My R.A. Dickey Story
Being raised in New York Mets fan, I gradually lost my affinity for the team once Darryl Strawberry donned Dodger blue. Should the Mets acquire catcher Travis D’Arnaud from the Toronto Blue Jays, it may rekindle the love I once had for the blue and orange.
Back in 1994, my family moved to Knoxville, Tenn. A subplot of our move was to showcase my baseball talents in front of college coaches from the Southeast. I headed into my senior year on the radar of the University of Tennessee Volunteers, R.A. Dickey‘s college team. Dickey, one of the best pitchers in the nation, was used liberally by head coach Rod Delmonico. The right-hander would throw a complete-game on Friday night and earn the save on Sunday afternoon.
On a recruiting visit, Delmonico brought me to the locker room prior to a game against Arkansas. None of the players acknowledged my existence — except for Dickey. In a moment made for a Thursday night sitcom, Dickey walked by me and tossed his shower towel onto my shoulder as if I were the towel boy. It was a reminder of just how far away I was from playing for the Volunteers. And while I didn’t end up with Tennessee, I continued to follow Dickey’s career.
From being a first-round pick, to the Rangers finding Dickey was missing an elbow ligament, to his rebirth as a knuckleball pitcher, the ups and downs of his career haven been extreme. For the Mets, Dickey’s transformation from minor-league free-agent to premium trade chip in the acquisition two potential franchise cornerstones must rank him as one of the most valuable Mets in team history.
As for D’Arnaud, my first look at him was with the Lakeland Blue Claws of the South Atlantic League. While 2009 seems like an eternity ago, I’ve yet to see a better all-around catching prospect since then.
The last above-average catcher for the Mets was Paul Lo Duca, in 2006. At the time, D’Arnaud was a high school junior. After posting a combined .938 OPS in Double-A and Triple-A, he has nothing left to prove at the minor-league level. Add to that a strong defensive profile — and what I perceive as the advanced ability to manage a pitching — and D’Arnaud will be the best Mets catcher since future hall-of-famer Mike Piazza.
I commend the Blue Jays for going all in during a season when the American League East should be down. But this trade also is excellent for the Mets organization. At present, they have no catching prospect who could be considered the future at the position. If the Mets add an elite talent at the position most difficult to find one, consider the corner turned and expect the Mets to begin working their way back up the National League East.
24 Jan 2014 / Mike Newman /
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