Wakefield, as in Tim.
When Dan Duquette sign Tim Wakefield to a contract, I wonder what he thought he was getting. Wakefield was the national Darling when he came up to the Pirates in 1992. He had gone 8-1 on the season, and earned MVP honors in that year’s NLCS. He was the talk of the town. The next season? Not so good. He ended up with a 6-11 record, and spent a good portion of the season in the minor leagues. That is where he spent the entire 1004 season, posting a less than mediocre 5-15 record. Clearly, the bloom had come off his rose. Maybe his trick pitch was just a fluke after all. The future was not bright. It was with that background that Duquette signed Wakefield to a minor league contract just after the start of the 1995 season. What did he think Tim would be? A player to fill out the minor league roster? A fill in if the big club needed a spot starter? Was he hoping Tim would develop into a back of the rotation guy? A ace? What was the plan? No matter what the plan was, I’m assuming he didn’t think Tim would go out there in 1995 and lead the team in wins, earned run average, and innings pitched. I’m guessing a third place finish in the Cy Young voting wasn’t on the radar either. Not too shabby.
Of course, the story didn’t end there. Tim Wakefield is still on the team. He’s currently the longest tenured member of the team. He’s moving steadily up the ranks of all-time great Red Sox pitchers. Frankly, the only reason he’s not higher on just about every list is because the Sox keep changing his role. Imagine if he had just been a starter. Or, just a reliever. His career numbers would be even more impressive. As it stands, he’s the Red Sox career leader in games started and innings pitched. (Along with walks and losses…but we’ll ignore that) He’s second in strikeouts and games pitched, and third in wins. Not too shabby for a minor league free agent.
As a fan, I loved going to games where Wakefield was pitching. If I had a tickets to a game and it was a Pedro or Wakefield start, I was a happy camper. Pedro games meant total domination. Wakefield games? They guaranteed getting home at a reasonable time. He pitched like he had a bus to catch. It was fantastic.
My favorite Wakefield memory? There are, obviously, several. But, one has a clear-cut edge. I was able to be at Fenway when he pitched game one of the 2004 World Series. If Pedro couldn’t be on the mound, I couldn’t think of another Sox pitcher who deserved it more. He had certainly earned the right to be on the mound for the first Fenway World Series game in almost 20 years. It was also nice for me, since the day was cold and raw. The wind was blowing, and the drizzle was falling. If there was ever a time for a quick Wakefield game, it was that night. Of course, the game ended up going exactly four hours. Proof that even Wakefield can’t do it alone. But, as I sat there shivering, it was certainly comforting to see him toe the rubber in the first. It still annoys me that he couldn’t come away with the victory in a back and forth battle. But, I guess I can’t have everything.
So, as we approach the end of Tim Wakefield’s time with the Red Sox, he deserves a look back. He’s seen it all in Boston. And, we should all thank him for it.
W is for Wakefield, Tim.