R.A. Dickey explains how Buck Showalter set him up for Mets breakthrough

R.A. Dickey explains how Buck Showalter set him up for Mets breakthrough

On his way to winning the 2012 National League Cy Young Award, R.A. Dickey had a stretch of back-to-back starts that ranks with any pitcher in Mets history: consecutive one-hit shutouts against the Rays and Orioles in June.

Dickey will be honored at Citi Field on Tuesday before the start of the Subway Series, on the 11th anniversary of the first of those one-hitters.

Post Sports+ caught up this week with the 48-year-old former knuckleballer.

You’ve kept a relatively low profile since your career concluded. When was the last time you were at Citi Field?

R.A. Dickey: I pitched there my last game, my final appearance in 2017 with the Braves. I wanted it to be that way, and I didn’t take my turn in Miami the following weekend just because I thought it was kind of poetic to end at Citi Field. We were out of it anyway, and they wanted a young guy to start in Miami. I could have taken my turn, but I didn’t. It’ll be fun to come back and see everybody.

What role did Buck Showalter play in helping you become a knuckleball pitcher?

R.A.D: I was at a point in my career [with Texas in 2005] in which I was fizzling as a conventional pitcher. It takes somebody that believes in you and believes that you can achieve something. That was his role in my story.

Manager Buck Showalter #11 of the Texas Rangers during the Spring Training game against the Kansas City Royals on March 4, 2004 at Surprise Stadium in Surprise, Arizona. The Rangers won Spring Training game 9-5.
Having never registered an ERA under 5.00, R.A. Dickey was encouraged by then-Rangers manager Buck Showalter to go down to the minors and develop a knuckleball.Getty Images

At the time, I could see the writing on the wall from a conventional standpoint that I was out of gas, and he saw something in me that I might not even have seen in myself. [Texas] gave me … the latitude to go down [to the minors] and learn how to do that. Buck was incredibly instrumental in that, and I give him a lot of credit for that.

One of the things I think he’s really good at is finding diamonds in the rough and evaluating people, and I’m thankful that he saw that in me.

What did you like about playing for Showalter?

R.A.D: I felt like he looked more deeply than other people for some reason. He could see in people what other evaluators maybe couldn’t see.

I think he really prided himself on that — that he could see things that might not be obvious that might make a good player a good player.

He stuck his neck out for me. He does that for a lot of guys that might not have an opportunity otherwise and they end up really being good eventually.

I liked that he would always defend his players in the media. If he had something to say, he would do it professionally, behind closed doors. But to the media, even when you were lousy, he would really protect you, and I really appreciated that about him as a human being.

You pitched for six different teams, but is it safe to assume you identify yourself most as a Met?

Pitcher R.A. Dickey #43 of the New York Mets tips his hat to the crowd after his one hit complete game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on June 13, 2012 in St. Petersburg, Florida.
The Mets will open the Subway Series by celebrating the first of two straight one-hitters Dickey threw in June 2012 en route to the NL Cy Young.Getty Images

R.A.D: I absolutely do. If I went into the Hall of Fame, it would be as a Met for sure, because that is where it all really began for me, just the new journey and the success with it and the platform to be able to use it and all that with the Mets.

I was with Toronto longer — because I was there for four years and I pitched pretty consistently — but I didn’t achieve what I did in New York for three years. That’s the place for me. I adored my time there and the fans and just had great relationships with people, and that was really fun.

How much do you miss baseball?

R.A.D: I stepped away from the game because I wanted to be with my kids. It wasn’t because I couldn’t pitch anymore.

As recently as two years ago I had a team reach out to me at the All-Star break to gauge my interest in pitching again.

Age is just a number to me, especially with the knuckleball.

And who knows? When I get my son out of high school — he’s a pretty good little player here locally [in Nashville], and I’m a coach for his team and I like doing that — who knows? I turned down a great option [for 2018] to come home because it was time to be a full-time dad for a while.

Want to catch a game? The Mets schedule with links to buy tickets can be found here.

Detour to Cooperstown

Texas Rangers pitcher Jacob deGrom works out prior to a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Friday, May 26, 2023, in Baltimore.
Jacob deGrom’s second Tommy John surgery complicates his Hall of Fame candidacy.AP

After Jacob deGrom won his second Cy Young with the Mets in 2019, it sure seemed as if he was a surefire Hall of Famer.

But after injuries halved his 2021 and ’22 seasons, deGrom — now with the Rangers — is headed for Tommy John surgery that will cost him the rest of this year and likely most, if not all, of next.

It’s possible the next time he pitches in a major league game will be as somebody approaching his 37th birthday. If he returns as the deGrom of old and dominates for a few seasons afterward, maybe the Hall of Fame talk can resume, but the odds now seem tilted against him reaching Cooperstown.

DeGrom’s torn ulnar collateral ligament only underscores the Mets’ decision to play it conservative, relatively speaking, in their offer to the right-hander after he opted out of his contract last offseason.

As badly as this Mets’ season is unfolding, it likely would be exponentially worse if the team had signed deGrom and Carlos Correa, whose physical issues and underperformance has hurt the Twins.

Asset management

New York Mets' Kevin Parada takes batting practice before a Spring Training game against the Houston Astros at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, in West Palm Beach, FL.
With the Mets’ catching spot seemingly spoken for, prospect Kevin Parada has become one of the club’s most intriguing trade pieces.Corey Sipkin for the NY Post

Following the promotions of Francisco Alvarez, Brett Baty and Mark Vientos to the major leagues, 21-year-old catcher Kevin Parada is considered the Mets’ top prospect still in the minors.

Now the question becomes: Would the Mets consider Parada — who is playing for Single-A Brooklyn — as trade capital given that Alvarez is showing early signs he’s the team’s future at the position?

This is where the Mets have to be careful and at least ensure the return would be a player with multiple years of team control remaining.

The mistake made two years ago was trading Pete Crow-Armstrong to the Cubs and getting a rental in Javier Baez, who wasn’t re-signed after the season. Crow-Armstrong, an outfielder in Double-A, is rated as the Cubs’ top prospect, according to MLB.com.