Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tim Wakefield, Hingham Jewelers and the 2011 Red Sox

Tim Wakefield is back in our lives!  Whether he's toeing the rubber at the beginning of a game, part of an emptying of the bullpen in an 11-1 blowout, or on the disabled list, Tim Wakefield shows up on our NESN broadcasts approximately 6 times a night during the season.  "Not your average jewelry store!" owner Stacey Page yelps while Wakefield holds up his two World Series Rings, reminding us that he is Tim Wakefield and we are not.  I can just imagine the dinner conversations at Black Rock Country Club when Page and Wakefield cook up their next line of commercials for Hingham Jewelry.  ("No Stacey, this time YOU wear the rings and I'll wear a ski mask!"  "Oh too soon?  Never mind then.")  Unfortunately, Wakefield had as much to do with those World Series victories (17 earned runs in 15 2/3 innings combined in the 2004 and 2007 postseasons) as he did selling that jewelry.  But that's beside the point.  The Red Sox are back.

Here comes the heat!                            courtesy of
Last year, I proclaimed that Boof Bonser was going to be the key to the Red Sox 2010 season.  Seriously, what the Hell was I thinking when I wrote that?  I sincerely believed that Bonser was going to be the 6th starter and Wakefield was going to be a part of the rotation.  I had no idea that Buchholz was going to have his breakout year.  But this year, Mr. Hingham Jewelry is the key to the Red Sox 2011 Season.  I know, I could have picked Beckett (or as Twitter followers call him BecKKKKKett), Papelbon, Gonzalez, Crawford, Ortiz, Lester, Pedroia, etc.  But we know what we are going to get with those players, and we know that they are going to play large roles in the success or failure of the Red Sox's march to its third World Series in 11 years.  And sure, Wakefield's place on the roster was not solidified until the last week of Spring Training, as his 7.45 ERA did little to make us fans feel good about his pitching this year.  But it's the players we aren't expecting to contribute who usually make the difference between winning and losing (and between living and dying).  Who would have expected Buster Posey to be the key to the Giants' World Series victory last year?  Jacoby Ellsbury was buried in Pawtucket for most of the 2007 season before shining in the postseason against the Indians and the Rockies.  And don't forget, Wakefield is only 14 wins away from passing Cy Young and Roger Clemens for the most victories in Red Sox history, with 193.  And if you think erasing Clemens' name from the record books isn't important to John Henry, then you don't know this ownership group.

Looking at the rotation, Josh Beckett has spent a considerable amount of time on the DL two of the past three years - starting only 22 games in a lost 2010 season.  Similarly, Daisuke Matzusaka has only started 37 games in the last two years.  John Lackey has proven to be a workhorse, but even he spent time on the disabled list in 2009 and 2010.  As has been the case for the last five years, someone is going to need to step in the role of 6th man in the rotation.  In 2007, it was Manny's best friend, Julian Tavarez starting 23 games.  In 2008, it was Bartolo Colon and Paul Byrd.  In 2009, it was John Smoltz and Byrd.  Wakefield enjoyed this honor last year and only managed to win 4 games in 19 starts.  Damn you, Boof.  Every year, a pitcher - usually of advanced age - is required to start 5 to 10 times.  It's these starts that can either be throw away games, or games that energize a club.  Either way, they become the most important games in a tight pennant race with the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays.

This year is different though; these starts are even more critical.  With "run prevention" and "bridge year" replaced with "Sky is the limit" and "We won't rest," this year's team merely needs someone to eat up innings that would otherwise be going to a taxed bullpen.  Pitching seven innings and giving up 6 earned runs is ok this year because the Red Sox will will those games 8-6, rather than lose them 6-3.  There is no reason to throw away any games with this offense.  Wakefield's 10 starts could mean the difference between going to the playoffs or finishing behind the Yankees and the Rays.  And I laugh at you if you think Felix Doubrant is the answer.

I thought Bonser was going to be that man last year, and I was wrong.   But Wakefield is the key to the Boston Red Sox 2011 season.  And if he's not, then he is still Tim Wakefield and we are not.

1 comment:

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