NEW YORK -- On a night when he was formally announced as one of three finalists for the National League Cy Young Award, Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey was honored Wednesday at the 18th annual Lou Gehrig Sports Awards benefit dinner that raised more than $800,000 for the ALS Association's Greater New York chapter.
"Just to be mentioned in the same sentence as Lou Gehrig is a real honor in itself," Dickey said. "What it represents tonight transcends statistics or metrics, it's much more about the spirit of what Lou Gehrig represented -- his perseverance. That's what the honorees tonight are here for -- to carry on the torch of persevering and enduring. Much of those qualities are what it's going to take to beat this disease, so it's nice to be a part of it."
The 20-game winner and 2012 NL strikeout leader was honored, along with former Mets teammate Jose Reyes (now with the Marlins) and former tennis player and Emmy Award-winning broadcast commentator Mary Carillo.
Dickey beat the latest storm in New York by flying in from Nashville on a 5:45 a.m. flight, after a flight two hours later had been canceled. He said before the dinner that "there has been some progress" on discussions about a contract extension with the Mets, and he said winning the Cy Young -- the winner between finalists Dickey, Gio Gonzalez of the Nationals and Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers to revealed next Wednesday on MLB Network -- would be meaningful, not only to himself, but also to teammates and the club.
"We just really started talking about it. I'm hopeful," Dickey said of contract talks. "I love being a Met, I want to be a Met, and hopefully we can work something out. There's not a whole heckuva lot to report, but there is progress."
Players generally like to get such matters resolved before the next season begins, and Dickey said he is no exception.
"I've voiced that," he said. "It can become a distraction. I know this year I was trying to work something out and it became a little too much for me at times. I just would rather focus on the season at hand, and being so close to free agency at that point, it doesn't make a lot of sense if you could do something in the offseason, that you would work on it during the season."
Dickey said he was surprised by the announcement earlier in the day that the Mets and Jason Bay had decided to part ways. Might that free up some financial resources to make his extension an easier matter to accomplish?
"It may. I have no idea," he said. "I wouldn't know where to begin on that, because I don't know what they're thinking, as far as the money they may have freed up. They may want to go out and get another outfielder, or make a splash in the free-agent market where otherwise we wouldn't be able to. Whatever makes our team better is what I hope happens, that's for sure.
"I think Sandy [Alderson, GM] has a very intentional plan, that he's been disciplined in trying to implement, and hopefully the pieces fall in place and we're competitive really quickly. We also have a lot of money coming off the books in '14, so that'll play a part, too."
Dickey said he has been trying not to think about the Cy Young matter. But he wants it. During the dinner, presenter Bob Costas prefaced his introduction of Dickey by noting that he would vote for Dickey had broadcasters been given this right to vote.
"It would put a silver lining on an otherwise sad season," Dickey said. "That's one. Two is it's something fantastic to celebrate with the fan base. I tell you what, I've never had an experience like I did in the final three or four games this year, with people coming to the park and the show of support. To be able to almost as a gift give that back to those guys would be a real treat for me. It would mean a lot to the Mets organization, too.
"So there's a lot at stake, and what kid doesn't want to win a Cy Young, right? So I'm hopeful we'll get a shot at it."
As for his chances, he added: "I don't really know, because I don't know the minds of the people who vote. As long as I don't know that, it would be tough for me to speculate on my chances, because everyone has different criteria, it seems. I'm one of three. I've got a 33-percent shot."
Does he have a goal for 2013 after that spectacular season?
"Yeah, don't try to win 20 games. That's my goal," he said. "If you try to do that, things can crumble. That sounds kind of bizarre, but I'm not going to treat any game any differently than I treated any game this year, or in 2011 or in 2010, and hopefully it'll end up in the same place. But I'm not really into setting lofty goals like that. I just want it to be what it's going to be, because I've poured in heart and done the things I've wanted to do, as far as preparation and execution."
Last offseason, Dickey climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro as part of an effort to bring attention to the Bombay Teen Challenge, which helps girls in need in India. He said that cause will pull him across the country this offseason as well.
"Just as a followup to that trip, I'm planning a trip to India with my girls, to serve with the outreach that we helped support with the Bombay Teen Challenge," he said. "We're going to be working with some of the girls who have been rescued. I think my girls are going to be teaching them to make friendship bracelets, and I'll be working in a clinic and hopefully we're going to be able to treat some of the girls who were rescued."