How effective, and at times dominant, has R.A. Dickey's "violent and unpredictable" knuckleball been this season?
Well, for starters, he entered the history books with back-to-back one-hitters on June 13 and 18 against the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays, respectively. He also entered play on Thursday as baseball's first and only 12-game winner (I know wins aren't the end-all, be-all, but we still keep track for a reason), while posting the National League's third-best ERA at 2.15. And on top of all that, the power knuckler helped the 37-year-old right-hander not only receive his very first All-Star game selection, but make him a logical contender to start the game for the National League.
That's the good news.
The bad news?
[Fantasy: Slower velocity doesn't equal poor results]
R.A. Dickey throws such a violent, unpredictable and effective knuckleball, that NL manager Tony La Russa is concerned his fan-voted starting catcher, Buster Posey, will not be able to handle receiving it. His indication being a more defensive-minded veteran, such as Yadier Molina — who has obviously earned La Russa's complete trust in handling pitchers — would be better equipped to handle it, which could motivate him to push Dickey's appearance back to later in the ballgame.
"There is an issue about catching him and what spot to use him. His season has gotten everybody's attention, including our staff's, and we're talking about the best way to just win the game with the personnel -- and how we use Dickey will be a part of that. That's been addressed and [pitching coach] Dave [Duncan] and I especially have talked quite a bit about it and we have a plan that we hope to implement."
According to Comcast Sports Net San Francisco's Andrew Baggerly, Posey recently obtained the phone number of New York Mets catcher Josh Thole from former Giants teammate Andres Torres with the intention of picking his brain on catching Dickey's version of the knuckler. Posey has yet to make contact with Thole, however, and may be holding off until he learns what La Russa's grand plan will be.
Of course there are other factors involved in La Russa's decision-making process aside from the catching situation. They go by the names of Matt Cain, Clayton Kershaw, Stephen Strasburg and Cole Hamels. All are worthy, logical and marketable choices in their own right, but there's no doubt Dickey's journey and incredible success this season make him a sentimental favorite with many fans, and make his inclusion in this conversation a talking point as we inch closer to La Russa's announcement on Monday.
"Dickey could certainly start the game, he's got the credentials," La Russa said. "But I look at the five guys that were selected, and each of those guys could make a claim, so as a manager, you have to keep your heart pure and do the best you can for the team over one individual."
Whatever La Russa's pure-hearted decision is, I just hope his grand plan isn't to repeat Joe Maddon's usage of knuckleballer Tim Wakefield in the 2009 All-Star game. Or maybe I should say non-usage, as Wakefield was saved for an emergency situation and never appeared in his only All-Star game. That would truly be a shame for Dickey, and a lousy curtain call for La Russa as a manager.
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