R.A. Dickey’s Story is Meant for Paperback

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How much more money has R.A. Dickey made for himself with his story?

I’m not talking about his baseball contract. The Mets have him signed for next season at $5 million and if his second half goes as well as his first half, I’d expect them to approach him about a reasonable extension. It won’t be 5 years (knuckleballer or not, he’s going to be 38 in October), but 2-3 years with incentives and options is a realistic starting point.

The extra money I’m talking about is with the paperback release of his book.

It’s doubtful that Dickey got a large sum of money in the form of an advance for the hardcover version of his book, Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball.

You can read my review here.

Knowing how the publishing industry works, he’s getting a 10-20% royalty off the cover price on every copy sold and that has to be shared with his collaborator Wayne Coffey. It’s possible that Coffey got paid upfront and isn’t getting a piece on the backend. Bad luck for him if that’s the case.

The cover price is $26.95. It’s currently #58 on Amazon’s bestseller list; #1 for religious and spirituality; #2 for baseball; and #4 in sports and outdoors.

Just for context, if I sell one copy of my book, my rankings rise from say 400,000 on Amazon to 200,000. For my 2001 novel I received a standard entry level author contract. The royalties were such that I got 10% of the first X number of books sold and 15% for anything after that. It didn’t amount to a massive series of paychecks for me, but for a book like Dickey’s that can mean a lot of money just from sales alone.

With the number of books that Amazon stocks overall, Dickey’s book is selling rapidly and it’s been boosted greatly by his performance. The book was interesting before Dickey’s sudden rise to All-Star/Cy Young/MVP status. He pulled no punches and made personal revelations that have rarely been seen from an athlete. The storyline of going from where he was to where he is now is exponentially multiplying the fees his representatives are going to be able to secure for the paperback rights. That Dickey is—I guarantee this—keeping a diary of his 2012 season for the “new chapter” in the paperback and that this new chapter will include everything from the attention he’s received to the Mets’ surprising vault into contention to the way he’s pitched will all combine to make him money that few first time authors and almost no athletes make.

It’s a stunning leap for Dickey on the field; a cathartic and gutsy display of naked self-revelation in his book; and now, a financial windfall.

And that’s before getting to the movie rights. They’re coming too.


Courageous Anonymity

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This item from MLB Trade Rumors caught my eye:

A National League talent evaluator thinks the Mets should give some thought to trading R.A. Dickey while his value is skyhigh.  The Mets don’t have the money to make the deadline upgrades that they need, so they could instead continue with their three- or four-year plan by making the right-hander available.

An anonymous NL talent evaluator suggests that the Mets should think about trading one of the best stories in baseball; a pitcher who has overcome tremendous odds, injuries, a genetic deformity, sexual abuse as a child and bounced from team-to-team learning an almost-impossible pitch to master; wrote a book and has become a gate attraction everywhere he goes; and is on track to start the All-Star game.

Is that about right?

This is the problem with anonymity; with the suggestions of those who aren’t in a position of power to make any maneuvers; with those who are commenting about complex terms and teams they don’t work for with cut-and-dried simplicity.

Let’s just say the Mets follow this advice. What are they going to get for Dickey that would make it worth the public relations hit? Dickey is 37 and is signed for 2013 at a ridiculously cheap rate of $5 million. Knuckleballers last far longer than conventional pitchers and even if Dickey can’t keep up his current pace (and he can’t), there’s reason to believe that he could be an 180-215 inning pitcher until he’s 42-years-old. That’s five years away.

Are the Mets going to get a package that would replicate that? What would the fans think?

Dickey has become a symbol to Mets fans not because he’s come from the scrapheap to burgeoning star at a late age, but because he never gave up and kept pushing and pushing through endless adversity while refusing to surrender his dream and belief in himself to persevere and make it when few thought he would; when few were willing to give him a chance as anything other than a desperate afterthought or Triple A insurance.

Amid all the suffering endured by Mets’ fans, there’s hope that things are going to get better; that the team will win; that they’re on the right track.

That mirrors Dickey and his life.

Would any return on a Dickey trade be enough even if they get functional big league players ready to contribute in 2013-2015?

It’s very easy for someone to say that teams should do “this” or “that” when not in a position of power to make those decisions. But running a club isn’t about finding players and crafting a roster alone. It’s not a computer or a stat sheet or a game of fantasy baseball. A baseball team is a product. The customer must be kept happy. Mets’ fans have accepted that the team is in the midst of a rebuild and that rebuild is going far better than expected. Trading Dickey would unravel much of the goodwill they’ve accrued and alienate a segment of the fanbase—a fanbase that doesn’t need a nudge to spend their time and money elsewhere.

It reminds me of the caller to Mike Francesa’s show that said he would, in no uncertain terms, tell Jorge Posada that because the left-handed pitcher on the mound was worse against lefties than righties that the switch-hitting Posada was going to bat left-handed against him.

Ignoring that Posada is a borderline Hall of Famer and that this would be considered an insult for a manager, coach or teammate to make such a demand let alone some guy who’d never picked up a baseball and equated understanding out-of-context numbers with an expertise to do such a thing, but Posada’s irascible demeanor and quick trigger temper would make it dangerous to this would-be executive.

He’s going to “tell” Posada to do this?

He’d better be able to take a punch or wear a protective cup under his khakis.

