Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Red Sox moment of the year: Wake's ASG pick

Position players came first when Fenway Park public-address announcer Carl Beane began to read off the Red Sox players who had been selected to the American League All-Star team. The top of the second inning had just ended, and that gave Beane a chance to read off the names for the fans in the stadium who hadn't caught the announcement live.

Jason Bay was in -- a starter, in fact, in left field. Dustin Pedroia was in. Kevin Youkilis was in.

Pitchers came next. Josh Beckett was in. Jonathan Papelbon was in. No surprise there.

Beane then changed the tenor of his voice a little bit. There was one last name to announce, and that announcement had to warm the heart of even the most cynical Red Sox fan.

Tim Wakefield -- a 42-year-old who made his debut with the Red Sox before Jon Lester had finished the fifth grade -- had made his first All-Star team.

The instant the knuckleballer's familiar goateed face showed up on the scoreboard in center field, Fenway Park erupted in cheers. A camera then found Wakefield in the Red Sox dugout so he could wave to the 35,000 fans showing their appreciation. He even got some mid-game face time on NESN -- complete with a bear hug from David Ortiz.

It was about as genuine as a moment gets. Wakefield didn't necessarily have the same numbers as some of the other All-Stars -- his ERA at that point was 4.31 -- but he'd won 10 games and had kept the Red Sox pitching staff afloat almost by himself for the first half of the season.

"I just felt that getting him on the team was the right thing to do," Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

The decision to select Wakefield wasn't a popular one around baseball. Even now, it's tough to argue he was one of the best 10 or 12 pitchers in the major leagues in the first half of the season.

It still was a special moment for a pitcher who has done so much -- from starting to closing to mopping up lost causes to preserve the bullpen -- for the Red Sox over the last 15 seasons.

It might have been even more special than the moment Wakefield shared with Red Sox manager Terry Francona before the game (an excerpt from that day's Union Leader story):

Wakefield stepped into Francona’s office and immediately saw Jason Bay, Josh Beckett, Jonathan Papelbon, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis waiting for him with All-Star packets in their hands and solemn expressions on their faces.
“He'd said, ‘You guys all made it – and, actually, Wake made it, too, but we’re going to let him sweat it out a little bit,’” Bay said.
The gag actually worked for a moment or two, but it didn’t last long. Francona couldn’t hold it in.
“He sat me down and tried to play it off like it wasn’t good news,” Wakefield said, “and then he couldn’t hold his laughter in any longer.”
Said Francona, “I just cheesed up real fast.”

(Runner-up for Red Sox moment of the year: Jacoby Ellsbury's steal of home against the Yankees.)

1 comment:

floydiansea said...

An interesting choice.

It may have been a heart-string moment of the year.