This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
In the winter of 2003, there was not a lot of happiness for this Red Sox fan. Not only had the Red Sox been ousted from postseason play by the New York Yankees, but it was also at the end of a hard fought 7 game series that culminated with a home run off the bat of Aaron F. Boone. Nobody could have predicted sweet revenge only a year later! During the winter of 2003, it truly was difficult to find anything related to the Red Sox that provided some light at the end of the dark tunnel known as the off-season.
There was a slight concern that somehow Tim Wakefield would become the next Buckner, a unfortunate and unfair target for the teams failures as his image is replayed every single October regardless of whether or not the Red Sox are even playing.
To show my support for one of the steadiest arms in Red Sox history, I organized a ‘Tim Wakefield Appreciation Party’ and invited everyone. Food and drink may have really attracted the masses, but it was impossible to ignore the various Wakefield photos plastered along the walls. There were a few confused visitors wondering why Wakefield was prominently displayed rather than guys like Nomar, Pedro, or even Johnny Damon. The truth was, there was no way those guys would’ve(at the time, anyway) been subjected to any sort of blame.
While it turned out Wakefield received rousing support from Sox fans at the beginning of the 2004 season and beyond, there has always been a divide between supporters of Wakefield and those who believe it’s time to move on. With the unpredictability of the knuckleball, it is possible for Tim Wakefield to throw a complete game shutout one day and give up eight runs five days later. As the years have gone on, Wakefield’s fluttering pitch has even alternated between good innings and bad innings. You only have to look at his most recent start to see exactly what Wakefield provides.
You won’t find a W, or even an L next to Wakefield’s name in the box score from his July 3rd start, but you will find another important number. 8. Following an 11 inning victory over the Baltimore Orioles, the Red Sox needed their starting pitcher to go deep into the game. Wakefield kept the Mariners off the board for the first two innings before letting up a run in the third and three more in the fourth. Normally, if a starting pitcher gives up four runs before completing the 5th inning, you would expect the bullpen to be working early. This is not the case with Wakefield, as he cruised through the Seattle lineup during the middle innings. An 8th inning home run and double didn’t deter Wakefield until he handed off to the bullpen in the 9th.
Another reason Wakefield’s last start was significant is because it was the 383rd start for Tim Wakefield in a Boston Red Sox uniform. He has made more starts for the team than Pedro Martinez, Bruce Hurst, Luis Tiant, Mel Parnell, Cy Young and the former leader Roger Clemens. Wakefield’s career has overlapped several eras of baseball in Boston. From Mo Vaughn and Roger Clemens to Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez to Dustin Pedroia and Josh Beckett.
On the 5th of July, after years of playing alongside All-Star players, Tim Wakefield was selected to the 2009 American League All-Star team. With 10 wins already this season, and the arguable fact that Wakefield has been the team MVP on the 2009 pitching staff, the selection seems appropriate. For Tim Wakefield and Red Sox fans everywhere, this is a long time coming. I know I can’t wait to see Tim Wakefield in a #49 American League jersey.