On the very first day of pitchers and catchers in February, 2010, R.A. arrived at the Mets Spring Training complex in Port St. Lucie on a bicycle.
R.A. rides a bicycle to camp every morning.
He pulled up to the player parking area, but he didn't have anything to indicate he was with the team, and security didn't initially let him in.
He got so mad at the security guard, and a lot of fans who were waiting to get into the complex began laughing at the situation at R.A.'s expense.
"Who is this guy, anyway?" one fan remarked.
"He's R.A. Dickey, a minor league invite. He will be cut before Opening Day," another fan answered.
That fan was right - in fact, R.A. was among Jerry Manuel's first cuts that Spring.
But I guess the Mets and the fans are lucky Dickey was finally let in the gate that day. Two and a half years later, R.A. is a superstar and a top-of-the-rotation pitcher, sitting on top of the pitching world with the first Cy Young Award ever won by a knuckleballer.
Since joining the Mets in 2010, Dickey is 39-28 with a 2.95 ERA, having allowed 559 hits, 150 walks, 55 home runs with eight complete games, four shutouts, and 468 strikeouts in 94 games (91 starts) over 616 2/3 innings.
I love R.A., and am proud as a Met fan to have him on the roster, representing my favorite team in all of sports. I have never advocated the Mets trade R.A.. I've only said the Mets should explore trading him if it makes the team better in the short-term and the organization healthier in the long-term. That goes for any player in the organization or on the roster. As I've said, starting pitching is not just an area of strength for the Mets - it's probably the only area of strength where they potentially have excess, and so it makes a lot of baseball sense to trade one of them to improve their many areas of weaknesses. R.A. winning the Cy Young Award does not change the Mets needs, nor does it alter any path the Mets need to take in order to address those needs. That doesn't mean I want the Mets to trade him - I just don't know how the Mets can improve without trading R.A., or another starting pitcher. That's just me being pragmatic and honest about an unenviable position the Mets are in at the moment.
I get the emotional side of this, and totally understand people having a change of heart and wanting the Mets to retain R.A.. I really hope R.A. is standing at home plate on April 1, accepting his Cy Young Award and hoisting it over his head, celebrating with the fans one more time. It's also highly unusual for a Cy Young Award winner to be dealt the same year he wins it - Roger Clemens is the last pitcher to be traded after winning the award (1998). The Mets are in a really delicate stage of their evolution too: they are tasked with not only making solid improvements to their organization's foundation, but also restoring and maintaining a trust which is lacking among those they need to come to the ballpark on a nightly basis. R.A. has as deep a connection with us as any Met has ever had. It seems as though he's loved just as much as David Wright is and Jose Reyes was before he left. He has become a Met icon, and it's like he's every Met fan's best friend. When it comes to organization building, that's crucially important and must be factored in as part of the decision making process.
But the bottom line is this: People will come to the ballpark if - and only if - the team is winning. That's the nature of the relationship between fans and sports. It won't matter who is on the team at that point. I don't think fans will stay away if the team is winning, just because R.A. Dickey was hypothetically traded. This can't be about individual accolades. After all, while Reyes' batting title was nice, Santana's no-hitter was magical, Wright's achievements and comeback in 2012 were spectacular, and Dickey's Cy Young was "supernatural," as he put it, they haven't won the Mets the necessary games to contend for a championship. Attendance has suffered despite all of that, and the Mets are always at home in October, watching the playoffs on TV. That's not acceptable.
R.A. made it clear last night (and in the past) that he is loyal to the team that gave him this opportunity, and wants to stay. And, I think it's important to have players on the team who genuinely want to be there. But that doesn't mean his presence on the roster is the best thing for the organization. If the Mets can find a way to make this better by retaining R.A. or Jon Niese, that would be wonderful, and I'd be totally onbard. But only the front office can make that determination.