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December 28, 2011

The BP First Take

Wednesday, December 28

by Daniel Rathman

The Mets are struggling financially and on thin ice with their fans, so you’d think that when one of their players spends his offseason preparing to do something generous and cool, the front office would praise him and consider opportunities to market it. 

There are few major leaguers whose careers and stories are more intriguing than those of R.A. Dickey. He was born without an ulnar collateral ligament, couldn’t cut it as a regular pitcher, transformed himself into a knuckleballer, and spent more than a decade as a journeyman searching for a multi-year contract. The Mets finally gave Dickey a stable home with a two-year, $7.8 million deal last offseason, and he has since become a fan favorite. 

Now, Dickey is trying to use his newfound fame to give something back. His attempt to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro is meant to benefit Bombay Teen Challenge, a charity that aims to help victims of human trafficking. He has devoted hours to conditioning himself for the challenge, and to minimizing the already low risk involved.

That’s the glass-half-full view; the Mets have chosen the glass-half-empty one. They aren’t happy with Dickey’s plans, sent him a letter requesting that he abandon them, and told the Wall Street Journal about it. Given all that has gone wrong in recent years, the team’s concerns are understandable. But, if anything, these matters should have been handled internally, in a way that would have left the door open for the Mets to piggyback on a potentially great story.

By publicly chiding Dickey for what they deem an unnecessary risk, the Mets have thrown away the chance to generate positive attention from it. With the Wilpons’ fiasco still unfolding, the fans reeling from the departure of Jose Reyes to a division rival, and a full-scale rebuilding process underway, the Mets need all the feel-good stories they can get. Yet, they’ve managed to spin Dickey’s climb as something both the pitcher and the fans should feel bad about.

The open threat to void Dickey’s contract if he suffers an injury that prevents him from pitching is both pointless and wrongheaded. There is far more on the line for Dickey—who had few guarantees during his first 14 years in professional baseball—than for the Mets, and his runs with an oxygen-limiting mask are proof that he understands both the challenge of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and how much he risks by doing it.

 His desire to do it anyway is selfless. The Mets’ attempt to stop him is just another example of the selfishness that got them into their current hole.  

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

16 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Greg Ioannou

I wish there was a way to "like" an article. This one definitely deserves a big pile of likes.

Dec 28, 2011 05:15 AM
rating: 11
 
BP staff member Dave Pease
BP staff
(2)

tell your friends! this one's free so they can all read it.

Dec 28, 2011 12:57 PM
 
amazin_mess

In their defense, (and I HATE the Wilpons) the Mets are in such a position that they can't do anything without garnering negative press.

The owners are broke and the team is awful. Where they are now is a bad place and the media loves to jump on them, especially this time of year when there is nothing to talk about. Check out Hardball Talk sometime.

Daniel makes good points - and I agree - however this is a late December baseball story. Not newsworthy. We all know other players do similar "risky" activities in the offseason. But Dickey went public with his plans and because its the Mets (and not say the Royals) it gets media attention and gets slammed.

Dec 28, 2011 06:05 AM
rating: 0
 
BigX

Any other team would have handled their side of this better. Just call the guy or his agent not tell everyone your against it. This isn't a Mets witch hunt they just real are that poorly run.

Dec 28, 2011 14:31 PM
rating: -1
 
Behemoth

Teah. The only reason this is a story is because the Mets were too stupid to say something like "We fully support R.A. Dickey's commendable efforts to help others, and we'll be donating $1000 to the charity."

Dec 30, 2011 13:54 PM
rating: 0
 
amazin_mess

Wouldn't have been a story with 90% of teams.

This happens in KC, Cleveland, Pittsburgh or Seattle and you'd never know about it.

The bottom line is the Mets have a very valid point. Dickey wants to do this and his ego made sure everyone knew about it too. He could have just waited until he retired and then done the same thing.

The fake outrage by the fans makes me laugh. I realize non-Mets fans get their jollies hating on the Mets, but it should be saved for occasions when they deserve it. Like letting their homegrown star leave.

Dec 30, 2011 19:59 PM
rating: 0
 
Sharky

I agree 100% with the idea that the opportunity for great PR was wasted by the Mets. The point about selfishness seems a bit strong. It's more likely the result of tone deafness when it comes to PR, generating goodwill with their players, etc. You may recall Fred Wilpon publicly bashing Beltran just before they traded him to the Giants (basically said "not what we hoped for"). Amazing that Alderson got anything for Beltran under those circumstances, let alone the Mets new #2 prospect.

I'm as disillusioned with the Mets as any Mets fan. But I don't think it's selfishness as much as lack of diplomacy.

Dec 28, 2011 06:18 AM
rating: 1
 
jhardman

I love R.A. Dickey - always have. He's a player that I like because he's such a gamer, and keeps finding ways to pitch in the major leagues. It always seems like the guy gets the short end of the stick far too many times in a game that is desparate for guys like him. I'm with Greg's comment above - how many "likes" can we give on this article?

Dec 28, 2011 07:25 AM
rating: 0
 
Robotey

With every subsequent blow--losing Reyes, mounting debt, lines at the Shake Shack, I say to myself "It just can't get any worse". And then it does. Another pitcher gets injured. Management pisses off players. We sign Rob Johnson. These days being a Mets fan is like being a character in a Beckett play.

Dec 28, 2011 07:30 AM
rating: 4
 
Bob1475

This is all easy to say until something happens to Dickey. If he is so "giving" then all he has to do is agree that if he is hurt then the Mets are relieved of having to pay the rest of the contract. The fact that he has not done this speaks to the risk involved.

Dec 28, 2011 07:50 AM
rating: 0
 
boards

I feel certain that his contract contains a clause that would void the contract if he is injured while partaking in a "risky" non-baseball activity. He knows it and doesn't need to be "reminded" by the Mets through the media. A phone call to his agent would have sufficed.

Dec 28, 2011 08:37 AM
rating: 4
 
timber

Dickey doesn't have to agree to relieve the Mets of his contract; this would be automatic. Such a clause is routine in every ballplayer's contract. The Mets could opt not to exercise it; they are just saying publicly that the will bring it into play if he is hurt.

I don't necessarily disagree with their stand, but I do disagree with them taking it public. They should have kept this in house rather than making their threat in the press.

Dec 28, 2011 08:43 AM
rating: 1
 
FrankL

Wouldn't you know that Dickey, who has already overcome so may hardships, would have the misfortune of falling off the the back of a pickup truck that he happened to be washing while in Kenya?

Dec 28, 2011 10:43 AM
rating: 4
 
SenatorsGuy

I have had the same goal as Dickey for awhile, now, and have done quite a bit of research on what to expect.

The company that I have researched, a rather safe one, has had one death out of 15,000 customers. That death was an old man who experienced a heart attack near the summit. Sure it's dangerous, but at worst you'd expect that he experiences some severe altitude sickness and needs to be taken back down.

The Mets' organization seems misguided in their disapproval, and somewhat misinformed.

Dec 28, 2011 13:30 PM
rating: 0
 
Robotey

You're all missing the point. Dickey is expressing the lengths he'll go to get out of his Mets deal. That's how toxic the Mets are right now. Their best starter that last two seasons (correct me if I'm wrong) is climbing one of the world's largest peaks and it's a win-win. He does it and gets the glory. He injures himself and he's liberated from Citi Field. Next thing you know Mike Pelfrey will be taking up heli-skiing, skydiving and bullfighting.

Dec 28, 2011 14:46 PM
rating: 7
 
Keith7971

Pelfrey does seem like a bullfighting name

Dec 28, 2011 15:45 PM
rating: 0
 
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