Wherever I Wind Up

I have recently finished reading, Mets starting pitcher, R.A. Dickey’s memoir. What a great read it was and during my college years I was not known to be a reader. Maybe it’s different when you choose to read up on subjects that interest yourself, rather than being forced to read material of a professor’s choosing. If you’re not a baseball fan this book is still for you. If you’re not a Mets fan this book is still for you. If you think that you have struggled in life this book is for you. If you want to know what adversity truly is and a way for you to handle it is, well then this book is for you too.

R.A. Dickey, born Robert Allen Dickey, is not an overnight success story. He’s not even close. He comes clean about several “demons” he has faced in his life. If you are at all familiar with this book, R.A. Dickey, or heard about his tribulations, you know that R.A. Dickey was molested by a 13-year-old babysitter and a 17-year-old male. He held that secret in for decades before telling anyone. This has nothing to do with baseball and everything to do with life and the inhumane feelings a young boy felt. He was robbed of his innocence. He grew up in a home where his parents were separated and his mother battled alcohol problems. He cheated on his wife and as an adult he had thoughts of suicide because of how he deeply felt like a failure. He one day he tried to swim across the Missouri River. Half way through his swim he thought he wasn’t going to make it and drown right there. He went under and bounced off the ground before paddling his way to the side. It was at this moment R.A. Dickey felt like he was reborn, like he had just been baptized, ready to start anew. On the mound today R.A. Dickey doesn’t appear to have battled any of this, but he battled so much more.

R.A. Dickey was a star athlete in basketball, baseball, and football. He played point guard and quarterback in high school. He was probably a better pitcher than anything else and that’s what he pursued. He attended the University of Tennessee and majored in english. He was a student there the same time that Todd Helton and Peyton Manning attended. Those two have been household names for over a decade. R.A. Dickey is barely a household name now, but it almost seems like he just broke on the scene. He was drafted in 1996 by the Texas Rangers. He received an offer for $810,000 before the team and Dr. Andrews found out that he didn’t have a UCL (Ulnar Collateral Ligament). Then rescinded their offer and later offered him a measly $75,000. Remember Dickey was one of the top prospects coming into the draft. He was drafted in 1996 and didn’t make an MLB appearance until 2001. His first start was record-breaking, only in the way that you don’t want to be remembered for. He had allowed 6 long balls in just three innings. Dickey referred to himself as a four-A pitcher, meaning he was too good for Triple-A but not good enough for the Majors. He was starting to rack up records in the minor leagues which isn’t a good thing. It meant that he had spent too much time there.

I don’t want to give too much of the book away, but it was a great read. It is inspiring to know that someone who was thought to be a phenom and then a reject could persevere. He overcame great hardships as a young boy. He found God and his way into the Majors. He fought persistently to realize his dream. Dickey’s story is inspiring to anybody that has doubts about achieving their dreams. His long journey finally came to fruition at an age in baseball, particularly for pitchers, where it’s just about time to hang it up. Fortunately for Dickey, his knuckleball, will add years of life to his career and let him enjoy the moments he dreamed of his whole life.

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Wins are Overrated

Wins are overrated. Yea. Let that sink in. Wins are overrated. You’re probably thinking what is this guy talking about? Is he serious wins are overrated? In what sport? In what lifetime? The same guy that would say the only thing that matters is wins? Yea, that guy. Team wins are important, I’m not disputing that at all. I’m not a complete moron either, but wins are overrated. What do I mean? I talk a lot about sports with anybody who is willing to venture down that road. How do most people measure how successful a pitcher is? Unfortunately it’s by wins. This is how I came to the conclusion that wins are overrated. People start naming pitchers and most of them are good even great pitchers, but their perception is a bit skewed, often in the wrong direction. I used to be one of those people until I opened my eyes a bit wider.

Wins are a great stat…when you’re an agent trying to get your pitcher money that is comparable to another pitcher with the same amount of wins that your client had who happens to make more money. Again, wins are overrated. What pitching stats matter than? Well the best way to tell whether a pitcher is bad, good, or great is by their earned run average or ERA. ERA is the most telling sign of a pitcher’s performance. There are more statistics that are used to further explain a pitcher’s ERA such as adjusted ERA plus, which adjusts a pitcher’s ERA according to the pitcher’s ballpark and the league’s average ERA. The score is set at a 100, where a score above 100 would indicate a pitcher pitched better than average, below 100 would indicate being below average. Strikeouts and WHIP are good measures of how dominating a pitcher is, but not every great pitcher was a power pitcher, and not every power pitcher had dominating control. Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson are two very different pitchers but were both successful in their own way. Maddux had a career 3.16 ERA and Johnson had a career 3.29 ERA. Randy Johnson struck out 4875 batters while Maddux fanned 3371, about 1500 less than Johnson. Maddux pitches for 23 years and accumulated 355 wins while Johnson pitched for 22 years and compiled 303 wins. Hey a great pitcher is going to get wins, but that’s not my point.

A good pitcher pitching for a good team will accumulate wins. A good pitcher pitching for a terrible team, ehh, not so much. Chien-Ming Wang had back-to-back 19 win seasons in 2006 and 2007, but he posted an ERA of 3.63 and 3.70 respectively. In the American League anything under a 4.00 ERA and you’re considered a really good pitcher. In 2010 and 2011 R.A. Dickey had a combined win total of 19 wins. He posted a 2.84 ERA and a 3.28 ERA respectively. That’s more than a half a run better than Chien-Ming Wang had in the two years he won 19 games. Chien-Ming Wang was a really good pitcher in those years. R.A. Dickey was in the top 10 in ERA in the NL in 2010 and top 15 in 2011. Why didn’t he get the win totals that Wang got to enjoy? Simply put, the Mets suck and don’t score nearly as many runs as the crosstown Yankees do. Chien-Ming Wang was in the top 10 in ERA in 2006 and top 15 in 2007. He was tied for first in wins in the AL in 2006 and tied for second in 2007. R.A. Dickey wasn’t even in the top 25 in wins.

Steve Trachsel, won 15 games with the Mets in 2006 despite his 4.97 ERA. That year it seemed that every game he pitched the Mets just scored like 10 runs for him so he got the Wins. Steve Trachsel, really 15 wins? The same guy I used to call “Steve Trash” had 15 wins even with a 4.97 ERA. What’s even more disturbing is that Felix Hernandez won the Cy Young in 2010 with a 2.27 ERA and he only won 13 games. 13 games! With an ERA close to 2.00! If that isn’t the best example of why wins are overrated then I don’t know what is. I’ll give you a minute to rub your eyes, gasp in disbelief, or go to the bathroom and vomit over how sickening that is. So the next time someone wants to say “But he had “X” amount of wins he’s a really good pitcher”, just say “Steve Trash”, they’ll laugh and say “What?”, and you say “Exactly”.