Baseball hasn’t been covering itself in much glory for me lately but yesterday the baseball writers did me, and all who love pitching, a solid. I also hope baseball made Wallace Matthews’ head explode (along with everyone else who has ever written negatively about knuckleball pitchers).
Because yesterday New York Mets right hander (and knuckleballer) R.A. Dickey won the National League Cy Young Award. Dickey finished 2012 with 20 wins which, regardless of every other statistic out there that measures how well a pitcher performs, is usually the big indicator that the folks who vote for these things will choose you for the award. But that isn’t to say that the 20 wins didn’t mean something. I mean, heck, the Mets only won 74 games in 2012 and a large chunk of that is due to Dickey and his ability to get hitters out. Dickey led the league in innings pitched (233.2), shutouts (3), complete games (5), batters faced (927) and the ever-popular strikeouts (230)*. While the Mets didn’t exactly wow anyone this year, R.A. Dickey gave their fans something to cheer for. He acknowledged those fans when the award was announced by telling reporters:
“This is an honor to be shared. It’s a great honor and I am not a self-made man by any stretch of the imagination. If it weren’t for the fans coming to the park to support me for my 19th & 20th wins, I don’t think I would be here talking to you.”
A fan favorite all across MLB, Dickey’s road to Cy hasn’t always been an easy one. Earlier this year he published a memoir that details an awful lot about his personal life. He opened up in a brutally honest way that endeared him to folks, baseball fans or not, so to see him win the ultimate individual prize in his field is something definitely worth celebrating.
Thus far, there have been 26 knuckleball pitchers in Major League Baseball (including our beloved Tim Wakefield and a personal favorite, Charlie Zink) and Dickey is the first one to win the coveted Cy Young Award. I encourage you to get a copy of his autobiography and read about his journey because without this season ending the way it did for him, it’s inspiring. But given the way things worked out in 2012, it’s also pretty amazing.
*In the second line of the prologue of his book Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball, Dickey wrote: “I will never be a Hall of Famer and will never lead the league in strikeouts…”
I guess the joke is on him.