- Last Updated: 7:39 PM, July 10, 2012
- Posted: 3:23 AM, July 10, 2012
KANSAS CITY — OK, first of all, of course R.A. Dickey should have started the All-Star Game for the National League.
No disrespect to Matt Cain, a superb pitcher who is worthy of the starting assignment he received. But baseball is trying to put on a television show here, and what character has a better back story than Dickey? Dickey arguably gives the NL a better chance to win, anyway, as he has put up a better season than Cain.
Nevertheless, maybe Dickey and the Mets can take this gag gift of a development and turn it into a true present from NL manager Tony La Russa.
Maybe this can help keep Dickey motivated, humble and hungry.
“R.A. is allowed to be disappointed, but you know what? He’s been driven his whole life,” Mets manager Terry Collins, here as a coach under La Russa, said yesterday.
“ ‘Just use this as a stepping stone. This is not a snub. You’re here because you are one of the best in the game. Use it as motivation.’ ’’
Dickey, however, didn’t buy into this column’s idea.
“Once I come here and experience what the All-Star Game is all about and hopefully get to participate in it, I’ll move on to the Atlanta Braves,” he said. “It’s sad and disappointing about the start, but there are also a lot of awesome things, too.”
The knuckleballer couldn’t hide being irked that La Russa didn’t even reach out to him for a conversation.
Said Dickey: “I haven’t talked to Tony at all, surprisingly.”
La Russa, for his part, didn’t have much of an explanation, other than that Cain “is equally legitimate as far as getting the honor.” That’s a fine explanation only if you view a Midsummer Classic start as recognition for one’s entire career, rather than for the season in question. That indeed jibes with how La Russa regards it. The retired skipper mentioned Cain’s “career of excellence that’s getting better.” This is Cain’s third All-Star selection against Dickey’s first.
So that’s one message to Dickey: “Yeah, you’ve put in your time, but you just joined the big boys. Wait your turn.”
Here’s another one he could take: Stay humble. Don’t buy into the mythology or book sales surrounding you. Follow La Russa’s lead.
It would be understandable for Dickey to get a little caught up in the hype surrounding him. His autobiography, “Wherever I Wind Up,” was a courageous endeavor, and he has lined up his spectacular season with the book’s release. His story has transcended the sports world.
Nevertheless, when you find yourself aboard an effort to credit a teammate with an error, as occurred June 13 when the Mets appealed an official scorer’s decision (a B.J. Upton single that David Wright couldn’t barehand) to try to get Dickey a no-hitter, it might be time to slam on the brakes and take a deep breath. Remember what truly matters.
“I think what’s going on right now with R.A. Dickey, he’s hungry,” Collins said. “I just don’t want him to have him lose his focus on what he has to do to finish this out. It’s all about playing in October. The game in July is great, it’s an honor, you’re among the best of the best, but only a few guys play in October. And that’s where I hope his mind’s at.”
Dickey said, “I’m sad about not getting the start, disappointed. But I’m also elated about being here. I think that’s maturity. Being able to walk forward and enjoy what’s going on.”
That’s good. He’ll absolutely pitch in the game — he and Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz will enter at the same time, Collins said, giving Ruiz time in the bullpen to prepare for the knuckleballs — so he’ll have his moment in the spotlight.
If he can keep pitching like an All-Star and qualify for next year’s game at Citi Field? Well, that would be a pretty good slot for him to start. And La Russa would have absolutely no say on that assignment.