Dickey gets win Number 20 and Mets end home finale on a promising note

R. A. Dickey heard the ovation from the 31,508 fans at CitiField Thursday afternoon. They cheered when he took the mound, came to bat, and was removed from the game with two outs in the seventh inning with the New York Mets holding a 6-3 lead.

It was the final home game of the season for the Mets and significant because Dickey had his turn moved up with an opportunity to win number 20. He did not disappoint and became the first knuckleball pitcher to win twenty games since 1980.

The Mets took the finale from the Pittsburgh Pirates, 6-4.taking two of three games and it was a celebration for Dickey, his manager, team, and the fans. And it looked and sounded like a playoff atmosphere, even though the Mets will conclude their fourth straight losing season.

His manager, Terry Collins, as he has done all season with the knuckleball pitcher asked him an inning before, “I said look this ballpark is filled with energy today use it to your advantage. These people deserve to see you walk off the mound.”

Dickey left to standing ovation and tipped his hat to the crowd in that seventh inning. He was relieved by Jon Rauch and Bobby Parnell, and watched from the clubhouse.  Rauch would give up a one-out two run home run to Alex Presley.

Had the Mets eventually lost and if Dickey failed to achieve the milestone, as he always says, getting his team getting a win would be more important.

When it was over, Dickey said, “It’s like a big exhale.” He did not want his exploits to be a center of attention as he got closer to the 20th win. After all, the 37-year-old right hander, who has overcome adversity, had never won more than 11 games in his big league career.

“This was about R.A. Dickey today,” said Collins. “It was about him. It was about his connection with the fans, with the city.’ Collins has this respect for Dickey that was heard all season. He reiterated more than once, before Dickey arrived in the conference room to meet with media, that this was a day for his pitcher.

He told Dickey he had to walk off the mound, just when Dickey knew he was running out of energy. Collins was telling him that the connection had to be used. A connection, because this has been a Mets season of futility that will conclude with the good vibes and memories that now come with the first Mets pitcher to win 20- games since Frank Viola went 20-12 in 1990.

“Had R.A. not done what he did, it’s hard to tell where we’d be,” commented Collins.

Now, Dickey will also be in the discussion for the National League CY Young Award along with Gio Gonzlaez of the Nationals, another 20-game winner and Johnny Cueto of the Cincinnati Reds.

“That is a little surreal,” commented Dickey about the top award for a pitcher. “But who doesn’t want to win a CY Young Award. I want to be the best, but who doesn’t want to be the best. I want to enjoy this before I think about that.

He said he was an example of a mediocre pitcher that was signed to a spring training contract in 2010 by prior Mets General Manager Omar Minaya. The true story was told with his best seller book “Where ever I wind up” that hit the stores in March and prior to the Mets giving him an opportunity, the career was just about over.

But the knuckleball saved him.

“But it wasn’t about him, it was never about him, “said Collins who like any manager and opposing player is marveled about a pitch that flutters and tends to constantly fool the hitter.

The Pirates were fooled as Dickey also struck out a career tying 13 that increased his National League best total to 222. It was the seventh time this season he reached double figures, also a league best and the 12 pitches thrown were the second most in his career.

“It’s not an easy pitch to hit and he is so good at what he does,” commented Pirates’ third baseman Pedro Alvarez, a victim of three Dickey strikeouts.” And even if Dickey does not go on and win the CY Young, the players will say what a great story this has been.

Travis Snyder who made the catch of the year in right at Citi Field that robbed a home run from Mike Baxter in the second as the ball appeared to go over the fence, “Congratulations to him (Dickey) on a great year and a great story.”

David Wright continued his strong finish with an opposite field home run to right for his 21st home run of the season that gave Dickey and the Mets a 6-3 lead in the fifth.

“There were times he picked us up and really carried us as a team on his back,” he said about Dickey. “I was happy to provide the hit that made the difference.”

Dickey allowed three runs and eight hits. He claimed, “About the fourth or fifth inning I felt exasperated. I was not myself today for the most part.”  The Pirates would score two runs in the second and another in the fourth.

He said the fans changed his ability to throw the proper knuckler that was clocked at 78. “And then I would come out for an at bat and I would hear this kind of growing surge and it was really neat. I don’t know if I have experienced something like that before.”

“Although I wasn’t distracted from the moment, how could you not be motivated to go out there and give the fans, and well your teammates and yourself all that you have?”

