Friday, February 17, 2012
Thanks For The Memories Wake, You Were Truly One Of A Kind On And Off The Field
Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield will retire today, ending one of the most improbable careers in franchise and baseball history.
Wake played in MLB for 17 years, including the last 15 in Boston. He pitched in virtually every role: starter, closer, set-up man, long relief, mop up duty and was one of the most selfless players in a game full of guys obsessed with their own personal statistics.
Major League Baseball's oldest player at 45, Wakefield leaves the Red Sox with 186 wins, six shy of the franchise mark held by Cy Young and Roger Clemens. Wakefield notched his 200th win last season although that turned out to be a footnote in a brutal team-wide choke in September.
Since his primary pitch was a knuckleball, Wakefield was always treated as a sort of sideshow or oddity but his career totals proved his durability and a legacy that will probably never be matched by another pitcher (of any style) for the Red Sox.
His last season, 2011, was far from his best as he went 7-8 with a 5.12 ERA in 23 starts. He has a career record of 200-180 with a 4.41 ERA and 2156 strikeouts. He was drafted in 1988 by the Pittsburgh Pirates as a first baseman. Wake couldn't get out of the minors as a hitter so he learned how to throw a knuckleball and the rest is history (check out the million books about him).
For the Pirates in 1992, he went 8-1 with a 2.15 ERA and won two starts in the NLCS after getting called up earlier that season. He couldn't keep it up though and he was eventually released by Pittsburgh in 1995. The Red Sox signed him that year and he went 16-8 with a 2.95 ERA as Boston won the AL East.
He won 17 games in 1998 then filled in as closer in 1999 and picked up 15 saves. From 2003-08 he made at least 30 starts every season, winning 12 games for the Red Sox in 2004 (first World Series championship in 86 years) and he won 17 in 2007 when they captured another title.
Wakefield's 17 years in Boston are surpassed only by Carl Yastrzemski (23), Ted Williams (19) and Dwight Evans (19). For the Red Sox, he's third all-time in wins, first in appearances (590), starts (430) and innings pitched (3006) and second in strikeouts (2046).
Most of all, I'll remember Wakefield as a regular guy in a sport filled with the most douchebags and completely unlikable people. He never complained (well until the end), he was a consummate professional and teammate which means that he could have a promising career in broadcasting, coaching or with the Red Sox in some fashion. Basically, Wake can do whatever he wants for the rest of his life and why not, he deserves it. He's one of the easiest players to root for in my lifetime.