The True Legacies of R.A. Dickey and Josh Thole

TORONTO – The good, the bad, the ugly, and the great.

That’s how Josh Thole described his time in Toronto over the past four years. It was a fitting description for the tumultuous times he and batterymate R.A. Dickey shared while in a Blue Jays uniform.

The duo entered their time in Toronto with a precipitous amount of fanfare and expectations thanks in large part to Dickey entering as the reigning NL Cy Young winner. They had a lot of ups and downs in the middle, and things ended quietly as they watched their teammates perform in the postseason without them.

Yet over those four years the landscape of Toronto Blue Jays baseball altered drastically; blue once again became a dominant colour on the uniform, Blue Jays fever swept the nation, an MVP became a household name, attendance skyrocketed and so did the wins. Both of those men were at the heart of it all.

Dickey started 130 games for the Jays over that stretch and threw 824 innings, and Thole played in 170 games, most of which came with Dickey on the mound. At this juncture, with their Toronto careers almost certainly over, their stats are a moot point. But what you’d find is a slightly above average innings-eater pitcher and a below average specialty catcher, the combination of which got a lot of scorn from Blue Jays fans and active social media users. But what fans also got were two trips to the postseason with two legitimate chances to advance to the World Series that fell just short.

“I take away in particular the last two years,” Dickey said reminiscing about his time in Toronto. “I mean, some of us have been together for four years so we have seen the process of how this thing has happened and getting to be in the playoffs in two of the last four years is a pretty remarkable feat in this day and age with how good these teams are.

“To be 50 percent of the time we go to the League Championship Series, that’s pretty good. Of course, you’re not satisfied, but it’s certainly a hard thing to do, so I really appreciate that.”

With the club achieving heights it hadn’t even sniffed in 21 years, the team’s success is the greatest argument for the duo despite what their personal stats might ultimately suggest. Even with neither making the 2016 postseason roster, without their accomplishments in the regular season the team simply doesn’t get to play beyond game 162 in either of the past two seasons.

“To be 50 percent of the time we go to the League Championship Series, that’s pretty good. Of course, you’re not satisfied, but it’s certainly a hard thing to do, so I really appreciate that.” – R.A. Dickey

However, the battery’s on-field performance is secondary to what their presence really meant to the Jays. Acquired from the New York Mets on December 17, 2012 by then-general manager Alex Anthopoulos for two elite prospects, Dickey and Thole were part of drastic shift in philosophy that aimed towards winning now. That move, along with the blockbuster Miami Marlins trade a month prior, influenced Blue Jays baseball more than any other and led directly to where the club stands today.

The first season with Dickey as the team’s presumptuous ace was underwhelming on the field, with the club finishing last in its division and with only a solitary win above than the previous year’s total. What paved the greatest dividends towards the win-now mode wasn’t the on-field product so much as attendance and a growing TV audience. Thanks in large part to the pre-season hype from those two trades, the Rogers Centre eclipsed 2.5 million paying fans in 2013 for the first time since 1997.

In the four years that Dickey and Thole were in Toronto the Jays averaged over 34,256 fans in attendance for home games, over 11,000 more per night than the average attendance in the four years prior to their arrival. In addition, this past season saw the team set a new record with over one million people per game tuning in to Blue Jays baseball on television.

With attendance at an unprecedented high for modern Rogers Centre times, and a surplus of money flowing in, Anthopoulos was allowed to stay aggressive on the trade market to keep the team competitive. Russell Martin, Josh Donaldson, Devon Travis, David Price, and Troy Tulowtizki followed, with today’s core of the club forming in large part because Anthopoulos was allowed to shed prospects for win-now talent – Something that wouldn’t have happened in the same aggressive and bold manner had the off-season of 2012 never happened.

Ultimately, those moves in the 2012 off-season precipitated the moves that followed, leading to the two most compelling seasons in recent Jays history.

“Special,” said Thole about his time in a Jays uniform over the last four years after being eliminated from the postseason by Cleveland in Game 5 of the ALCS. “Been through the good, the bad, the ugly, and the great. These last two years have been something you dream of. I’m not even on the playoff roster, but just to be part of it all season, it’s unbelievable.”

