Is R.A. Dickey the Mets Leader?

Last night’s postgame interview with R.A. Dickey reminded me of an old E.F. Hutton commercial, as people were hanging on his every word. Here’s what he had to say:

“We have find a way to be honest with ourselves about what kind of team we are. We can’t just keep telling ourselves that ‘oh, we’re a better team than this’, you know — we may not be. And we gotta be honest about that and identify what we’re doing wrong and do it better. That’s the only way you have any growth. If we want to reach the destination that we have set out, then we have to be honest with ourselves about, you know, how can we take more ownership on what’s going on.”

Dickey was candid and made good points; he continued to speak for several minutes and included himself as one of the people who needed to take responsibility for what is going on and do better.

If I have any issue, it is this: why is R.A. Dickey the mouthpiece of this team? Why is he the perceived leader of this team? The Mets have one of the highest payrolls in MLB, have legitimate stars on the roster — a few of whom have been on the team for 5+ years — and the go-to guy for quotes is a journeyman knuckleball pitcher who a year ago today was a 35-year-old filling out the back end of a AAA rotation. Some people like to ignore “intangibles” such as leadership because they can’t be quantified. But I believe — actually I know — that on-field performance is at least somewhat dependent on a player’s confidence level, his approach to the game, and his focus. When a player is lacking in any of those three areas, his performance can and usually will suffer. When several players are lacking — even just a little — in those areas, and in turn those several players are executing just a bit below the way they are capable, it adds up and the team as a whole underperforms.

It’s easy to say that the Mets stink because they have a low batting average, they’re not getting on base, and the pitchers are walking too many batters. But WHY are they doing these things? Because they are physically incapable of performing better? Is Angel Pagan hitting .167 because he doesn’t have the skill set to hit MLB pitching, or because right now, his confidence is at an all-time low? Is Willie Harris physically incapable of executing a simple bunt, or is there something in his head — mentally or emotionally — that is clouding his focus? Do Jon Niese and Mike Pelfrey belong in the minors, as their ERAs suggest, or are there some minor adjustments (physically and/or mentally) they can make to get them back to competing as legit MLB pitchers?

When a team is in a losing streak, it can get into the individual players’ heads. They might start “pressing” and physically tightening up, which affects them physically and alters their performance. They might make decisions they otherwise wouldn’t make — something as simple as chasing a pitch out of the strike zone, or as dramatic as diving for a fly ball that is unreachable. When players “force” things, more bad things tend to happen, compounding the original problem and creating a negative cycle. Right now, the Mets are in that cycle.

In reality, I don’t believe the Mets have enough talent to compete for a postseason spot. But I also don’t believe they are so awful that they should be losing 70% of their ballgames. R.A. makes good points — each individual needs to take responsibility for his own area of influence and figure out how to do it better. When and if that happens, the 2011 Mets as a team should begin to look better than the ’62 edition. It would help, though, to have a few more influential and respected people like Dickey in the dugout and clubhouse, to keep things calm and provide an example of how to go about such a process — because it’s not necessarily something that comes naturally; often, players need someone to look to, and speak with, to understand how to relax and find their focus. Are there people like that already on the Mets? I’m not so sure.


Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Mike April 21, 2011 at 10:12 am
    Dickey might be the leader because right now he’s performing and saying the right things.

    Wright can pretend he is a leader all he wants but he’s not performing right now and really has being trying to assert himself as the leader for years without success.

  2. xDanTanna April 21, 2011 at 10:16 am
    I liked some of what Dickey was saying last night. He may very well be the “leader” but as a pitcher that is a very difficult task. You really need an everyday player to lead. The kicker for me was, here you had Dickey saying he basically did not pitch that great last night. To many mistakes & then on comes Terry Collins saying Dickey was terrific & pitched a outstanding game.

    My feelings are nobody can lead here until they are all on the same page. Aside from not having the pitching & talent perhaps to compete on a daily basis. I think mindset may be an even bigger issue. These guys (Dickey aside) believe they are playing well (listen to Wright last night) & they believe they are close & they believe w/ that it will turn around basically on it’s own.

    We were told Collins was being brought in to change that & all he is doing is feeding that losing mindset. In the off-season Collins talked he would be leading charges on the field to fight, he would not stand for bad umpire calls, he & his players would be angry after losses & take them all to heart. The list goes on & on and all they have in common is we are seeing none of that. All we are seeing is more of the same nonsense.

    What a huge mistake it was to hire Collins. We needed a manager who would take the reigns & lead & begin to change the mindset (the culture) & most of all teach these guys how to win. We need Wally more than ever in my book.

    • NormanT April 21, 2011 at 12:40 pm
      Dickey made some good point, but we need an everyday player to step up..
  3. Joe April 21, 2011 at 10:27 am
    Dickey has a philosophical bent and has been a favorite interview in that respect since he seems mature and having good perspectives about things.

    The Mets seem to be doing worse now than they did the end of last season and the season before, both not exactly elite teams that had much to play for by the end. It’s depressing but perhaps they finally realize the season is basically a lost cause, a way station to better times.

    Hopefully, they can except lower expectations and aim for a smaller goal. There are signs of credible play, like them hitting yesterday etc., but there still is an overall bad vibe. Just play ball. Oh, I’m sure various parts are in trouble skill-wise, but the problem seems too broad for it just to be about bare ability.

