Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Coronation

The Year of Dickey reached its culmination tonight when the news was announced that R.A. had indeed won the 2012 National League Cy Young Award. Certainly, his credentials for the award were never in doubt. Dickey led the NL in Strikeouts, Innings Pitched, Complete Games and Shutouts, and was second in ERA and Wins. None of the other two finalists, Clayton Kershaw and Gio Gonzalez, had the same combination of numbers in their favor. What was left to question was whether or not the voters would look at the numbers, and Dickey's importance to the Mets, and even the journey he took to get to this point, rather than the fact that he did what he did while throwing a supposed "gadget" pitch.

The answer was yes. Resoundingly. Though speculation ruled the day until Dickey was announced as the winner, the truth was that the vote wasn't even close. Dickey took home 27 of 32 first place votes to win with ease, the same kind of ease in which he breezed through most of the National League this past season.

Dickey's Cy Young was not just a victory for him. It was a victory for Mets fans everywhere. Dickey had become a most unlikely fan favorite, after being an afterthought two years ago. Dickey had become a folk hero with Mets fans, the guy who had been scoffed at and tossed aside by multiple teams, but, given one final chance with the Mets, managed to turn it all around. Dickey knew this, he understood it, and he acknowledged it, and the fans, and his teammates, responded by rallying around him. In his acceptance speech tonight, Dickey once again acknowledged the fans, noting how they came out in droves to will him to his final two victories this season. Dickey wasn't the first Met to win 20 games, he wasn't the first Met to win a Cy Young Award, and he wasn't even the pitcher to delivered the Mets first No Hitter this season. What he was, was the ultimate underdog that blossomed into an Ace. Mets fans have taken to guys like that forever. And in 2012, he won those 20 games, something a Mets pitcher hadn't done in 22 years. He didn't throw that No Hitter, but he did throw back-to-back 1 Hitters. He went a month without allowing an earned run. He was an All Star. And now, he's won that Cy Young, the first time a Met has won a major Postseason Award in 27 years.

It was a victory for the Knuckleball, and for every Knuckleball pitcher that didn't win a Cy Young Award because nobody took them seriously. A lot has been made about how Dickey had revolutionized the Knuckleball, and while he certainly put his own spin on the pitch, he learned the craft from the many pitchers who had thrown the pitch before him. Taking the knowledge he received from people like Tim Wakefield, Charlie Hough and Phil Niekro, Dickey embraced it and ran with it. The 2012 season was the culmination of everything he'd learned and everything he'd put into learning the Knuckleball. Once he mastered it, his performances became almost symphonic. Dickey throwing the Knuckleball was like watching Barry Sanders dance through a field of defenders, and the result, generally, was the same. And if nobody took the Knuckleball seriously before, well, they had to now, because Dickey had made it impossible to ignore.

Can you imagine? The twists and turns his career and life have taken have been well-documented, but you couldn't have written a script like this. I don't know if Dickey will be on the mound on Opening Day 2013, but the ovation he's going to receive that day is going to be monumental.

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