A poor start to the season has Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher R.A. Dickey frustrated—and it’s starting to show.
Dickey was recently on the mound against the American League East rival New York Yankees in what resulted in his fourth loss of the young season. Dickey allowed three earned runs on four hits across seven innings of work while striking out four and walking one.
But it wasn’t about what happened on the field that ticked the knuckleballer off. As Roger Rubin of the New York Daily News writes, Dickey was angered that the Yankees were stalling after Lyle Overbay smacked a two-run home run to take the lead in the bottom of the seventh inning.
As Rubin recounts, manager Joe Girardi, now with a lead, called the bullpen to warm up setup man David Robertson. Eduardo Nunez, coming to bat after Overbay, refrained from stepping into the batter’s box after he said something got in his eye. Trainer Steve Donohue helped Nunez until he was ready to go.
Dickey took exception to the timing of the “injury.”
“What had happened, and it was fairly obvious to everyone in our dugout, was that Joe (Girardi) was trying to get (Nunez) to take some extra time so he could get Robertson warmed up in the bullpen,” Dickey said. “(It’s) just gamesmanship on his part.”
Dickey didn’t get to plead his case with home plate umpire Chris Conroy very much, but still blamed him for not noticing the intentional delay of game.
“It’s well within the confines of the rule, it’s just that the umpire needs to have a feel for the game and know what’s going on,” Dickey said. “It’s certainly not Joe’s fault. He was doing what he can to get his team ready to win the game. It’s the umpire’s responsibility to know what’s going on there.”
Would this have been a big deal to Dickey had the Blue Jays held a comfortable lead at the time of the Overbay home run? Probably not, but since Dickey and Toronto haven’t been playing as well as many originally expected, he got flustered.
The Blue Jays traded for Dickey over the offseason, boosting a starting rotation that already included Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle—who were also acquired over the winter—as well as Brandon Morrow and J.A. Happ (and technically Ricky Romero). Toronto also brought in a slew of offensive talent, looking to win the AL East for the first time since 1993.
Before the season started, 21 of 43 Major League Baseball analysts projected Toronto to win the division. A handful predicted that the Blue Jays would win the pennant and one felt comfortable taking them as the 2013 World Series Champions.
But the Blue Jays have fallen on their face to start the season. Heading into Monday’s games, Toronto was last in the division with a 9-17 record, 9.5 games behind the Boston Red Sox. The team is among the worst in baseball offensively and in the middle of the pack pitching-wise in terms of WAR, according to FanGraphs.
Part of the blame can be put on Dickey, who through six starts with his new team is 2-4 with a 4.50 ERA through 36 innings of work. Dickey has not had nearly as much success with his knuckleball as compared to recent years.
But what Dickey needs to keep in mind is that last season, when he ended up winning the National League Cy Young award, he didn’t pitch that well early and the Mets weren’t great either.
Through his first six starts of last season, he was 4-2 with a 3.76 ERA through 38.1 innings. He got shelled in one game, lost by a run in another and won four fairly close games—an average difference of 2.75 runs per game.
Although New York didn’t make the playoffs—and weren’t expected to at the start of the season—Dickey still managed to put together one of the most successful seasons from a knuckleball pitcher in the history of the game.
Getting frustrated with the opposition or the umpires won't get Dickey or the Blue Jays anywhere except last place in the AL East. Dickey needs to cool his jets, let things play out and hope that everything falls in Toronto’s favor, whether teams are stalling on him or not.