Two years after showing up in Buffalo as a 35-year-old journeyman who was the first cut out of New York Mets spring training, R.A. Dickey became a Cy Young Award winner Wednesday night.
The Mets right-hander and former Bisons pitcher was a runaway winner for the honor as the National League’s top hurler in voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. And it was a historic victory as no knuckleball pitcher has ever been so honored.
Dickey, who went 20-6 with a 2.73 earned run average, received 27 of 32 first-place votes and 209 overall points in the balloting to easily outdistance Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw (96 points).
“It’s a victory for all of us. It brings a real legitimacy to the pitch and is a shout-out to those men who performed it before me,” Dickey said on a national conference call. “I’ve just taken the foundation and added my own personality to it.”
In the American League, Tampa Bay lefty David Price edged Detroit’s Justin Verlander in the closest vote of any election since ballots began permitting voting for more than one pitcher in 1970. Price (20-5, 2.56) was named first on 14 of the 28 ballots, second on 13 and finished with 153 points. Verlander, who had 13 firsts, finished with 149. The other first-place vote went to Rays closer Fernando Rodney.
Dickey is one of three former Bisons regulars in the modern era to win a Cy, joining Cliff Lee (Cleveland 2008) and Bartolo Colon (Anaheim, 2005).
Dickey went 4-2 with a 2.23 ERA and two complete games with the Bisons in 2010 before getting called up to the Mets for good. On April 29, 2010, he pitched a one-hit shutout in a 4-0 win over Durham at Coca-Cola Field, allowing a leadoff single and retiring the final 27 men in Buffalo’s closest brush with a perfect game since 1952.
Dickey credited former Mets General Manager Omar Minaya with having the faith to sign him and giving him a chance in Buffalo.
“He knew what I was as a person away from the field and he was willing to give me a shot when a lot of other teams took a pass,” Dickey said. “To every team’s defense, I don’t think anybody could have predicted this is what would become. But at the same time, Omar and the people in the Mets organization had the imagination and the vision to see this as a possible help and I’m so thankful for them ... to give me the platform to perform my craft and hone it.”
“It was an honor to work with R.A. throughout the year and have a front-row seat to his historic season,” Mets manager Terry Collins, the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer and former Bisons manager, said in a statement released by the Mets. “R.A. is a great teammate, fierce competitor and even a better human being.”
Dickey joins Tom Seaver (1969, 1973 and 1975) and Dwight Gooden (1985) as the only pitchers in team history to earn the award. He finished tied for second in the majors with 20 wins, led the NL in strikeouts (230), innings pitched (233.2), shutouts (three) and complete games (five) and was second in ERA. In June, he became the first NL pitcher since 1944 to toss back-to-back one-hitters.
According to ESPN.com, Price had the highest average fastball velocity among ERA-title qualifiers this season at 95.4 mph. The slowest? Dickey at 83.4.
“I’m trying to overpower guys and then trick him,” Price said. “He’s just trying to throw a knuckleball. It’s a game within a game. For R.A. it’s a phenomenal year.”
“Isn’t that fun? Isn’t that great? That’s what I think is so awesome,” Dickey said. “To see the dichotomy between a guy who throws 100 from the left side and a guy who grinds it out with the knuckleballs from the other side. It shows you that there’s not just one way to do it. ”
Price’s edge may have come from his success in the rugged AL East, where he was 10-2, 2.61 in 16 starts.
“There’s not an easy out in the lineup,” Price said. “Every game feels like it’s a postseason game ... I know that’s benefited us. You kind of feel like you’ve been playing postseason games the entire year.”