When looking back on the success of the Red Sox over the past years, names like Ortiz, Beckett, Lester, and Manny come to mind. Each of these players contributed great amounts to championships in '04 and '07. But when I think of the heart and soul of the Sox championships, the first name that comes to mind is: Tim Wakefield. The knuckleballer has been overlooked for years, quietly adding on more great stats to a stellar career. Chalk Timmy down for double digit wins each year, as his career wins average is 13 a year. In 19 years, Wakefield has had double-digit season wins in 12 of those years. He's won 183 games with the Sox, and another stellar year this year has him on pace to easily pass 200 wins. Off the field, Wakefield has been nominated for the Roberto Clemente Award, an award that is given to the player that best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community, and the individuals contribution to his team, 8 times, winning in 2010.
For a while, when I was little, I didn't like Wakefield. As a young kid, if you don't throw fast or hit hard, you're not going to be popular. Here was this old man who pitched 60 miles an hour, didn't show any emotion, and was not particularly fun to watch. Then, when Aaron Boone took him deep in Game 7 of the '03 ALCS, I thought I could never forgive him. But the anger never came. Wakefield took one for the team, something you don't see very often in major leauge players these days. Then, in '04, when he got mopped around Fenway Park by the Yankees in Game 3 of the ALCS, he could have easily been taken out in the 3rd inning, but he didn't. He stayed in the game, taking his lumps, saving the bullpen for Game 4. We all know what happened next.
He may not throw heat, or win 20 games, or strike-out 20 batters in a game, but Tim Wakefield is a great pitcher. His longevity, a rare commodity in the days of 106 mph fastballs, is invaluable. His consistency for the past 20 years has truly been a gift for the Red Sox, and somewhat undeserving for many of the fans, like myself, who haven't always appreciated what he's done for this organization. He's been a top of the line starter, reliable middle-inning reliever, and a shut down closer, all in one fantastic, underrated career. Maybe not a future HOF-er, Wakefield will always be known as the heart and soul of the Red Sox team that finally brought titles back to Beantown.