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Will the prodigal son return?

What an amazing day it would be if R.A. Dickey returned to the Mets.

New York Mets v San Francisco Giants
Classic Dickeyface
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

In December 2009, then GM Omar Minaya made a minor league signing that should have been nothing but a footnote in the daily roster transaction page, a depth move that was more for filling out the roster of the teams’ Triple-A affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons. But just as the wings of a butterfly have in them the potential to create a tornado half a world away, the flutter of a knuckleball has in it the potential to change the course of a baseball club for years to come.

While we were all certainly were rooting for R.A. Dickey when he made his Mets debut on May 19, 2010, not even his most ardent and enthusiastic supporters could have imagined what was to come. Known primarily as a journeyman Quad-A player with a name that elicited snickers and a trick pitch, Dickey turned in quality start after quality start, and by the end of the season, the knuckleballer had become one of the few bright spots in an otherwise forgettable season. Making the major league minimum, Dickey went 11-9 with a 2.84 ERA in 174.1 innings, allowing 165 hits, walking 42, and striking out 104. That winter, Dickey and the Mets came to terms on a two-year, $7 million contract, with a $5 million dollar option for 2013.

The 36-year-old rewarded newly hired GM Sandy Alderson’s faith in his ability to repeat his 2010 success to some degree with another solid season. Dickey wasn’t as good as he had been in 2010, posting a 3.28 ERA in 208.2 innings with 202 hits allowed, 54 walks, and 134 strikeouts, but he was still an above-average pitcher.

Fresh off a movie premier chronicling his 2011 season, the release of his autobiography, and a successful ascent to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise awareness on human trafficking in India, Dickey’s 2012 season started off slowly, but after settling down in the month of May, he would go on a run of dominance. Manager Terry Collins said of his ace,

“I've never seen anything like this. Never. I've seen some dominant pitching, but nothing like what he's going through right now.”


In five starts from the end of May to the middle of June, Dickey went 5-0, throwing 41.2 scoreless innings, allowing 16 hits, walking 5, and striking out 52. During his streak, the knuckleballer hit a few impressive milestones, including setting a new Mets record for consecutive scoreless innings, surpassing Jerry Koosman’s prior record of 31.2, and joining Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan as the only pitchers in MLB history to pitch consecutive complete game one-hitters with 12 or more strikeouts. Though the knuckleballer was unable to keep that frenzied pace through the rest of the year, he remained phenomenal as the season rolled on, capstoned in his penultimate start of the season, where the ace won his 20th game in front of the Mets faithful, tying his career high and striking out 13 Pittsburgh Pirates.


When the season ended, Dickey beat out Gio Gonzalez and future Baseball Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw to become the first knuckleball pitcher to win the National League Cy Young Award. He was first Mets player since Doc Gooden in 1985 to win the award, and the third Mets pitcher overall, joining Dr. K and Tom Seaver.

After weeks of speculation, Sandy Alderson decided it would be in the best interest of the organization to infuse the farm system with high-quality minor league talent and decided to sell high on the reigning Cy Young Award winner. Dickey was packaged in a deal and traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, John Buck, and Wuilmer Becerra. In the four years that Dickey played with Toronto, his star diminished, but he remained effective innings-eater, posting 4.05 ERA and 100 ERA+ over 130 starts and 824.1 innings. When his contract with the Blue Jays expired, Dickey elected to sign with the Atlanta Braves, the team he grew up watching. In the one season he spent with them, he started 31 games, pitching 190.0 innings. He posted a 4.26 ERA, allowing 193 hits, walking 67, and striking out 136. The team declined to pick up his option when the 2017 season ended, making him a free agent.

Though a reunion between Dickey and the Mets may be unlikely due to bad blood that may be lingering between the two sides after the Mets front office bashed him in his final days with the organization, the knuckleballer would be a good fit for the Mets. Though he will be 43, Dickey has remained effective despite his advanced age. Since he left the Mets, he has averaged roughly 32 starts and 200 innings per year. During that time, no current Mets pitcher has come close to averaging that; Jacob deGrom has come the closest, averaging 27 starts and 170 innings. In an off-season where the Mets are looking to change baseball paradigms and limit the innings that their young pitchers will be throwing, a durable workhorse is necessary to put less pressure on the bullpen at least once every five days.

Of course, the right-hander is considering retiring, and might indeed go through with it. If he doesn’t retire, he has expressed interest in playing for a team close to his native Nashville. Regardless how unlikely, especially with the Mets not putting a priority on acquiring a starting pitcher, the chance to see R.A. Dickey don the orange and blue one last time would be a sight for sore eyes.