I liked Dickey before he was cool: Dickey becomes mainstream

In today’s times of Twitter, hipsters and non-stop baseball media madness, we’re dealing with a lot of the same conversations year after year. Who will get traded at the trade deadline? Who will win Rookie of the Year? How do we make the period between the All-Star break and the pennant race interesting? At what point do no-hitters stop being a big deal?

Well here’s something completely new: The league’s best pitcher is a knuckleball-thrower without a ulnar collateral ligament. Although R.A. Dickey has been thrilling Mets fans for the past two seasons, he’s finally reached national stardom thanks to a pair of one-hitters in which he combined to strikeout 25 batters.

For a Mets fan, this is kind of hard to deal with. The Mets as a whole are still far from completing their renovation that started when Sandy Alderson was brought in after the 2010 season, and yet Dickey has become a superstar. Whether this is a short term Jeremy Lin-like phenomenon or something more, it’s still going to be weird seeing Dickey on the mound to start the All-Star Game. This is something that I dismissed as improbable just last week, but now seems like a distinct possibility.

So, is this something that can last for a long time? Knuckleball pitchers have been known to pitch well into their forties, but Dickey is unlike any knuckleball pitcher to come before him. The main reason for this season’s outstanding performance has been a rise in R.A.’s strikeout rate from 5.78 per nine last season to 9.36 this year. Dickey has somehow gained more control of the thought-to-be uncontrollable knuckleball and that’s allowed him to get more swings and misses than ever before.

I’d love to say that Dickey can keep striking guys out at this rate, but that seems highly unlikely. Dickey adjusted to what batters were doing, and the batters are bound to adjust back. The good news is if he can keep eating up innings while performing like he did in 2010 and 2011, the Mets would still have a rock solid rotation pitcher for years to come.

Speaking of years to come, with a one-year club option for $5 million still left on his deal, the Mets have a lot of time to decide how exactly they want to extend Dickey’s contract. It will certainly be tricky because of the prospect of Dickey pitching well and staying healthy for the next 10 years remains possible. However, at this point, I’m sure Alderson and company know that something has to be done to keep him in orange and blue for a long time.

Dickey could certainly command a lot in the trade market, especially with that affordable option coming up, but the connection he has with the fans and his almost magic durability make him a very unique asset, both tangibly and intangibly. Right now, we can only sit back and hope Dickey keeps pitching like a Cy Young candidate. Even if he doesn’t, though, the dude better get his money.

PS: Props to David Lennon at Newsday for thinking up a great way to compare Dickey to Star Wars that I’m sure the nerdy pitcher will appreciate very much.

You can follow me on Twitter: @apy5000

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