I don’t know who this “evaluator” that thinks the Mets should consider trading Dickey is (if the person even exists), but my evaluation of your evaluation isn’t hidden by anonymity. Here it is: You don’t know anything and wouldn’t have the nerve to put into action that which you advocate if you were in a position to do so. It’s time for you to re-evaluate because your evaluations are ridiculous on and off the field.


Wherever I Wind Up by R.A. Dickey—Book Review

All Star Game, Ballparks, Books, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2012 Baseball Guide, PEDs, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, Umpires, World Series

The vast majority of athletes’ “biographies” are tranparent attempts to cast themselves in the best possible light with terminonlogy they don’t understand; “facts” that aren’t quite facts; and text with their names attached to them that most didn’t even bother to read.

Athletes and celebrities use the pretense of candor to generate a media splash and increase sales when the only passages worth reading are those in which heretofore unknown revelations are made, then then degenerate into a run of the mill biography with interchangeable names and titles.

R.A. Dickey does none of that in his new book, Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest For Truth, Authenticity And The Perfect Knuckleball, written with Wayne Coffey.

Dickey is a still-active player whose new career phase has just begun at age 37 and will possibly last for another decade. He could have written a book about his struggles from conventional journeyman pitcher to successful knuckleballer; about how he went from 1st round draft choice of the Texas Rangers whose contract offer was pulled off the table because of a medical anomaly in which he doesn’t have an ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow; to a 4-A pitcher who was constantly on the verge of being unemployed; to a man with a novelty pitch trying to hang on.

He could’ve written about the diverse personalities and the stuff that goes on inside baseball, gotten it published, made a few extra bucks and moved on.

But that’s already been done ad nauseam.

Like the mechanics of the knuckleball, the key is to let it go and allow it to do its work. Shifting that blueprint from pitching to writing, Dickey throws himself out there completely without concern for perception or negative aftermath.

In a rare effort of honesty from a ballplayer, Dickey reveals his status as a child from a broken home as the son of an alcoholic mother; his own adult infidelity and that he considered suicide; how he endured years of financial hardship, separation from loved ones and maintained the determination to keep trying when all signs told him it was time to hang it up and move onto something else that would be more stable and provide for his family.

Most courageously, Dickey tells of being sexually abused as a child.

First was a 13-year-old female babysitter who forced herself on him when he was 8. The abuse occurred several times over that summer and Dickey relates the story with sickening descriptiveness indicative of a memory that’s been scorched into Dickey’s whole being and will never be fully exorcised.

Then on a family visit to the Nashville countryside, Dickey is forcibly raped by a neighboring teen.

He kept these incidents to himself until he was in his early-30s.

In the insular, macho world of professional baseball, how many other people have encountered similar instances of abuse, yet have kept silent out of fear, shame or embarrassment for something that’s not their fault?

After reading about the abuse, you’ll find yourself wondering why Dickey never confronted those who abused him. In the case of the babysitter, a decade later and through accident of circumstance, he did.

There was no admission of guilt nor great epiphany on either side.

There are many laughs and “I knew it” sections in the book.

Dickey and Mets’ teammate Mike Pelfrey climbed over the fence of a Port St. Lucie football field so Pelfrey could practice field goal kicks to try and win a bet with David Wright; Dickey scoffs at and explains the absurdity of the pre-draft psychological tests that are given to players and how meaningless they are because most players who have the werewithal to do so will give the answers they think the team wants to hear, rendering them worthless as anything other than a validation of what the club thinks of the player in the first place; and, he tells the world what we already knew: Ichiro Suzuki not only understands English, but he speaks it well.

As in every baseball diary or biography, there are coaches, managers and front office people saying one thing to a player’s face, then doing the exact opposite.

And naturally, there are the obligatory Alex Rodriguez tales of (seemingly unintentional) A-Rod egomania, but they’re not done in a tone of “look what a diva A-Rod is”, but with a shrugging, matter of fact sense of “that’s A-Rod”. When Dickey pitched his first complete game shutout in the big leagues, A-Rod said, “You have me to thank for that” because A-Rod claimed to have called every pitch from shortstop.

In his next start, Dickey got shelled and asked A-Rod if he should thank him for that too. A-Rod said that he didn’t call the pitches in that game.

Faith plays a large part in Dickey’s life. He’s a born again Christian and he believed—with no evidence to support him—in his own ability to relearn how to succeed on a baseball field in a completely opposite way to what got him drafted by using a pitch that requires timing and is somewhat magical rather than a fastball that lights up the radar gun.

The theme isn’t a holier-than-thou tome of, “I live this way and so should you.”

Dickey’s self-destructive acts came years after he became a devout follower of Christ.

Dickey’s baseball career is used as a symbol that can be transferred to anyone no matter what they’re doing or trying to do. All players, top draft picks or not, encounter roadblocks. They come in different forms, but are inevitable. The value of perseverance in the face of on and off-field adversities the likes we didn’t know—or didn’t want to know—existed are the overriding points in the book.

It goes unsaid, but if you ask Dickey why he was so open about instances in his life that were painful and might cause others to look at and treat him differently, he’d respond with a perplexed look and ask, “Why wouldn’t I tell the truth about my life? It’s the stigma of humiliation and self-loathing created by sexual abuse that are exacerbated by the lifelong silence of victims.”

If there’s anything to take from the book, it’s that faith—religious or not—gives freedom to be true to oneself.

Dickey tells the truth. And sometimes that’s the hardest thing to do.