Nice Guy Wakefield Finally an All-Star


Jul 10, 2009

Well, it’s about time.

Tim Wakefield has a career that goes back to 1992, 1995 with the Red Sox, which makes him far and away the club’s elder statesman. He’s been through five managers, two ownership groups and countless teammates. And through it all, Wake has just kept throwing the knuckleball every fifth day like it’s … well, like it’s his job.

General manager Theo Epstein even traded away (and then reacquired and then let go again) Wakefield’s personal catcher, Doug Mirabelli, and we did not hear a peep of complaint from Wakefield. Not one word.

If he has had disagreements or issues — with ownership, management or teammates — he’s kept them out of the media and dealt with everything in the most professional way possible. You’ve never read about Wakefield refusing to take the mound because he was in the middle of an Xbox tournament with Jonathan Papelbon. He’s never shown up to spring training looking like he ate his former self or with three starlets in tow. He’s never bad-mouthed ownership in the media, he’s never blamed anyone for rain delays. And he’s never demanded to be traded, then rescinded said demand, then demanded it again, then no, wait, never mind.

For all we know, he’s expressed his displeasure — if it ever existed — in other ways. Maybe he didn’t make his usual oatmeal raisin cookies for the team bus ride to the airport for away games. Or maybe he put Splenda instead of sugar in Theo’s coffee, even though he knows he likes real sugar. Maybe a slightly aggressive noogie for Dustin Pedroia here or there. But aside from those possibilities, Wakefield has been nothing but a model citizen, teammate and role model.

Even when the team goes through maddening phases of essentially refusing to score runs for him — as though they’ve been issued some kind of internal memo from the front office offering candy to the player who manages to hit into the most double plays during a Wakefield start — he just quietly sighs and goes about his business of pitching.

And in 2003, when Grady Little put Wakefield into Game 7 of the ALCS against the Yankees and Wake had the misfortune of pitching in a sudden-death situation and serving up the home run ball to Aaron Boone? Poor Wakefield was terrified that he’d never be allowed to return to Boston. He though that he’d let us down somehow, not realizing that we all knew that had the series turned the other way, Wakefield would have been the hands-down MVP. Instead, he was feted as a returning hero and likely won’t ever have to buy a drink in this town again. Tim Wakefield has never let us down.

So it stands to reason that in this, his 15th season with the Red Sox and with an American League-leading 11 wins, Wakefield earns his first All-Star selection. And I can’t think of a more deserving guy.

The All-Star nod is especially gratifying to Wake given the myriad causes for frustration he’s surely felt over his 15 years in Boston. We’re crazy around here, no one denies that. But through it all, Wakefield has remained unassuming, steadfast and generous. He is the Red Sox’ perpetual nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, awarded to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.” Yet you always get the impression that Wake would play for free, with no cameras around.

Of course, being so quiet and so willing to simply go about his business, Wakefield often gets lost among the more, ahem, commanding personalities of his teammates. It’s hard to outshine David Ortiz’s smile or out-scrap Pedroia’s Napoleon complex. And Papelbon never fails to deliver up a fresh plate of crazy. To say nothing of the fact that Wakefield has shared a locker room and a playing field with such notable personalities as Manny Ramirez, Carl Everett, Jose Canseco, Rickey Henderson, David Wells, Julian Tavarez and Kevin Millar. Not to mention sharing a bullpen with Dennis Eckersley’s coiffure. The shenanigans Wakefield has likely seen over the years would send a lesser man off the deep end.

And yet, somehow, through it all, Wakefield has managed to keep his wits about him and do his job every fifth day, without fail. Though, on a side note, one does suspect that when he shared a clubhouse with the similarly affable Dave Roberts and Sean Casey, someone was always late getting to the team bus because there were endless rounds of “You first,” “No you,” “No, I insist,” et cetera, et cetera.

When the Red Sox named catcher Jason Varitek the team’s captain in 2004, everyone understood why. Varitek, now a 13-year veteran himself and the anchor of a constantly changing pitching staff, surely provides the team with a steady hand in rough waters. But the same could be said of Wakefield. The reasoning behind naming your catcher as captain is sound in that the catcher is the on-field general and is present for every (or almost every) game. But there are few people who would have argued with the selection of Wakefield. Such a consideration speaks volumes about a guy’s character. As does the fact that he once witnessed Epstein sneaking out of Fenway Park in a gorilla suit and it didn’t send him straight to the loony bin. Such fortitude most of us can only imagine.

So we’re proud of Wakefield around here. In part, we feel like we made him who he is simply because he’s managed to put up with us for so long. He’s like a beloved uncle, whom you’re always glad to see and for whom you only want the best.

So thanks, Wake. Thanks for everything. Thanks for signing that “lifetime contract” with the Sox a few years back ensuring that you’re likely going to outlive all of us, so long as the knuckler keeps knuckling. And congratulations on your All-Star nod. You deserve it.

Previous Article

London’s Calling? Hopefully Not for a Super Bowl

Next Article

Beckett Masterful in Final Game Before Break

Picked For You