    • Joe April 21, 2011 at 10:29 am
      And, yeah, I’m not sure if this manager is the right one. They needed someone more than some safe choice, which this seemed to be.
  4. gary s. April 21, 2011 at 11:05 am
    Wright will never be a leader.He seems depressed.I would be depressed too if every time i hit the ball to right center 390 feet it falls into an outfielders glove.Btw, pagans long fly to right in the first inning last nite would have been a grand slam at shea as would have Wrights been in the bottom of the 9th vs the Rockies.The team would still stink, but at least the fans would have had something to cheer about .This team has now lost 2 grand slams at home in a space of 4 games.Another nice job by the Wilpons
    • Joe April 21, 2011 at 11:32 am
      As seen in past games, it is not like only Mets players would hit home runs. If Mets players hit more home runs, so would the other side. Given how the Mets are playing overall, what side would win out? See the Rockies for a hint.
  5. bbgods April 21, 2011 at 2:25 pm
    R. A. Dickey is an amazing person, and a great baseball success story. I wonder, though, how his teammates feel as Dickey tells the truth more and more.

    Would Dickey make a good manager some day? It would be interesting to see if players would respond to his philosophical approach to baseball and life.

    Collins is definitely walking a fine line here. He is trying desperately to find the positive in a mostly negative situation. The fact is, though, that the Mets could turn this season around, because they really aren’t that far off.

    Jason Bay could really help raise the confidence level by playing to his career average numbers. Pagan might relax as Beltran and Bay take on more offensive responsibility. Harris and Hairston go back to the bench where they can be assets instead of liabilities.

    Dillon Gee is up at the right time. If/when Young comes back, I would send Pelfrey to the minors to get his head straightened out.

    I don’t think it’s time to blow up the roster and start over, but it will be in another few weeks if the results don’t improve significantly.

  6. gary s. April 21, 2011 at 3:19 pm
    Joe, all i know is that if that dumb jeff wilpon wet dream idea of a ballpark had a normal right field, we would have had a d wright walkoff grand slam last thursday in the first game..Maybe that sparks the whole team and the last 5 or 6 games are different.My point that everyone seems to miss is that when u visit here for 3-4 games and hit a home run or 2 it doesn’t have the debiltating effect that it does to the home team players like an 81 game slog at home has.The proof will be when David Wright signs with the phillies in 2013 or is traded to a team with a ballpark with normal distances and hits like the Shea Stadium era David Wright The Ballpark is a joke, just like the owners.
    • Mike April 21, 2011 at 4:56 pm
      gary you just don’t give up. Maybe if you knew a thing or two about punctuation and grammar you would listen. The ballpark has nothing to do with this team not hitting and field or doing anything right. If the park was smaller there would be more offense on both sides and the pitching would be even worse. Get over it.
  7. argonbunnies April 21, 2011 at 4:24 pm
    Huge fields helped the homegrown pitching in Oakland, Seattle and San Diego. Allowing fewer homers while you’re still learning seems to encourage pitchers to throw strikes. So I can’t second-guess Citi Field’s overall size.

    That said, putting the deepest dimensions where your star player tends to hit wall-scrapers was probably not the ideal implementation. I don’t think Citi is bad for the Mets overall, but it is definitely bad for Wright. Unless, y’know, he finally gets it through his head to hit line drives, and not swing for the fences in key RBI spots.

  8. argonbunnies April 21, 2011 at 4:29 pm
    I think Dickey is the Mets leader in talking to reporters. That doesn’t mean he’s their leader in any other respect.

    I don’t think we have a single position player on the roster who can make a case for leadership based on consistently hard, heads-up play. Maybe Bay could be that if he stops giving away at bats…

    The best competitor on the team is rehabbing from shoulder surgery. I wonder how much the rest of the staff is missing his example.

  9. mic April 21, 2011 at 7:41 pm
    By his comments RA exhibited leadership! He IS a guy the club can rally around.

    Carlos Beltran has been a leader on the field, playing a new position and hitting well. Murphy and Ike are morphing into leaders. You might question there maturity but they play hard.

    Joel Sherman has called DW out. In his articles yesterday he labelled DW a complementary player (on a good team)…hmmm

    NO! Johan is not a leader, best pitcher…yes
    AND…..Where did Jerry Manuel go?

    • John April 22, 2011 at 9:05 am
      Wright is an interesting case. He really hasn’t been the same player since he got beaned. Even last year, although his numbers were good, it really seemed like he could be pitched to in tough situations. Lots of strike outs with runners in scoring position, especially third base. I think this has effected him in a lot of ways.
      Even before the beaning I don’t think he was quick enough to adjust to the way the pitchers had adjusted to him. But since, he has a lot of holes in his swing.
      Also I think he was really messed up by HoJo. In his first couple of years Wright was a very very good two strike hitter. He shortened his stroke a little and waited on the ball a little longer with two strikes. He had a lot of big hits to right field with two strikes. Wright then began to take on HoJo’s characteristics of the big swing being overly aggressive and trying to pull everything. Also added a little bit of a uppercut. Hopefully he will get back to the 2005 and 2006 level. But I wouldn’t count on it.