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The Globe and Mail

For R.A. Dickey, Cy Young Award was both a blessing and a curse

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher R.A. Dickey throws to the Baltimore Orioles in the fifth inning of a baseball game in Baltimore, Saturday, June 18, 2016.

Patrick Semansky/AP

The 2012 season was a magical one for R.A. Dickey when he was employed by the New York Mets.

Game in and game out, he managed to harness the unpredictable nature of the knuckleball and for one season was a phenom on the mound.

Having never posted more than 11 wins in one season, Dickey emerged from the darkness to go 20-6 for a sub-.500 outfit.

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He had a solid 2.73 earned-run average and led the National League in strikeouts (230), innings pitched (233.7) and complete games (five).

And for all that, at 37, he was given the Cy Young Award as the N.L.'s top pitcher.

After the season was over, Dickey went to the Toronto Blue Jays in a massive seven-player trade.

And for the next four years in Canada he reverted to his past form – never great but usually serviceable, taking the ball every fifth day and running with it.

He was a workhorse, somebody who could be counted on to deliver 200 innings over the course of the season – but a .500 pitcher at best.

It was something many Blue Jays fans could never come to grips with, always holding him to that Cy Young standard he set in 2012.

So when he couldn't replicate the numbers, there was much grousing at the bar.

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"It's a blessing and a curse," Dickey said Monday when asked about the fallout from winning the award. "The best thing I ever did in my career was win a Cy Young. That could have been the worst thing I ever did, too.

"You're always held against that mantle, especially when you're traded after a year like that."

Dickey has moved on – again. After his contract ran out in Toronto at the end of last season, he became a free agent and negotiated a soft landing by inking a one-year deal worth $7.5-million (U.S.) with the Atlanta Braves.

He was in town as the Braves began a two-game interleague set against the surging Blue Jays Monday night at Rogers Centre.

After that, the teams will pick it up again for two more in Atlanta beginning Wednesday.

Dickey pitched on Sunday in Miami and as a result will not have the opportunity to lock horns with his old team in any of the four games. "I would have considered it a fun experience to get to do it," he said.

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Dickey is having another typical Dickey season in Atlanta.

He is 3-3 in seven starts with a 4.22 ERA. He went seven innings Sunday against the Marlins, giving up a three-run home run to Tyler Moore in the seventh in a 3-1 Miami win.

Another reason why the four-year Dickey run in Toronto was not really embraced by all was the player the Blue Jays had to surrender to the Mets to secure his services.

Although it was a seven-player swap, it is Noah Syndergaard that most Toronto fans will remember going the opposite way.

Syndergaard was a highly regarded pitcher in the Blue Jays minor-league system at the time and did not make his major-league debut with the Mets until 2015, two years after the deal went down. He is now considered one of the game's top young pitchers at 24.

"I can certainly empathize with one who would think the Mets got the better part of the trade," Dickey said candidly.

But he added there is more than one way to look at a deal.

"I get asked a lot: 'Do I think it was unfair to be judged the way that I was in my experience here?'" he said. "I don't think it's unfair. On paper, when you give up a guy like Syndergaard, you're hoping for a big return for sure.

"And in my mind, I feel like there's an argument that the first two years I was on this team in Toronto, Noah wasn't even in the big leagues. So I had already accumulated over 400 innings before he even had an inning in the big leagues with the Mets. So that was worth something."

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