Dickey certainly gave the fans all he had, and something they had to smile about as they went home. A season like this may be difficult to duplicate for him, and in sports that may be asking too much.

And for a season that went well for the Mets in the first half and crumbled in the second, seeing Dickey at Citi Field win Number 20 was good enough for them.

E-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring76@aol.com  or Facebook.com/Keep it In the Ring

 

Posted under Adversity, Center Of Attention, Clubhouse, Energy Today, Exhale, Home Game, Knuckleball Pitcher, Losing Season, New York Mets, Parnell, Pittsburgh Pirates, Promising Note, Rich Mancuso, Right Hander, Seventh Inning, Standing Ovation, Three Games, Top Story

Catch The Rising Star

It was rather fitting that Channel 9 had a theme song for the Mets in 1985, called “Catch the Rising Stars.”

The country sounding tune was a intended for the young Mets like Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, but in reality the Mets wanted you to catch their brightest star Gary Carter.

The Hall of Fame catcher died today after a about a nine month bout with brain cancer. Although he played on the Mets for just five years – and mainly as his prime was fading – his impact was felt throughout, not only the organization, but all of Mets Nation.

“No one loved the game of baseball more than Gary Carter,” said fellow Hall of Famer Tom Seaver in a statement released by the Mets. “No one enjoyed playing the game of baseball more than Gary Carter. He wore his heart on his sleeve every inning he played. He gave you 110 percent and played the most grueling position on the field and that was something special.”

The loudest cheers at the Rangers games tonight were for Carter, who received a standing ovation from the crowd when his passing was announced, while the Montreal Canadiens paid tribute to his time playing north of the border.

All of this for one of the best catchers of his generation. Carter was the final piece to the puzzle, acquired in December, 1984 for four players, to make the Mets into a champion.

“The genesis of the trade was that we wanted to add a big bat to the lineup,” said former Mets GM Frank Cashen in a statement. “He did that right away, but perhaps more importantly was the way he handled our young pitchers. He was the perfect guy for so many reasons.”

“I relied on Gary for everything when I was on the mound including location, what pitch to throw and when,” Doc Gooden said in a statement. “Even when I didn’t have my best stuff, he found a way to get me through the game. He was just a warrior on the field.”

When he came to the Mets, he made the Mets stable of young talented pitchers into stars. He elevated Gooden’s game in 1985, so he had one of the best seasons in the history of baseball and forced Ron Darling and Sid Fernandez to pitch inside, something the young pitchers were shy to do the year before.

Then there was his presence at the plate. Carter made the Mets lineup complete. With George Foster making the Jason Bay signing look good, the team needed a right handed hitting cleanup hitter. That was Carter, who provided protection for Keith Hernandez and took pressure off of Darryl Strawberry, allowing the mercurial right fielder to develop.

With the trade, the stage was set and Carter shined on the biggest. On opening day in 1985, Carter hit a walk off homer off former Met Neil Allen to star off his career and let’s not forget his walk off hit in Game 5 of the 1986 NLCS or his two home runs in Game 4 of the World Series at Fenway Park.

And let’s not forget the rally in the 10th inning of Game 6 at Shea Stadium.

“I didn’t want to make the last out and I always maintained the theory – it’s not over ‘til it’s over,” Carter would say back in 2004. “I just went up there with the feeling of confidence and doing the best I possibly could and I was able to come through. Then Kevin Mitchell followed and then Ray Knight. Before you know it the ball went through Buckner’s legs and we had won Game 6. To me, I just go up there and remember my career. It was never a grind. It was an enjoyment. It’s amazing to think 18 years and how quickly it passed. I just went up there and said there was no way we should lose this World Series. I did everything to keep us alive.”

All during that time, Carter was the Met who had the biggest smile in the biggest market. If he was on your team, you loved him and if you rooted for another club, you hated him.

Simply put he was the symbol of the Mets in the 1980s and not a rising star but the one the shined the brightest.

He will be missed.