Now that their tenure in Toronto is likely over, and after experiencing two deep postseason runs with the Jays and a Cy Young campaign with the Mets, the ever intertwined duo are most likely headed for very different futures after seven years as batterymates that included 164 games together.

“Been through the good, the bad, the ugly, and the great. These last two years have been something you dream of.” – Josh Thole

“I mean, seven years together. Who knows what’s going to happen,” Thole said about their future. “He’s getting towards the end here. So, who knows. Who knows what’s going to happen. It’s unbelievable. Again, it’s something that you never dream of and it’s happened. I’ve been, you’re right, attached to him.”

“It’s hard to imagine a team without him because I’ve been with him seven years now,” Dickey said of Thole. “I consider him a friend before anything.

“He’s caught more of my starts than anyone in my whole career. I would venture to say he’s caught more of my starts than any catcher has caught somebody’s starts anywhere, regardless if they’re a knuckleballer or not. So, it’s been a special bond that we’ve had. We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs together. It’s been fun. I’ll miss it if it doesn’t continue.”

Without each other it’s unclear if there’s a place for them in Major League Baseball. One thing’s for sure though, the last two magical runs to the postseason don’t happen without them or the trade that preceded their arrival. Their on field performance may not have had the impact anyone envisioned when they were acquired, but their impact off the field and on management is unmistakable.

For that alone Jays fans should be thankful.

Lead Photo: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

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3 comments on “The True Legacies of R.A. Dickey and Josh Thole”


First, let me just say that I agree with the underlying premise that R.A. Dickey and Josh Thole were important to the Jays’ success. That being said, the argument being made for them here is a bit of a stretch. There’s a difference between correlation and causation.

Yes, both players were part of the four years in which the landscape of Blue Jays baseball altered drastically. So were Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. Heck, in the two seasons they made the ALCS, they had pitchers like Marcus Stroman and Marco Estrada. Dickey and Thole may have kicked off the process, but with the logic employed above, one could argue that Stroman and Estrada actually got the Jays into the playoffs!

If we’re talking about the blockbuster trades that were part of the “win now” mentality, then why leave out Mark Buerhle? He was with the team for most of the same stretch as well, but performed better. Don’t forget Josh Johnson! He was also part of the hype that started to attract more audiences…he just didn’t play up to it.

“One thing’s for sure though, the last two magical runs to the postseason don’t happen without them or the trade that preceded their arrival.”
No, that’s not a sure thing whatsoever. It’s purely hypothetical and highly presumptuous.

Dickey and Thole helped; no doubt about that, but their importance is a bit overstated here. It’s far-fetched to suggest that they were pivotal simply because they were the first pieces acquired as part of the “win-now” mentality. Are we honestly to believe that Dickey was better at drawing an audience than Josh Donaldson has? Did the “presence” of Thole really matter more than the presence of, say, Russell Martin? If we’re seriously evaluating a player’s off-field performance as well, then are they really better than Troy Tulowitzki?

I’m grateful for their contributions, but of course I am. What player who can remain at the Major League level isn’t an important contributor to their team in some way on and/or off the field?

Evan Peaslee

Thanks for caring so much Kenii and for a well thought out argument.

There’s a lot of arguments to be made about what propelled them into the postseason the past two seasons. I’m not inferring that Dickey or Thole are chief among them, although I believe their contributions, in particular Dickey, played a pivotal and understated role with the club that was a key cog in a starting rotation that was ultimately the best in the AL.

What I am saying, however, is that without the hype behind those trades in the 2012 off-season (Buehrle included) and the massive swing in attendance and TV numbers the corresponding moves that have formed the present day Blue Jays core doesn’t take place. And although Dickey and Thole underperformed to the expectations of them from the trade to Toronto, their off-field impact far outweighs their personal on-field accomplishments.


Most fans I know set their expectations for Dickey optimistically, thinking / hoping he’d produce numbers like his 2010-2012 self despite moving not only from the NL to the AL, but to the AL East with its hitter-friendly parks and power-laden teams. I’ve always wondered what the Jays expected.

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