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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

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