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NL starter: The case for Dickey Columnist @RichardJustice
R.A. Dickey has been the National League's best starting pitcher in 2012. Let's begin there in our little discussion about who should start the 83rd All-Star Game on Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium.

Dickey leads the NL in victories, (12), strikeouts (123) and WHIP (0.93). He's second in innings with 120 and third in ERA at 2.40. No other NL starter is in the top three in all five categories.

Dickey is also tied for the NL lead with 14 quality starts. He has been a streak stopper, too, with five of his 12 victories coming after Mets losses.

Although there are no right or wrong answers, Dickey absolutely has earned the privilege of getting the ball from NL manager Tony La Russa on Tuesday.

I'm guessing that's exactly what La Russa will do. If the idea of watching the American League's best hitter flail at Dickey's flutter ball right from the start is fun, you've got a strange idea of fun.

(Memo to Buster Posey: Sorry, buddy. Look at it this way -- years from now you can tell your grandchildren about the experience.) Besides the numbers, there's something impossibly sweet about Dickey making his first All-Star appearance at 37. After 14 years in the Minors. After not spending a full season in the Major Leagues until 2011. After having so many people tell him to think about another line of work.

His story is one of perseverance, pain and, ultimately, celebration. His professional career began 16 years ago, with the Rangers discovering he needed ligament replacement surgery in his right elbow.

He suddenly became a high-risk Draft pick, and his signing bonus was slashed from $810,000 to $75,000. How's that for a beginning? Go get 'em, son.

After Dickey languished in the Minors for almost a decade, Rangers manager Buck Showalter told him the time had come to start over.

Showalter admitted to loving the guy.

"His makeup was off the charts," Showalter said.

But Dickey's stuff was not, and Showalter told him that knuckleball he'd been experimenting with was his only hope.

Dickey debuted it in 2006 and allowed six home runs. He kept working at it, and now he throws one that is unique.

It's harder than any other knuckleball ever thrown, and Dickey has learned to harness it and keep it in the strike zone. It dips and darts and teases, but it has also helped make the Mets one of the surprise teams of this baseball season.

Dickey has handled his sudden fame with grace and with humility, perhaps because he knows how elusive these things can be.

There's no way of knowing how long this ride will last. Dickey has been hit hard in two of his past three starts. Will baseball's most elusive pitch elude the man it has made famous?

Regardless, for four months, no Major League pitcher has been better, and isn't that what the All-Star Game is about? This is Dickey's moment. Enjoy Kansas City, buddy.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.

R.A. Dickey