While millions of eyes were glued to the highly-hyped debut of young phenom Stephen Strasburg (mine included), the elder statesman of the Red Sox, Tim Wakefield, secured a hard-fought victory and achieved a special milestone in the process. In the 7th inning of Tuesday night’s game, Wake got Russell Branyan to pop-out to Marco Scutaro and officially surpassed Roger Clemens for the most innings pitched by a Red Sox player in the history of the franchise. Wake now sits atop a list that includes the afore mentioned Roger Clemens, Cy Young and Luis Tiant and he is now officially cemented as one of the greatest Red Sox pitchers of all time.
Most of you probably already know about Wake’s career, but it is worth taking a look back at how Tim Wakefield became a staple on the Sox pitching staff. Wake’s path began when he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 8th round in 1988 as a first baseman out of Florida Tech in Melbourne, FL. Wake was the first player ever drafted from his college and set offense school record galore in his tenure on the team.
Being a major leaguer was Wake’s goal, so when a scout told him he would never rise about AA ball as a position player, Wake taught himself to throw a knuckleball and the rest is history. It is crazy to think where Wake would be now if it weren’t for that nay-sayer and it proves that negative criticism can sometimes be the greatest motivation for an athlete. Wake broke into the bigs with the Pirates in July of 1992 and was impressive for the remainder of the season.
In Wake’s first ‘full’ season in 1993, he struggled and was sent back to the minors within the first month. He never really got his rhythm back and was released by the Pirates in 1994. As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and the Sox signed Wake and never looked back. Throughout his career with the Sox, Wake has amassed 1,904 K’s, 177 victories, 25 complete games and 22 saves on top of last night’s innings accomplishment. His numbers place him at the top or near the top of nearly every statistical category in Red Sox pitching history.
All his career accomplishments aside, Wake has always been a top notch clubhouse guy and until this season, has rarely expressed his displeasure or frustration with the organization. Even in one of the most difficult spots this season (being forced to move into the bullpen), Wake was furious, but refused to talk to the media about his frustration for a long period of time. He would dodge questions, because he didn’t want to distract from the team. For a guy in his situation, it was a classy move and something we rarely see in baseball today.
For his sake and ours, I hope Wake can get his season back on track and use Tuesday night’s effort as a leaping point for success. Regardless of whether he is in the rotation or the bullpen, his arm is rare and valuable. A knuckleballer is hard to come by and especially one that can go deep into ball games and eat innings. Congrats on the accomplishment Wake…who knows where the Sox would be without you.