By any statistical measure, R.A. Dickey should get the start for the National League in Tuesday's All-Star Game. But Tony La Russa, who is coming out of retirement to manage the NL team, may have other ideas.
When asked how much Dickey's remarkable first half figures into his strategy for winning the game, which will decide home-field advantage for the World Series, La Russa made it clear that Dickey's 2012 performance is not the only consideration in his mind.
"This isn't to highlight one player or one pitcher or a handful of players or a handful of pitchers," La Russa said yesterday on a conference call. "Dickey could certainly start the game. He's got the credentials. But I look at the starter types of the five guys that were selected and each of those guys can make a claim.
"So I think it's just, in the end, as a manager or coach, you have to keep your heart pure. You do the best you can for the team and not for an individual and see how that plays out."
Terry Collins, who will be on La Russa's coaching staff, read those comments regarding Dickey but has not spoken to the NL manager about his pitching plans. Nor does he have any intention of lobbying for Dickey.
"I'm going to stay out of it," Collins said. "I'm certainly not going to talk to Tony La Russa about strategy. He's one of the best in the game -- if not the best in the game. I'm sure he'll have a plan and it will work its way into however they want to use R.A. -- if he does want to use R.A. I know he's got an idea of what he wants to do."
Dickey already has made history in the first half with back-to-back one-hitters. Entering Thursday night's start against the Phillies, his 12 wins were tops in the majors and his 2.15 ERA ranked third in the NL. The other starters named to the NL squad are Cole Hamels -- who opposed Dickey Thursday night -- Matt Cain, Gio Gonzalez, Clayton Kershaw, Lance Lynn and Stephen Strasburg.
While La Russa indicated that merit does factor into the starting equation, it's also based on how he wants to use the rest of his roster.
"Yeah, it's part of the thinking," he said. "It's one of those considerations that if you take an individual and you take a team -- this isn't golf or tennis. This is a team. And each All-Star, I think, if you put their hand on the baseball Bible, they'd say 'use me however you think would benefit our team' because each team is going to try to win the game."
Another factor: Who is best equipped to handle Dickey's knuckleball? Buster Posey was voted in as the starter, but La Russa might prefer to have his former catcher with the Cardinals, Yadier Molina -- an excellent defender -- behind the plate for Dickey.
"With Dickey, I've given that a lot of thought," La Russa said. "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 Dave [Duncan, the pitching coach] and I especially have talked quite a bit about it and we have a plan that we hope to implement."