Via Wallace Matthews -
After the 2009 season, when [R.A.] Dickey was being shopped on the free-agent market, the Yankees kicked the tires on the then-35-year-old journeyman — and walked away.
“We did not pursue him in a really aggressive fashion,” said Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler. “Obviously, you kick yourself a little bit now. If there’s such a thing as an outlier, he would be it.”
Dickey wound up signing a minor league deal with the Mets. The Yankees traded for Javier Vazquez.
The rest is history. Vazquez bombed out in his second go-round as a Yankee. Dickey is currently 11-1 with a 2.00 ERA.
“He was not a guy we were running after,” Eppler said.
In fact, neither Eppler nor Cashman can recall the last time the Yankees actively scouted, pursued or signed a starting pitcher who relies primarily on a knuckleball, for a variety of reasons.
“I don’t think anybody gravitates to signing knuckleballers until they’ve had success for a year or so,” Cashman said. “I guess because they’re erratic and because there are very few who are very good for an extended period of time. But if you nail one like Dickey or [Tim] Wakefield, they can be saviors for your franchise, because obviously they can pitch on shorter rest, they never get tired and if they can control that pitch, they can be a great asset.”
“There’s a certain sexiness about watching guys like [Justin] Verlander and CC, guys who throw hard and challenge you with a fastball,” Eppler said. “But at the end of the day, successful pitching is really about upsetting a hitter’s timing. If you can do that, you can be successful, and that’s clearly what Dickey’s been able to do.”
I am not sure that Dickey’s success will change the way many teams view knuckleball pitchers. I suspect that a lot of clubs still view it as a freak pitch that carries too much risk. That said, in my lifetime, I have seen Tim Wakefield, Charlie Hough, Phil and Joe Niekro, and Wilbur Wood have success at the big league level throwing the pitch – and now Dickey. So, it is possible to have someone on your staff who features this pitch and be a benefit.