Wendel Clark, Doug Flutie, Doug Gilmour, Joe Carter, Mats Sundin, Vince Carter – R.A. Dickey?
One of these things is not like the other right? Including R.A. Dickey amongst a who’s who of legendary Toronto sports figures might seem a tad strange at this juncture but the opportunity to become a part of history is there for Mr. Dickey.
I don’t think R.A. Dickey fully understands the ramifications of what he is about to embark on. The American stereotypical view that the Toronto baseball market is apathetic, aloof or just plain doesn’t care is about to get turned upside down.
R.A. Dickey has the chance to join only a handful of others that have been completely revered and worshiped by the city of Toronto – and still are in many respects. There is a buzz surrounding the beginning of this coming baseball season that is palpable. The city is starved for a winner, a contender, a championship.
Doug Gilmour is still considered a legend in Toronto though his time in Toronto was relatively short and brought only back-to-back Conference final appearances. Wendel Clark had a few stints with the Maple Leafs and fans will always have a soft spot for one of the fiercest competitors the team has ever seen.
Doug Flutie came and went like a hurricane but the city of Toronto will definitely never forget the diminutive quarter back that brought the CFL’s Argonauts Grey Cup glory. People in Toronto still hold a grudge against Wade Phillips and Rob Johnson with his girly headband.
It’s more complicated with Mats Sundin, it always was. He is the opposite of Doug Gilmour in some ways but his greatness can never be questioned. The longevity, the production and the professionalism was a marvel to behold even if everyone in the city wasn’t entirely sold on him. He is the greatest Maple Leaf of all-time in my opinion.
Love him or hate him Toronto sports fans will never forget Vincent Lamond Carter. We loved him as much as we have loved any player and were heartbroken with how it all ended. The hatred is started to slowly wear off and I firmly believe he will be given a warm reception if he ever returns to the city when his playing career comes to an end.
Joe Carter hit the homerun. Enough said.
This leaves R.A. Dickey.
So why R.A. Dickey? Why not Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson or Melky Cabrera?
All of them are great players in their own right however none have the back story of Mr. Dickey. None were basically written off and thrown away by the cold, hard world of sports like Mr. Dickey. Jose Bautista is a productive and popular player but no one has quite the allure and intrigue of an R.A. Dickey.
No one has such a cool name either.
If Toronto sports fans have proven one thing they tend to embrace the hard working journeyman, the lunch bucket guy, the blue collar workhorse. I think they will especially come to love a guy who relies on something seemingly impossible to rely on – the knuckleball.
Think Matt Bonner, Reggie Evans, Tie Domi and of course the strangest obsession of all, John McDonald. Now add the back story, the name and the mainstream media attention that will almost certainly be bestowed upon him and now perhaps you can see the writing on the wall.
R.A. Dickey has the chance to one-up all of these beloved characters in the Toronto sports sub-culture. He has a chance to dominate and help a city starving for a winner reach the Promised Land. R.A. Dickey not only has the grit, character and back story Torontonians love but he also brings with him an undeniable talent.
R.A. Dickey dominated National League hitters last season en route to an improbable Cy Young award. He isn’t just a defensive replacement in the ninth inning or a role player coming off the bench to hustle and pick up a few loose rebounds. He could be one of the best pitchers in the division and a real game changer. Read here about his past three seasons.
Unbeknownst to him he has a chance to become one of the most popular athletes of all time. Yes this might sound like hyperbole but tell me I’m wrong. Tell me that if R.A. Dickey, with his nuclear pitch, blue collar attitude and rags to riches story helps lead the Toronto Blue Jays to a World Series title (or two) that his legend won’t be firmly cemented?
While hardly making him a legend he was already named the opening day starter.
Yes his stats back up that selection by John Gibbons given he did just win the Cy Young. But I think the selection was more of an anointment that this is our guy. This is a passing of the torch so to speak, a changing of the guard. Nobody embodies the tireless pursuit of greatness and perhaps the ability to change the perception of an entire franchise like him.
The hired gun known as Robert Allen Dickey is probably one of the unlikeliest candidates to ever become the face of the Toronto Blue Jays. But if he fully embraces this role and meets the lofty standards already in place for not only himself but this team than we can always remember that the legend of R.A. Dickey began here.
Don’t deny it you are just as intrigued as I am.