Appreciating The Rarest Pitch

Okay, so technically it’s not the rarest pitch. For the moment, there are still more knuckleballs than screwballs, and many more knuckleballs than Eephii.

But there are times when you wonder if you’re about to see your last knuckleball. Especially when R.A. Dickey’s manager won’t even let him finish the fifth inning with a big lead. So what happens in Game 4 against the Royals? The Toronto Star’s Rosie DiManno:

For however many innings, though, the knuckler will be dancing solo in front of a humongous TV audience, perhaps even enticing some new fans among the moundsmen fraternity willing to give it a tickle.

“You know, that’s a viable hypothesis,” Dickey said Monday, when the question was put to him about the knuckleball’s future prospects. “I think the more people that see it and are exposed to it, maybe more people will become interested in it.’’

They are down to constituency of two (2), the knuckleball specialists in Major League Baseball — Dickey and Boston’s Steven Wright. “He will probably be the guy that probably takes the baton from me when I leave, much like I took it from Tim when he left. But they’re dwindling. The numbers are dwindling.”

Of course it’s been this way for a while. For a spell, Wakefield was the only major leaguer, and the minors were terribly thin, too. The good news is that Boston’s Wright is only 31, and has pitched well enough, both in the minors and majors, over the last couple of years that he should keep getting chances even in the event of the odd rough patch.

The other good news is that Dickey, while hardly a Cy Young candidate any more — his knuckleball just isn’t angry like it used to be — he’s still a perfectly viable No. 4 starter for a good team. The Blue Jays have a $12 million option for next season, which is actually $11 million because there’s also a $1 million buyout. And Dickey’s worth $11 million, if only because he’s probably going to make 30 starts.

If the Blue Jays don’t bring him back, he’ll still pitch somewhere, unless he’s unwilling to take a pay cut. And he seems like the sort of guy who will pitch as long as someone gives him a uniform.

Here’s hoping, anyway. Because when he’s gone, he will be missed.