11:30 am Aug. 2, 2012
Last month, the New York Mets, locked in the National League's wild card race but short on pitching, considered pitching knuckleballer R.A. Dickey every fourth day.
The idea had obvious appeal, but there was considerable downside as well. Changing Dickey's routine in the middle of his great season was risky, as was the idea of placing further strain on Dickey's body, when he throws a particularly hard knuckleball and has generally experienced other aches and pains.
Anyway, the points were all moot, it appeared, when the Mets dropped 14 of 16 to fall out of the race. Even after a 2-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants Wednesday night, the Mets find themselves 8.5 games behind Atlanta for the final wild card spot, and 11 games behind Washington for the division lead.
So naturally, the Mets are ... going forward with the plan anyway.
“It’s going to happen,” manager Terry Collins said before last night’s game with the Giants. “I think there’s going to be a time when we are going to try it. When that is, I don’t know yet.”
With Dickey signed to a very reasonable team option for 2013, he is perhaps the surest bet other than David Wright, who has a team option for 2013, to help next year's Mets.
But Dickey hasn't been indestructible, pitching through a plantar fascia tear in his foot last season that required the painkiller Torodol prior to each start. The toll on his arm may be mitigated by the pitch he throws, but the toll on his body remains the same.
In fact, there are sign that he's already fading somewhat, after a torrid start: His E.R.A. through June was 2.15; in July, it was 5.13.
Collins described the move as an effort to save wear and tear on Chris Young and Johan Santana, both of whom are returning from shoulder surgery. To take it easy on Santana makes some sense, with the pitcher owed $31 million next season whether he pitches or not. Young is a free agent without any apparent long-term value to the Mets.
But the difference between occasionally getting Santana an extra day of rest through a spot start from Jeremy Hefner, or pitching Dickey every fourth day, is negligible, in a season that's lost anyway.
Following the promotion of Matt Harvey and the decision not to trade Scott Hairston at the deadline, this latest move is part of an unmistakable trend in which the Mets inexplicably maintain a win-now posture even though winning now is no longer a possibility.
This flies in the face of both the team's current reality and the focus as described by the team's front office. Could there possibly be a reason for what they're doing, beyond maximizing what ticket sales remain for the 2012 season, possibly helping the Mets owners mitigate their overwhelming debt load?
Elsewhere in New York sports:
The Knicks signed Chris Smith, J.R. Smith's brother, but don't expect him to do much more than stay in the D-League, providing depth.
Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Deron Williams and the rest of the U.S.A. Basketball team take on Nigeria at 10:15 Thursday night.