Happy birthday to R.A. Dickey, who turns 37 today.
Dickey was the Rangers' first pick in the 1996 draft, a first rounder who went #18 overall out of the University of Tennessee. Kris Benson was the #1 overall pick in that draft, and Travis Lee went #2 overall. Billy Koch, Adam Eaton, and Eric Chavez were among those picked ahead of Dickey, and Eric Milton, Jake Westbrook, and Gil Meche went 20-21-22 behind Dickey.
Dickey, as folks know, didn't have an elbow ligament and thus got a signing bonus that is just a fraction of what he would have received otherwise. He looked like an organizational depth guy, making his major league debut at age 26 in 2001, then getting more time in the majors in 2003 and 2004 with Texas during a time when anyone with a functional arm was getting a look.
Dickey ended up becoming a knuckleballer, but didn't have much success with it in Texas, and Rangers fans probably most remember him from his last appearance with the Rangers. On April 6, 2006, he started the 4th game of the season for the Rangers at home against Detroit. The Tigers lit him up, hitting 6 home runs off of him in 3 1/3 innings, with former Rangers Marcus Thames and Craig Monroe each contributing one homer towards that total, and future Ranger Chris Shelton homering twice off of Dickey.
Dickey never gave up, though. He signed with Milwaukee as a free agent that offseason and spent 2007 pitching in their minor league system. He spent 2008 in the M's system and 2009 in the Twins' system, pitching in the majors for each team but having limited success.
And then, in the 2009-10 offseason, Dickey signed with the Mets. And something clicked for him. Since the start of the 2010 season, R.A. Dickey has been one of the best pitchers in the majors, allowing a 3.08 ERA in 383 innings for New York, good for a 124 ERA+. Only 16 pitchers have a higher bWAR since the start of the 2010 season than Dickey.
Its quite a remarkable story. And, as a 37 year old as of today, Dickey is pretty young for a knuckleballer. He may have another decade of production ahead of him.