider Press, entitled Wherever I Wind Up. In May 2012, while browsing the sports section at the Chapters on Whyte Avenue, I happened across the title and was immediately hooked. Not only is Dickey a polished knuckleballer; he is an eloquent writer with a poetic control of the English language. Moreover, the trials and tribulations of his life seem to border fiction. Born into a rough household with an alcoholic father, Dickey essentially raised himself, eventually gaining admittance to a prestigious high school en route to a scholarship to the University of Tennessee. Yet, following a remarkable college baseball career, a doctor found that Dickey naturally lacked a specific ligament in his throwing arm. In moments, Dickey’s professional career prospects plummeted, leading to many solemn years wandering the depths of Minor League baseball.
Thus, there is something special about Dickey’s Cy Young Award, given to the pitchers voted the best in both the American and National Leagues. Of course, any Cy Young is “special,” in that only remarkable athletes receive them. With Dickey, however, his life story is anything but conducive to a professional baseball career, let alone a Cy Young. Moreover, considering the beginning of his baseball career with the Texas Rangers, it is shocking that Dickey even remained in the pros. Despite all of this, Dickey posted a sub 3.00 earned run average, posted over 20 wins and along with third baseman David Wright, is the only reason why the New York Mets did not lose 100 games.
Following a recent trade, Dickey is now in Canada, playing for the Toronto Jays. He joins a star-studded line-up, along with other newly-acquired players such as Jose Reyes, fellow Cy Young candidate Josh Johnson and left-hander Mark Buehrle. The New York Mets will now surely lose 100 games, but the Jays appear headed in the opposite direction. With the Red Sox in a rebuilding phase and the Yankees on a decline, Toronto is a legitimate contender for the American League East crown. It seems that Dickey is taking one stair at a time: a brutal start to his MLB career, a good season in 2011 and then the Cy Young in 2012.
With 2013 upon us, how farfetched would it be for Dickey to progress from Cy Young to World Series MVP?
CC photograph courtesy of Flickr, found here.