Dickey disappointed, but respects decision
Knuckleballer not La Russa's NL starter; Wright enjoying sixth All-Star berth
KANSAS CITY -- Statistically, R.A. Dickey was the National League's best pitcher over the first half of the season. But he is not starting the All-Star Game. Statistically, David Wright was the NL's best third baseman. But he is not starting the All-Star Game, either. So few would blame the Mets for feeling raw about their lack of presence in the starting lineup.
"I'm not going to break down in tears over it," Dickey said of NL manager Tony La Russa's decision to start Matt Cain of the Giants in Tuesday's game. "But at the same time, I'm a competitor. I want to pitch. I want to start. I had a good enough first half to be considered."
Dickey's 12-1 record is better than Cain's 9-3 mark, his 2.40 ERA lower than Cain's 2.62 ERA, his 123 strikeouts more than Cain's 118. Even Cain admitted Monday that NL catcher Buster Posey might have benefited from the additional time he would have received to grow accustomed to Dickey's knuckleballs warming up before the game, a popular debate that Dickey considers overblown.
But La Russa instead chose to pair Cain with Posey, his regular catcher, intimating that he will insert Dickey and backup catcher Carlos Ruiz into the game together.
"I'm very aware of the first half that he's had," La Russa said of Dickey. "He's just tough to hit. He can spook you."
But at least for the first few innings of the All-Star Game, Dickey will do his spooking from the bullpen bench. Neither of the Mets' two All-Stars will start at Kauffman Stadium, despite both of them compiling the best statistical profiles of anyone at their respective positions.
By numbers alone, the fact that San Francisco's Pablo Sandoval will start over Wright at third base was a far greater slight than Cain starting over Dickey. Wright, after all, leads NL third basemen in just about every meaningful offensive category, most of them by significant margins. But a late charge in fan voting allowed Sandoval to roar past him for the starting assignment.
Still, Wright was less openly disappointed about his slight than Dickey, joking that it will allow him to avoid American League starting pitcher Justin Verlander's 100-mph fastballs. Though La Russa could have made up for the snub by starting Wright at designated hitter, the manager passed him over in favor of Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez.
"We're well-represented and we'll get our chance," Wright said. "It's so tough. You can make a case for so many different guys deserving more. It's impossible for me to sit here and say that I'm mad or angry or upset to make an All-Star team. It's silly."
Wright, however, has been to six All-Star games now, starting in four of them. It is easier for him to overlook a slight than Dickey, who will appear in his first All-Star Game at age 37.
By now, Dickey's story is well-known. Adopting the knuckleball as a desperate former first-round Draft pick in 2005, Dickey struggled with the pitch for years before finally finding consistency with it in 2010. He gave the Mets two strong years, earned the first substantial contract of his life and has since become an even better pitcher, throwing consecutive one-hitters against the Rays and Orioles last month.
Along the way, Dickey has written a book, starred in a documentary and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. Mets fans have embraced him as a sort of folk hero.
"That might be one of my bigger disappointments, because I really felt like it would have been a neat thing for the Mets organization and the fan base," Dickey said of starting Tuesday's game. "Having shared so much of my story with them, I feel like that would have been a neat culmination or apex of that story."
Instead, Dickey will have to settle simply for being here, soaking in the atmosphere of the game with his wife, mother and four children.
Ever the baseball fan, Wright is also enjoying his time in Kansas City, arguing with his brothers over text messages about who will win the Home Run Derby. (Wright, for his part, is staking his bragging rights on Robinson Cano.) So in that way, Wright and Dickey are doing their best not to harp on when they will appear in Tuesday's game, but simply the fact that they will.
"I'm not the boss," Dickey said. "I don't necessarily have to agree with it, but I certainly have to respect it, and that's the way it is."
The 83rd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. Pregame ceremonies begin at 7:30 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.
Fans will also have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet via the 2012 MLB.com All-Star Game MVP Vote during the All-Star Game on MLB.com.