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Buffalo Guys Helping Mets

R.A. Dickey

Dickey bright spot in New York's failing fortunes

If you want to look at the most noticeable difference between the 2009 and 2010 Buffalo Bisons, just take a look at the players who are making it happen at the big league level.

Last year’s Bisons featured a collection of prospects who were clearly not ready for prime time. It showed in the standings at the AAA level, and tuning in to Mets games it was clear that they were getting little or no help from their top farm club.

Fast-forward one year. The Mets are getting plenty of help from their prospects. Meanwhile, the team has been reloading with new acquisitions and call-ups of their own, and that has Buffalo right in the hunt for one of the four available playoff spots come September.

Last week it became clear that knuckleballer R.A. Dickey is not just some flash in the pan. While major leaguers such as Oliver Perez, John Maine, and Luis Castillo have only added to the Mets’ woes, in comes Dickey.

In 17 starts this season since his call-up from the Bisons, Dickey has put up an 8-5 record and a 2.43 ERA. One could argue that he is the best Mets righthander this year. He has faced Washington Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg and San Francisco Giants ace Tim Lincecum and has held his own.

But last week’s one-hit performance against the Philadelphia Phillies was perhaps his masterpiece. Buffalo fans remember that Dickey threw a one-hitter against the Durham Bulls back on April 29. Fans who attended that game saw Dickey surrender a leadoff groundball base hit to the first batter, then retire the next 27 batters in one incredible pitching show.

The New York Mets are still seeking their first no-hitter as a franchise, and this year they have had two shots: Former Bison Jonathon Niese threw a one-hitter earlier this season against the San Diego Padres, and then Dickey last week, which was the 35th one-hitter in Mets history.

Dickey did a lengthy interview with the New York Times last month, in which he spoke of his love for reading and movies and his a philosophical approach to life and pitching. “There’s a real balancing act going on, for everybody in here, of what they can be and what they see themselves as, and what they are in the moment that they’re in,” said Dickey. “There’s a real battle going on. But my doubts about who I am with the pitch and what I think I can become with the pitch have never outweighed my hope.”

The Mets are probably out of the running for the 2010 postseason, but there is real hope for the future in their pitching rotation in terms of Dickey, Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, and Jonathon Niese. Meanwhile, viewers can tune in to SNY for Mets games and see guys like Ike Davis, Josh Thole, and Mike Hessman at the plate in a Mets uniform, and we can proudly say that we saw all those guys live and in person in a Buffalo jersey just a few short months ago.

That, more than anything else, is the difference between the 2010 and the 2009 Buffalo Bisons.

Playoff Update

The Buffalo Bisons have been absolutely on fire these past two weeks, concluding a successful homestand and then taking their winning ways on the road. They managed to get a key road win against division-leading Scranton this past week, but then unfortunately the second game of that series was rained out.

That game will be made up at Scranton on August 28.

Much to the Bisons’ disappointment, the Louisville Bats have also been posting a pile of wins, although they stumbled against their division-leading Columbus Clippers this past weekend.

The Bisons still find themselves three games back of Louisville for the wild card. The only good news is that these two white-hot teams have put some distance between themselves and the other wild card contenders. Teams such as Indianapolis, Syracuse, and Toledo have fallen out of the running for now, making this a two-way race.

“We’re not watching the standings. All we have to do is keep winning and the rest will take care of itself,” said manager Ken Oberkfell before the team left on its most recent road trip last week. “The guys are having fun right now. A pennant chase is fun and we’re making the most of it.”

The team returned home yesterday for a key nine-game homestand against division bottom feeders Pawtucket and Rochester. Saturday will be a doubleheader starting at 5:35pm, the Famous Chicken will be in town to bring his karma, and by the time the team hits the road again after next Wednesday, the Bisons’ playoff destiny should be in clearer focus.

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