Posted under Brain Cancer, Brightest Star, Channel 9, Darryl Strawberry, Doc Gooden, Dwight Gooden, Fellow Hall, Frank Cashen, Hall Of Fame, Joe Mcdonald, Mets Gm, Montreal Canadiens, New York Mets, Pitchers, Playing The Game, Rising Star, Standing Ovation, Tom Seaver, Top Story

This post was written by Joe McDonald on February 17, 2012

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Lazzari’s Sports Roundup – 06/05/10

ITEM: Kansas defensive tackle Jamal Greene is dismissed from the team after he and former teammate Vernon Brooks are arrested in connection with an attempted aggravated robbery (Brooks had ALREADY been dismissed from the team before spring practices for violating various team rules). My first thought? This will simply give these ‘outstanding’ young men more time to work on term papers, visit the school library, take additional/challenging classes, and help old ladies across the street………TRIVIA QUESTION: The 1979 Chicago White Sox were led in wins by a pitcher whose victory total that season was more than one-third of his CAREER total. Can you name this individual? Answer to follow……….Just thinking: If Ken Griffey Jr. of the Mariners had aged HALF as well as actresses Jennifer Aniston and Sharon Stone, then Seattle would be leading the AL West by 5 games at this juncture……….I’d love to see LPGA golfer Angela Stanford hook up with New Mexico State infielder Joel Cardinal; if they ever tied the knot, fans of a Palo Alto, CA school would surely delight in her full married name of Angela Stanford Cardinal……….This week in sports history, June 8, 1968: L.A. Dodgers pitcher Don Drysdale’s 58-inning scoreless streak comes to an end as a fifth-inning sacrifice fly by Philadelphia’s Howie Bedell scores Tony Taylor in a game played at Dodger Stadium. Just two innings earlier, Drysdale had passed Walter Johnson’s previous mark of 55 2/3 scoreless innings–drawing a standing ovation from more than 50,000 fans in attendance. Philadelphia ended up scoring three runs off Drysdale during the game, but he ultimately improved his record to 8-3 during a 5-3 Dodgers victory………. Regarding the disaster better-known as Oliver Perez: Don’t you think this guy should at LEAST donate a few million bucks worth of Sominex to the Mets–who can then distribute the sleep-aid to fans who’ve endured so many restless nights since his ridiculous signing?……….Did you know that the 1979 Los Angeles Dodgers had FIVE players with 20 or more home runs apiece–but finished with a sub-.500 record? Joe Ferguson, Dusty Baker, Ron Cey, Davey Lopes, and Steve Garvey all homered at least 20 times, but the team finished 79-83 under manager Tom Lasorda–11 1/2 games behind the NL West-leading Cincinnati Reds………. Answer to trivia question: KEN KRAVEC–who went 15-13 in 1979 while winning just 43 games over his entire eight-year career……….Just wondering: Do you think a muscled-up “A-ROID” thought of his past steroid use after hitting that scorching line drive off the head of Indians pitcher David Huff last weekend? Wait a second–a member of the MLB player’s union with a true CONSCIENCE??? Nahhhhhh…………Happy birthday wishes go out to former NBA center Bryant “Big Country” Reeves–who blows out 37 candles on June 8th. While at Oklahoma State, Reeves averaged more than 17 points and 8 rebounds per game over his four-year college career and led his team to the Final Four in 1995. Reeves became the first-ever draft pick of the Vancouver Grizzlies and spent six seasons with them from 1995-2001–averaging 12.5 points and 6.9 rebounds over the course of his NBA career. One of the highlights of Reeves’ career was setting a Grizzlies club record in March of 2000 when he converted 11 straight field goal attempts against the Seattle SuperSonics. Sadly, weight and injury problems took their toll on Reeves in the late 90′s–causing him to retire at a very young age. Best wishes, “Big Country”……….Finally, condolences go out to former Oklahoma coach Ray Thurmond–who passed away recently at the age of 89. Thurmond was named as OU’s golf coach and freshman basketball coach back in 1967; while working under Sooners head basketball coach John McLeod, Thurmond helped develop such star players as Clifford Ray and Garfield Heard. A World War II veteran, Thurmond attended North Texas State and went on to coach FIVE different sports at the high school level (in Texas, Georgia, and California) before joining OU’s physical education staff in 1960. Any person familiar with “Sooner Country” will attest to the fact that Ray Thurmond undoubtedly was one of the most popular figures in Oklahoma sports history; he’ll surely be missed. Rest in peace, “Coach.”

Posted under Bob Lazzari, Chicago White Sox, Dodger Stadium, Don Drysdale, Jennifer Aniston, Ken Griffey Jr, Lazzari, New Mexico State, New York Mets, Oliver Perez, Palo Alto Ca, S Sports, Sacrifice Fly, Scoreless Streak, Sominex, Sports History, Spring Practices, Standing Ovation, Teammate Vernon, Tony Taylor, Top Story, Trivia Question, Walter Johnson

This post was written by Bob Lazzari on June 5, 2010