Friday, July 2, 2010
Updated: July 3, 10:48 AM ET
Dickey belongs in Anaheim
By Rob Parker
NEW YORK -- It's so typical.
The knee-jerk reaction in this prisoner-of-the-moment, over-hyped sports world is to bang the drum for Stephen Strasburg.
Many believe Strasburg, the Washington Nationals' phenom rookie pitcher, should make the National League All-Star team.
After all, Strasburg -- who was deemed by some experts to be the best pitcher in the majors before he even made a start -- is who the fans want to see. He's got the red-hot fastball and the ridiculous breaking ball.
Strasburg, who turns 22 later this month, has been an instant fan attraction around Baseball America, getting fans to buy tickets just to watch him pitch.
And while all the window dressing appears to be in place for those who covet Strasburg, it's simply not enough to warrant an All-Star spot for him.
We hate to interrupt this automatic trip to Cooperstown less than a month into Strasburg's career, but, hello, he's just a .500 pitcher for a bad team. Strasburg is 2-2 with a 2.27 ERA. If it were anybody else -- especially a young pitcher without a proven track record -- there wouldn't even be a debate about an All-Star selection.
Even as impressive as 14 strikeouts in his debut are, it wasn't even a record. J.R. Richard punched out 15 in his debut in 1971.
More than Strasburg's numbers alone, there's simply a more deserving pitcher in the NL. Enter New York Mets starter R.A. Dickey.
Yeah, yeah -- nobody wants to see a journeyman knuckleballer in the Midsummer Classic, especially not one who has been hit like a rag doll for most of his career.
But the All-Star Game -- last we checked -- isn't about what you've done for your entire career. It's about what you have accomplished during the first half of the season.
And when it comes to impact, few have had a bigger one than Dickey in 2010.
Plus, Dickey's story is better than Strasburg's.
Dickey -- who tied the major league record for giving up six homers in a game on April 6, 2006 -- was basically out of baseball, making one major-league start in two seasons (2006-07). Nobody back then would have believed that Dickey, 35, would be able to be this effective after such a layoff. He's not just getting by, but dominating.
That's what Dickey has done: turn potent lineups to goo on a consistent basis. His last outing, in which he gave up five earned runs in five innings in a loss to the Florida Marlins, shouldn't change how you see the whole body of work. Dickey is 6-1 with a 2.98 ERA this year.
Dickey's arrival saved the Mets' season. That's not an over-the-top account of what he has meant to the club. When Dickey was called up, the Mets' rotation was in shambles with John Maine hurt and Oliver Perez pitching poorly.
Dickey, who was 22-28 in his first seven seasons, is the tale of the little guy who could. Those are the ones that are supposed to pull at our heartstrings.
"I feel like this is something I've been capable of doing," said Dickey after shutting out the Detroit Tigers last week. "I felt like if I put in the hard work and committed to the journey of what it takes to do what I do, that eventually it was going to yield some fruit.
"I'm excited it's yielded this ripe of fruit, we can say. But it doesn't feel like a dream. It feels like I'm coming to work, putting in the time and doing what I need to be successful."
Dickey's numbers are outstanding, especially when he's in a jam. Overall, opponents have just a .260 batting average and he's allowed just two homers in eight starts.
Dickey and Strasburg -- both of whom lost on Monday night -- will each start Saturday. They will probably have two starts left before the All-Star Game on July 13 in Anaheim, Calif. Another bad outing or loss could knock either one out of the competition.
But if they both continue to flourish, there will be a tough decision to make -- the fresh face or an unbelievable resolve.
If Strasburg were to get selected to the All-Star team, he would accomplish the feat with less major-league service than any player in history.
Strasburg's time will come. This spot right now, however, rightfully belongs to Dickey.
Rob Parker is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com
|R.A. Dickey is 6-1 on the season. Rookie phenom Stephen Strasburg is just 2-2.|
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