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Monday, March 28, 2011

Stay away from Timmy with that axe!

Ever since CHB posted his mother-of-all-fish-wrapper post last week about his interview with Tim Wakefield, there has been no shortage of writers chiming in on this topic:

Luke Adams of MLB Trade Rumors
NBC Hardball TalkLuke Adams (again)
Zach Links of MLB Trade Rumors
Boston Herald

Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com

Gordon Edes of ESPN wrote: "Veteran Tim Wakefield is on the bubble, according to the source, and might be available for left-handed relief help."

One Red Sox official has called the ESPNBoston story "false." According to Edes his source was describing scenarios he'd been told by another Sox official. GM Theo Epstein also disputed the report, writes John Tomase of the Boston Herald.

Edes was forced to revisit his post and do some explaining:
"I'm not suggesting the Red Sox are trying to peddle off any of these guys," Edes said, "but of course they're going to listen on any of these guys."

Apparently, the Red Sox official wasn't saying that Wakefield is on the trading block, just that he is one of several players that the Red Sox could make available were there any teams to make an inquiry. To date, no other team has been found to make an inquiry.

Wakefield's future could well depend on whether the Red Sox keep one or two left-handers in the bullpen. Manager Terry Francona has always expressed a preference for two, but usually qualifies that by saying it's not essential if he has a righty who is effective in getting lefties out.

Club sources told Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com that Wakefield’s spot in the bullpen is safe.

Let's get this over for once and all. Yes, Baseball is a business, sentiment all but thrown off the top of the Green Monster left to crash like a homer hit over the wall that landed in the window of an unsuspecting vehicle parked behind it. It's unfortunate that in lean times payroll is the 1st account that gets attacked in order to stay afloat. Yet many 'businesses' donate money to charities, work pro bono, strive to be one of the 'Top 100 companies to work for', and become involved in their communities in order to become a respected model of a well run company and an asset to the community. All of these work related scenarios cost the company money on a spreadsheet, but they also raise the value of the company in ways that aren't measured in the trial balance. I'm not suggesting that Wakefield is a charity, far from it. What I am suggesting is that some expenses that cost money in the short term may reap awards in the future not seen in the expense that is incurred today. The money that the Red Sox don't pay him can be used to pay other desired players. (If the Cardinals blink and pay Pujols the $300 bazillion dollars he wants, they will not have any money left for the rest of the team. I doubt Pujols could play all 9 positions at the same time.)

Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan all pitched successfully in MLB after reaching 45 years of age. Tim Wakefield is only 44 years old. I don't write this to suggest that Wakefield is a similar pitcher, he is not. While those fireballers were throwing 100 or more pitches a game at over 90 mph, Wake has been throwing the same number of pitches but at 69 mph. That's a lot less wear and tear he's been putting on that arm. Wakefield stands in the company of Hoyt Wilhelm (49), Phil Niekro (48), and Charlie Hough (46), all long lasting, slow pitch, low wear and tear, knuckleballers.

Wakefield will never pitch for any other MLB team. The Red Sox and all of MLB knows this. Why that Red Sox official chose to include his name in that list is beyond me. I am left wondering why Edes even took the comment at face value without prying more. No other team will have him (which is no slight to Wakefield), as they would have to find a catcher who could catch him. 

Wakefield is not chewing up a slot on the roster. In his 16 seasons with the Red Sox, he has passed 140 IP in all but 1 season. He has averaged 177 innings of work over those 16 seasons. Any time you have a pitcher who is capable of throwing more than 200 innings a season (5 times) and earn less than $2 million (and only $4 million for several years before), you've got a keeper there. 

Some may point to his sub-par numbers from last season. Just as other players have distractions that affect their game (divorce, family illness, injuries, natural disasters, etc.) so did Wake experience a distraction last year. He went into Spring Training last year expecting to be in the starting rotation. After several seasons as a solid starter, being sent to the bullpen was indeed a big distraction for him and affected his performance accordingly. Spring Training 2011 sees Wake arriving knowing ahead what his role this year will be.

Some will point to the fact that Francona has not named the relievers yet is a sign that the end is nigh for him. When asked about the final spots on the bullpen roster, he made it clear why he's not naming them. It's not because Wake is at risk of losing his job, it's to spare the misery to the rest of the guys trying for one of those final spots.'' Francona said:
"I wouldn't do that to these guys. They have a stressful couple of weeks ahead of them. I'm not going to make it worse."
The knuckleball is a fickle pitch. A knuckleballer can get into a groove and pitch 5 solid games and all of a sudden throw a stinker with no apparent reason. The knuckleball can throw batters off for the whole of a 3 or 4 game series. But there will be occasional days when there is no keeping the ball in the park. Then there is the recurring mystery of Wake pitching a gem and still losing too many times due to lack of run support.

Lastly, there is the fact that the Red Sox are close to thin ice in the rotation department. Aceves and Doubront have been named as possible 6th starters if AND when one of the 1st 5 sustain an injury. The safe route this early in the season is to send Aceves and Doubront in Pawtucket for now.One of those 5 starters will need an unexpected day off or will sustain an injury sending him to the DL, you can bank on that. Wakefield provides that safety cushion. Besides the spot starter role, he also will pitch long relief and mop-up duty saving the other arms for another day. And should Wake falter, he'll know better than any of us when to call it quits,

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