After publishing an autobiography during the offseason in which he detailed his life story, he grew onto the national stage a little bit, but for the most part he was nothing more than "the guy who throws a knuckleball not named Tim Wakefield."
Fast forward to the All-Star break, and Dickey could very well be considered the best pitcher on the planet right now. With Justin Verlander having a down year by his standards, the title of "best pitcher alive" is up for grabs, and Dickey is in the conversation. But not for long.
The thing about a knuckleball is that it's unpredictable — no matter if it's being thrown at 60 miles per hour or 80. Unpredictable to hit, unpredictable to catch and unpredictable to throw. Dickey's on an incredible run — and there's no guarantee it continues. Unfortunately, National League manager Tony La Russa isn't buying into Dickey's magic, and is starting Matt Cain in the All-Star Game instead.
Looking at the numbers, the decision is somewhat debatable. Dickey is 12-1 with a 2.40 ERA along with 123 strikeouts and a major league-leading three complete games. Cain, on the other hand, is 9-3 with a 2.42 ERA and 118 strikeouts, along with a perfect game to his credit.
What Cain doesn't have is the same pathos about him that Dickey brings to the table. Yes, he's thrown a perfect game, but so did Philip Humber, and he's not starting on Tuesday. Along with the bevy of no-hitters that we've been blessed with in 2012, an accomplishment such as Cain's isn't quite trivial, but it no longer has the cachet that it used to.
Dickey, on the other hand, boasts the distinction of having pitched back-to-back one-hit shutouts — a feat that has been historically more difficult to accomplish than a perfect game. He is 37, he is making his All-Star debut and he has been on a wild ride every since he admitted before this year that he was sexually abused as a child. Everything about Dickey has been an inspiration this summer, but somehow the league (and La Russa) decided it wasn't enough.
Baseball has been blessed with several great storylines this year, with the likes of Mike Trout and Bryce Harper rising to prominence alongside Dickey. The All-Star Game should serve as a showcase of baseball's best and brightest, but instead the "this time it counts" mentality adds unnecessary wrinkles into the game.
Instead of picking Dickey as a no-brainer after his incredible run, La Russa can fall back on the excuse that Cain could give the National League a better chance to win by starting. That's not what the All-Star Game should be.
The league nearly missed out on a great opportunity to show off its young talent by not inviting Harper to the Home Run Derby, but got lucky when he made the All-Star team as an injury replacement. A similar situation to bail them out of this decision isn't likely, and that's a shame.
Nothing against Matt Cain, but R.A. Dickey should be getting ball from Tony La Russa to start the All-Star Game. Unlike many of the knuckleballs Dickey's thrown this year, La Russa's missed the mark.