Ten years ago, Disney released “The Rookie”, a movie about a 35-year old science teacher named Jimmy Morris who kept his promise to his players that he would tryout for the big leagues if his team won the District Championship. They did and he attended a MLB tryout at the end of the season.
Despite his age, scouts were impressed with his ability to throw a high 90 mph fastball consistently and he later signed a contract with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1999, making his major league debut on September 18.
I bring up Morris because, like his age, many people thought he had no shot to be successful at the MLB level. Just like many wrote of R.A Dickey when he was a Texas Ranger in 2006 after his disastrous outing against the Detroit Tigers.
He was the number four starter for Buck Showalter’s Rangers in 2006, but made his only start of the season as he surrendered seven earned runs in 3 1/3 innings. He was demoted to the minors, where he spent the rest of the season.
Since then, he has spent the past five years bouncing around between the minors to majors, finally completing a full season as a starting pitcher for the New York Mets in 2011. Yet, Dickey was still a no-name starting pitcher.
Now, this knuckleball pitcher from Nashville, Tennessee has been the talk of baseball and is getting the spotlight on him every time he takes the mound.
While I don’t think Disney is rushing to its writers to put a film together on Dickey, his story of being a nobody pitcher to the most talked about in less than half a season is astonishing. Oh, and he’s 37, too.
His fame really garnered attention when he followed Johan Santana’s no-hitter with a complete game shutout over the St. Louis Cardinals the very next night.
He followed that performance with a 7 1/3 inning of four hit ball and no runs to throwing back-to-back nine-inning one-hitters. His last and only loss of the season was a 14-6 blowout against the Atlanta Braves on April 18. The Mets have only lost once more when he started, otherwise the Mets have won every game in the month of May and currently in June.
Dickey is 4-0 in both May and June – with a few more starts remaining in June – and has brought his ERA down from 5.71 in the blowout to the Braves to 2.00. Dickey is tied with Brandon Beachy of the Braves for the lowest ERA in all of baseball. He leads the majors with 11 wins and is second only to the Tigers’ Justin Verlander with 103 strikeouts. He has had 13 and 12 strikeouts respectively in his last two starts.
What’s even more fascinating is in his last start, the Mets took on the Baltimore Orioles. If you don’t know, Buck Showalter, the same manger that saw Dickey start one game when they were both in Texas, manages the Orioles. He had the luxury of watching Dickey completely dismantle his club after last seeing Dickey give up six bombs in just over three-innings.
We are now 20 days away from the All-Star game and the buzz surrounding Dickey potentially starting for the National League is upon us.
Watching Dickey’s highlights, you feel as if you’re watching them in slow motion, but that’s just the power of the knuckleball. It will be an interesting sight to see if we have a knuckleballer starting for the NL in the All-Star game, something I’m still trying to fathom.
Dickey will have three more starts before the break. If he his going to have any shot at starting or making the NL squad, he will have to continue his domination against potent offenses in the starts to come.
The spotlight will be on him like never before when he faces the New York Yankees’ CC Sabathia on Sunday Night Baseball this weekend. He will then face the Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies in his final starts before the break.
If Dickey does dominate Yankee hitters and maintains his ERA, he will more than likely get the ball for the NL on July 10. That is exactly that kind of thing that could be made into a movie.
Follow on Twitter: @midwayMars