It was a milestone weekend for the Boston Red Sox. On Saturday, manager Terry Francona earned his 1,000th career win while on Sunday, en route to their sweep of the struggling Mariners, the Sox celebrated another feat as pitcher Tim Wakefield picked up his 2,000th strikeout in a Boston uniform, fanning Mike Carp. In the process, Wakefield also picked up his 199th career win.
Tim Wakefield began his Major League career in 1992 when his then-team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, came just one out shy of a trip to the World Series. Wakefield would remain in Pittsburgh the following season before being demoted to Triple A during the strike-shortened season of 1994.
Six days after being released by the Pirates in April 1995, the Red Sox signed Wakefield where he worked with Phil and Joe Niekro (two former Major League knuckleballers) who encouraged the then-28-year-old to use his knuckleball as an out pitch. That decision may not have necessarily brought Wakefield success all the time but it certainly brought him longevity as the movement of the pitch keeps his arm both youthful and in tact, despite turning 45 next week.
Wakefield wasted little time proving himself to his new team as he began the season with a stellar 14-1 record with a 1.65 ERA. He immediately become part of a dangerous pitching trio that consisted of him, Aaron Sele and some guy named Roger Clemens. At the conclusion of the 1995 season, Wakefield would finish third in American League Cy Young voting.
In his seventeenth year in Beantown, the native of Melbourne, Florida is showing no signs of slowing down despite his age. Since the day he signed with the Red Sox, Wakefield has shown everyone that he is the consummate professional. If management wanted him to be a part of the starting rotation, he would do it but, more importantly, if they asked Wakefield to go to the bullpen instead, there would be no complaining or tantrums thrown as Tim Wakefield would take the task he is given and go about his business quietly.
Following the 2003 ALCS, Wakefield was given the dubious distinction of being the pitcher who surrendered the series-winning home run to the unsung hero Aaron Boone of the hated Yankees. Wakefield didn't have to suffer too long as he was an introcal part of Boston's historic World Series win the following October and again three years later.
Tim Wakefield is currently 7th on the all-time wins list among knuckleball pitchers and only needs ten more victories to pass the next on the list, Eddie Ciccote (who, unfortunately, is most famous for his involvement in the infamous Black Sox scandal of 1919). While there is an outside for Wakefield to catch Ciccote, Jesse Haines and even Charlie Hough on that list, it is very unlikely that he will catcher the aforementioned Phil Niekro, who leads the pack with 318 Ws.
Nonethless, when Wakefield does decide to retire (whenever that will be), he should strongly be considered for entry into Cooperstown. You may call me bias for thinking that way and, in a way, I am. However, something has to be said for not only sticking around this long but for being effective for this long. He may not be the razzle-dazzle type of pitcher that Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson or the aforementioned Roger Clemens were but that can't take away from the numbers he's put up, what he means to his team on a regular basis and the attitude he's maintained over the years that would make any employer writhing with jealousy.
Congratulations to Tim Wakefield on his accomplishment. He should be as proud as the Boston Red Sox and their fans are. It's hard to argue that such an achievement should go to a more deserving player.