New York Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey is planning to scale Mount Kilimanjaro next month and the sight of him training in an oxygen-deprivation mask is enough to put a smile on anyone's face.
Well, not everyone's. As the 37-year-old knuckleballer prepares to climb all 19,336 feet of the mountain in Tanzania, the Mets are publicly tsk-tsking his offseason plans.
While the team has no contractual mechanism to prevent Dickey from ascending the tallest free-standing peak in the world, they want it known they won't hesitate to void his contract if he hurts himself on the way up. Dickey has one year and $4.75 million remaining on his deal before becoming a free agent next offseason.
"If we thought it was a good idea, we wouldn't have sent the letter," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said. "Beyond that, have we tried to dissuade him from going? It seems to me that the letter is enough of an effort to dissuade him, and he intends to go on nonetheless."
Dickey intends to complete the trip with Colorado Rockies pitcher Kevin Slowey and will be doing the climb to benefit Bombay Teen Challenge, which fights sex trafficking in India. He says Kilimanjaro is not at all like tackling Mount Everest and the Wall Street Journal backs that up by reporting that nearly two-thirds of the 25,000 people who set out to climb Kilimanjaro each year eventually reach the summit.
Of course, what's most interesting about this story is that we never would have considered it one before the 2009 season. Back then, Dickey was an aging journeyman looking to extend his career with the newly-learned knuckler and the Mets were a team looking forward to a rotation led by a productive Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey. No one would have blinked twice if Dickey had said he was going to spend the offseason being shot out of a cannon during a traveling rodeo.
Nearly three years later, Dickey has turned into the most consistent part of the Mets' rotation and the team has turned into a worrisome and watchful mother clinging to a lone source of pride and joy. Given how far the team has fallen over the past few seasons, you can understand why they'd be concerned about another potential plummet.
Big BLS H/N: Deadspin