It's Wednesday in the press conference room at Citi Field and R.A. Dickey is casually chatting with journalism students from NYU and Rutgers. He's shunned the formal interview table in favor of a simple folding chair at the front of the raised platform. Dickey's gathered the students into a few rows in front of him, and the question-and-answer session has more the feel of a breezy afternoon conversation. With a Cy Young award candidate.
Dickey is open and forthright with his answers and observations, and he's particularly unapologetic about anything he's written in his memoir, Wherever I Wind Up.
Well, almost anything.
“One of the quotes in my book is that I'll never lead the league in strikeouts,” he said. “I will have to write a remark possibly in the epilogue or in the pages that I write for the paperback edition. I may not, but I may. I never thought that I would even have to consider it, but here I am.”
This season has brought a lot that Dickey probably never thought he would have to consider. Heading into Saturday's start against the Marlins, Dickey is 18-6 with a 2.67 ERA. He has 205 strikeouts (second in the National League) and has thrown back-to-back one-hitters. He set the Mets club record for consecutive scoreless innings, tossing 32.2 shutout frames. Like Dickey said, here he is.
Though he's got the season resume of a prototypical ace—high win total, massive amount of strikeouts—he's far from the prototypical ballplayer.
Dickey begins answering one question by saying, “The answer to that is two-fold, I think, and it's kind of paradoxical.” Let's just say that's not the kind of talk you hear in most clubhouses.
An english literature major at the University of Tennessee, Dickey said he rereads classics every year. A Tale of Two Cities, Of Mice and Men and The Beautiful and the Damned are his choices of late, though he also takes in more contemporary fare.
And although he acknowledges the world he's currently dominating runs on the ego and testosterone of men who seek to prove their worth, battle for superiority and fight against time, Dickey attempts to separate himself.
“I think probably people telling me I couldn’t do something motivated me to try and do it,” Dickey, 37, said of his younger days. “I think that's how it is for a lot of us. 'Don't tell me I can't do this. I'll show you.' But I found that it kind of leads to a toxic path for me. I would much rather be who I'm fully called to be. Who I'm fully capable of being. Who I'm authentically created to me. Regardless of what you say, good or bad.
“And that keeps you out of believing or falling in love with your own legend. I don't want to fall in love with my own legend. Who people see me as.”
To that extent, Dickey has not yet stepped back and tried to fully appreciate this season. He says he might do it when the year is over, but then again Dickey is not one to look backward with too much longing.
“I'm still looking for another job,” he said. “I'm always kind of looking around trying to figure out what might be next. I try not to do that at the expense of the moment, but I certainly think part of being me is being okay with exploring my creativity.”