Making space in the Wing of Amazing for R.A. Dickey

Mike Stobe

A couple of years ago, it was bothering me that so many of my colleagues seemed to think that Omar Vizquel belonged in the Hall of Fame. It seemed to me that it's almost impossible to make the case that Vizquel was actually a great player -- which seems sort of like something you want in a Hall of Famer -- and in fact the Most Valuable Player voters, essentially the same people who vote for the Hall of Fame, never considered Vizquel a great player. In his incredibly long career, Vizquel showed up in the MVP balloting exactly ONCE: in 1999, when he finished 16th. Just ahead of Matt Stairs, John Jaha, and B.J. Surhoff.

If Vizquel were to be elected, he would be the Hall of Famer with the least Most Valuable Player support. By a lot.

Which is neither here nor there, perhaps. I don't mean to suggest that Hall of Fame voters should care much about a player's Most Valuable Player support, because Most Valuable Player voters make mistakes. Big mistakes, sometimes. I just think it's intellectually inconsistent to assert for many years that a player is not great, and then suddenly assert that he was, indeed, great for all those years. I think that as Vizquel continued to play shortstop, and play it well, into his late 30s and early 40s, the baseball writers were simply amazed by Vizquel. And since they couldn't really think of another to express their amazement, they turned to the Hall of Fame.

So I invented something: The Wing of Amazing, which is just slightly more imaginary than the mythical writers' and broadcasters' "wings" in the Hall of Fame. And my first nominee was Omar Vizquel (although in retrospect, I'm not sure he actually belongs). Later, and for more-obvious reasons, I nominated Jamie Moyer (here) even before he pitched in the majors at 50, Jim Abbott, and finally Bo Jackson.

That was almost two years ago. I've always meant to nominate more players, but somehow I just never got around to it ... until now. I've been inspired by a) my blank screen, and b) Robert Allen Dickey.

I would be shocked if you didn't already know The R.A. Dickey Story. But since this is a special occasion, I will recap ...

Dickey grew up in tough circumstances, and was sexually abused. He grew up to become an outstanding college pitcher, and was selected by the Texas Rangers in the first round of the amateur draft. Just before he signed a contract for a lot of money, the offer was withdrawn because the Rangers discovered that one of Dickey's elbow ligaments was missing. One of the important ones. About 14 years later, after ups and downs but mostly downs, and after becoming a completely different sort of pitcher, he made the major leagues for good. At that moment, if you were making a list of the 250 pitchers most likely to win a Cy Young Award in 2012, R.A. Dickey wouldn't have been on it. Then he wrote a really good book. Then he won the Cy Young Award in 2012, while relying on a pitch -- his angry knuckleball -- that, essentially, nobody had ever seen before.

If that's not amazing, I'm not sure what is.

There will be more nominees this winter, but for the moment I'd like you're opinion ... Does Omar Vizquel belong? His only qualifications, I think, are that he was an every-day shortstop at 40, and still a major leaguer at 45. You might argue that if Moyer's amazing because he was a 49-year-old starting pitcher, that Vizquel is amazing because he was a 45-year-old fielder, and that Julio Franco was amazing because he was a 48-year-old hitter.

But Franco's for another day. What do you think about Vizquel?

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