R.A. Dickey and Mets went from knuckleball bliss to a nasty split

R.A. Dickey visits with 100 Queens school children R.A. Dickey visits with 100 Queens school children from P.S. 43 and Scholars' Academy at the Mets' holiday party at Citi Field. (Dec. 11, 2012) Photo Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

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David Lennon David Lennon has been a staff writer for

David Lennon has been a staff writer for Newsday since 1991, when he started covering New York City ...

This being the holiday season and all, the Mets probably were ready to forgive that shameless self-promoter, R.A. Dickey.

The look-at-me climb up Mount Kilimanjaro? Stealing those September back pages from Tim Tebow in his pursuit of 20 wins on a Mets team that eked out 74? Stuff happens.

The book? The documentary? David Letterman? Jon Stewart? Hey, you're an interesting guy who throws an interesting pitch. Plus, who doesn't love "The Daily Show"?

Then things got real.

A few minutes into Tuesday's conference call, Dickey -- one of the most articulate, insightful, phrase-crafters in the game -- delivered this doozy when asked to evaluate the trade that sent him to the Blue Jays for three well-regarded prospects ranging in age from 18 to 23.

"Truthfully, my hope is that it's a great trade for both organizations," Dickey said. "Hopefully we win a World Series or two, and the kids they got from Toronto end up being good, useful players for the New York Mets."

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Ouch.

Read that again.

A "World Series or two" for his Blue Jays, now considered the favorite in the AL East, as compared to the "kids," a trio of potentially "good, useful players" for the team that dealt him.

Advantage, R.A.

Calling a top-rated prospect like Travis d'Arnaud "useful" is the equivalent of saying your date had a good personality. We'll give him a pass on pitcher Noah Syndergaard and outfielder Wuilmer Becerra.

By Dickey's own estimation, the Blue Jays will be raising banners No. 3 and 4 at the Rogers Centre by the time Syndergaard is a rotation mainstay, if ever.

Did Dickey intend to thumb his nose at the Mets on the way through customs, however subtle the prose? Eh. Maybe. A writer himself, the knuckleballer chooses his words carefully.

If nothing else, this sentence artfully sums up the wide gulf between the Blue Jays and his former club, which, it so happens, tried to paint a not-so-flattering portrait of Dickey during the end stage of this process.

The idea of Dickey somehow damaging the Mets, or their nonexistent clubhouse dynamic, through his TV appearances or whatever other supposedly self-indulgent activities filled his social calendar is silly.

Starting pitchers -- especially the best at what they do -- are the most self-absorbed creatures in a self-absorbed business anyway.

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In Dickey's case, he was always around to chat, and when the waves of reporters showed up at his locker this season, they usually asked him about one topic: R.A. Dickey. It's a subject he knows pretty well, and was more than happy to expound on.

His chattiness evidently irritated some Mets higher-ups when Dickey -- after the team invited him -- chose to talk contract with reporters at the Citi Field Christmas party, an annual event for kids from local elementary schools. It was hardly an innocent mistake.

Dickey, frustrated by the lack of progress, aired that frustration after some prodding. He apologized for it during Tuesday's conference call. Sort of.

"I think my emotion and feelings were warranted," Dickey said. "But at the same time, that was the wrong place to do that. It was an unfortunate situation."

That's also a good way to describe the eventual divorce between Dickey and the Mets. No team wants to trade away its Cy Young winner, especially one as popular and charismatic as Dickey, who was at the top of a very short list of reasons to watch the Mets during the past three years.

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But ultimately, Dickey was viewed as a luxury, and with so many other needs, as well as lingering financial concerns, general manager Sandy Alderson did not feel compelled to bridge even a $5-million gap in salary over three years.

That's truly unfortunate for a team located in a big market -- we can't call the Mets a big-market team again, not yet. But it's a baseball decision, and Alderson appears to have netted a big haul for a 38-year-old pitcher.

That's good for a team in rebuilding mode, but there's no telling how long it will last, based on the nature of developing prospects and the team's own sluggish economic recovery. It feels like watching the Second Avenue subway being built, which also should be great whenever it's finished.

Dickey was a nice distraction from that for a little while, and now he'll be doing those things in a Blue Jays uniform. For those Mets fans desperate for an escape from the growing pains next season, they'll have to change the channel.

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