Sunday, December 30, 2012

50 Years in Cards: 2012

And One more for Good Measure!
What is it: 2012 Topps #279, R.A. Dickey

What makes it interesting: It's the best design we've seen out of Topps in several years. It's simple, which I've already said is what works.

R.A. Dickey was probably the most unlikely hero in Mets History. His story, already well-documented, led him all over the country before he landed with the Mets in 2010. Summoned to the Majors in Mid-May, nobody expected to see much out of him, which is why it was so jarring when, after a no-decision in his first start, Dickey reeled off 6 consecutive victories. Out of a career in tatters, a star was born. Dickey's success that first year, coupled with his outspoken, offbeat personality that seemed to befit the Knuckleball he threw, endeared him instantly to Mets fans, who embraced him almost immediately. Dickey won 11 games that year, including a pair of masterful complete games, a 1-hitter against the Phillies and another solid game against Pittsburgh, but he also won over legions of fans. Dickey regressed somewhat in 2011, injuries and some inconsistency with his knuckleball played a part, but after a lousy start, he had a fine second half, despite his record ending up at 8-13. He finished his season on a high note; in spite of a no-decision, he carried a perfect game against the Phillies into the 7th inning in a game the Mets eventually won.

But nobody expected what was to come in 2012, when R.A. Dickey went from a good story to a National Phenomenon, an All Star, and a Cy Young Award Winner. He was already off to a pretty good start, 7-1 at the end of May, when June began and things really took off. Dickey and Johan Santana had pretty much been carrying the Mets to that point, and the night after Johan Santana's No Hitter, Dickey followed with a 7-hit Shutout of the Cardinals. On the heels of that game, Dickey salvaged a game in Washington with 7.1 shutout innings in a winning effort. Next, an outing in Tampa against their ace, David Price. And Dickey responded with a tremendous effort, out-pitching Price and ending up with a 1-hitter, striking out 12 and only losing his shutout in the 9th inning on an unearned run. And if we thought that was his peak, he outdid himself the next time out, throwing another 1-hitter in a shutout of the Orioles, with 13 strikeouts.Watching Dickey pitch had become akin to watching a symphony orchestra. Dickey had become a master of his craft, the Knuckleball, and he was now displaying just how good he could be. Soon, the accolades would begin to come his way, beginning with a selection to the All Star Game, and a scoreless inning in Kansas City. Dickey continued to win games in spite of the Mets falling apart in the second half, and by September, the chance for him to become the first Mets pitcher in over 20 years to win 20 games was well within reach. Dickey got that 20th win in the Mets final home game of the season, amid a raucous crowd that came out and rallied behind him all game. Dickey's final numbers for the year were outstanding by any measure. His 20-6 record was built on a 2.73 ERA, good for 2nd in the NL, with a league-leading 233.2 Innings Pitched, 230 Strikeouts, 5 Complete Games and 3 Shutouts. Dickey's season was justly noticed and rewarded when he took home the National League Cy Young Award, only the 3rd pitcher in Mets History to do so, the first since Dwight Gooden in 1985.

It was impossible to be a Mets fan and not like Dickey. Even when he struggled, fans seemed to support him. That's why the ending of the Dickey Story is so bittersweet. Despite the Mets attempting to work out a contract extension with Dickey, he became a valuable trade commodity. The Mets sorely wanted to keep him, and he sorely wanted to remain a Met. But with the team strapped in so many different areas, and the opportunity to improve those areas at the expense of Dickey available, the Mets traded Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays for an impressive haul of prospects. It was sad to see him go. But from the standpoint of management, it had to be done. Dickey understood that just as much as anyone. A classy, genuine individual, Dickey wrote a farewell column to Mets fans in the Daily News following the trade. He's a Blue Jay now, and we wish him well in Toronto. But we'll always have those three wonderful seasons here with the Mets, when he was truly a bright spot in a down era of Mets Baseball.

Card back:

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