The eighth time’s the charm. After winning his 199th game, Tim Wakefield went seven starts without picking up that elusive 200th win. Last night, in his eighth start in pursuit of a milestone, he got it. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t flashy, but it got done. That’s the story of Wakefield’s career.
With his slowly-graying goatee, Wakefield looks more Tim McGraw than Tug McGraw. But Wakefield is in a category all his own. His knuckleball, like a bat trying find its way by sonar, darts through the air never quite sure where it will end up. His determination is un-matched. His spirit is unbreakable.
Tim Wakefield became the second oldest pitcher in baseball history to win 200 games. How many more he can win remains unknown. Any year can be Wakefield’s last, and if he does hang ’em up, he can do so with the pride of a 200-game winner. He won’t win 300 games. He won’t make the Hall of Fame. But he will be remembered.
If a comparison is going to be made, the best comparison would perhaps be Jamie Moyer. Even that comparison isn’t a great one. Wakefield’s a soft tossing knuckleballer. Moyer was a soft tossing deceiver. But according to Fangraphs, they weren’t too far apart in career WAR. Moyer finished with 49 and Wakefield is slightly over 38. Wakefield has time to catch that number though. Moyer pitched for an astounding 24 years. Wakefield is “only” in his 19th year.
Neither man is Hall worthy, but that doesn’t diminish the career. Tim Wakefield has hung in there and continued to produce when many others would have quit. When he was bumped to the bullpen he kept playing. When he got pulled back into a starting role, he kept playing. And when he struggled over the course of eight starts to get one very special win, he kept playing.
Wakefield has become one of the many faces of a franchise full of faces. Children at the game last night will tell their children of Wakefield’s 200th win. And you know what? Those children will know who Wakefield was, what he meant to the game, and what he meant to the Red Sox.