With apologies to Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz, the recent retirement of Tim Wakefield and (this Thursday) Jason Varitek ushers in the new era of Boston Red Sox Baseball. Truth be told, David Ortiz transcends eras, because he will go down as one of the greatest Red Sox of all time.
That being said, Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek combined for 30+ seasons in Red Sox uniforms, and both have secured their place in Sox history.
Tim Wakefield and Pedro Martinez, back to back in the rotation during Pedro’s first few seasons in Boston, gave me a tutorial in pitching that has stayed with me ever since. Pedro with pitches that approached 100 MPH and Wake with pitches that hit 70 MPH if he was lucky and the wind was at his back. One guy could fool you with blazing speed and location, the other guy fooled you with uncontrolled movement and barely any speed behind it.
Only Doug Mirabelli caught Wakefield more than Jason Varitek, but that’s a testament to Varitek and Wakefield’s lengthy Red Sox tenures more than anything else. Tek caught Wake for just 13 innings in 2011. He didn’t catch Wake in 2010, 2009, 1 inning in 2008, and not before then until 2005 with 21+ innings that garnered Wake an ERA near 9.00.
Tek caught Wakefield on October 16th, 2004 for 3.1 innings where the New York Yankees smashed the Red Sox to a final score of 19-8. Wake had sacrificed his own start the next day to give the bullpen a breather. 2 days later, Tek was in the game when Wakefield threw 3 scoreless innings despite 3 passed balls in the 13th inning of Game 5 of the ALCS.
In a way, the 2004 ALCS with Tek and Wake is a fantastic snapshot into the types of players they were. Wakefield took one for the team in Game 3, and then held the game scoreless two days later. Tek handled 3 passed balls in a single inning, and the Sox came away unscathed.
The above photo is Tek and Wake in Tek’s first start as catcher for the Red Sox on April 2nd, 1998. My guess is we’ll see a retirement version of this sometime during the 2012 season when the team celebrates two players that helped shape an era of a team that became World Series champions…twice!