R.A. Dickey Won't Start the All-Star Game

Tony LaRussa opts for Matt Cain over the knuckleballer

By Josh Alper
|  Monday, Jul 9, 2012  |  Updated 2:49 PM EDT
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R.A. Dickey Won't Start the All-Star Game

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Shaking fists at Tony LaRussa will be a popular pastime in Queens.

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When Citi Field first opened, a lot of Mets fans were upset that the thrust of the stadium seemed to honor the history of teams that no longer played in New York, more than it honored the history of the Mets themselves.

Imagine what they'll think now that two different Giants are starting the All-Star Game in spots that could (or should, depending on your point of view) have gone to members of the Mets. Those fans have no one to blame but themselves for Pablo Sandoval getting more votes than David Wright at third base, so they'll probably take out a lot of fury on Tony LaRussa instead.

LaRussa, managing the National League despite retiring after the Cardinals won the World Series in October, announced Monday that Matt Cain will get the ball to start on Tuesday night instead of R.A. Dickey. The response to that announcement from these corners has been pretty much what you'd expect.

It was a decision you could have seen coming based on LaRussa's comments last week, but it is still a bit surprising when you consider Dickey's first half. His numbers -- 12-1, 2.40 ERA, 120 innings, 26 walks, 123 strikeouts, back-to-back one-hitters -- are obviously worthy of an All-Star start and the completely unbelievable story that preceded those numbers make just as compelling a case.

That said, Cain's numbers and story do a pretty good job of making his case as well. Cain, who threw a perfect game this season, is 9-3 with a  2.62 ERA and 118 strikeouts in 120 1/3 innings and he has kept the Giants afloat while Tim Lincecum struggles to find the skills that made him a star. 

Dickey's story is a bit better, but stories shouldn't be part of the equation in a game that counts. Neither should managers with no stake in the game and, frankly, the game shouldn't count, but those are complaints for another time.

In a world where the game does count for home field advantage in the World Series, you should pick the pitcher that gives you the best chance to win the game. You could make an argument for Cain under such circumstances, even if it is one that New Yorkers aren't inclined to find particularly convincing.

LaRussa tried making that argument, saying that he thought the team would get an edge by having Cain pitch to Giants catcher Buster Posey and that Dickey would come into the game with Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz so that they had time to warm up together. It seems like it would have been easy enough to have Dickey warm up with Posey today and before the game, but LaRussa's the confirmed genius.

It might have been easier to just say it was the perils of catching the knuckleball that led to the decision because the potential for passed balls would have an impact on the outcome of the game. But unfamiliarity between batteries is what the All-Star Game is about, and LaRussa's explanation doesn't make a strong enough case.

No one will remember this in a few years and it is mostly a good talking point for a slow sports day, but it is too bad for Dickey. It would have been a nice honor for one of the best things to happen to baseball in 2012, but, when all is said and done, the games after Tuesday are the only ones really worth worrying about.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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