- Last Updated: 4:59 AM, July 7, 2012
- Posted: 3:07 AM, July 6, 2012
Retirement obviously has given Tony La Russa too much time to think, specifically too much time to over-analyze how he will manage the National League team in Tuesday’s All-Star Game in Kansas City.
Apparently, LaRussa is one of the few people on the planet, who isn’t convinced R.A. Dickey deserves to be the starting pitcher for the NL. At least, that’s the way it sounded yesterday, when the former Cardinals manager hemmed and hawed about whom he will select to start the game against the American League All-Stars.
“Dickey could certainly start the game,” LaRussa conceded during a conference call. “But I look at the starter-types of the five guys that were selected and each of those guys can make a claim.”
There are seven other starters on the NL roster — including Stephen Strasburg, Matt Cain, Cole Hamels and Gio Gonzalez — who could make a claim to start. But none has had a season or a story as compelling as Dickey’s.
He went on to talk about the difficulty the All-Star catchers might have handling Dickey’s wicked knuckleball. But he assured everyone he and his pitching coach Dave Duncan have come up with a plan to best utilize Dickey’s unique skills.
“We’re talking about the best way to just win the game with the personnel and how we use Dickey will be part of that,” La Russa said.
If any pitcher ever deserved to start an All-Star Game it’s Dickey. And to not start him is a slap in the face of what the All-Star Game should be about.
Dickey has been the best story in baseball during the first half of this season, a comeback kid who has used his knuckleball to overcome long odds.
But last night, Dickey didn’t have his best knuckler in the Mets’ 6-5 win over the Phillies at Citi Field.
Matched against Hamels, he struggled with his command early and surrendered a season-high 11 hits, which also tied a career high. But Dickey, who struck out seven, battled for seven innings, keeping his team in the game with the Mets trailing 5-4 when he was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the home seventh.
Before that, he had been brilliant, with a 12-1 record and a 2.15 ERA. Dickey just completed a June in which he was 5-0 with a 0.93 ERA and became the first National League pitcher since Jim Tobin in 1944 to post back-to-back complete-game one-hitters.
That would be worthy of starting just about any All-Star Game, but the winning league will have home-field advantage for the World Series, and La Russa is treating it like the biggest game of the season because it’s his only game of the season.
If it were really that serious, he wouldn’t be managing in the first place, having retired after the Cardinals’ World Series victory last October. The fact he is even managing the NL team means not everything is by the book.
It would have been nice if Mets manager Terry Collins had stuck up for his pitcher a little better than he did yesterday, when he practically kissed La Russa’s World Series rings.
“I’m certainly not going to talk to Tony La Russa about strategy,” Collins said. “He’s one of the best in the game if not the best in the game.”
Dickey deserved more support than that.
Catcher Buster Posey is starting the All-Star Game because Giants fans stuffed the ballot boxes and voted him in. Though the game “counts,” it’s still a fans game. Otherwise, let the manager pick the starting lineups and his pitching staff. This double-minded approach is starting to make a mockery of the game.
So what if Posey hasn’t caught a knuckleball in a while — if ever. If he’s an All-Star catcher in the major leagues, he should be able to make the adjustment. If he can’t, then he should let Phillies catcher Carlos “Chooch” Ruiz start and catch Dickey.
“If Chooch can catch him, let him catch him,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “Why not put him back there?”
Dickey has been too good of a pitcher and too good for baseball to be relegated to spot duty. He deserves the spotlight that comes with being the National League’s starting pitcher in the All-Star Game. You would think Tony La Russa would know that.