Tim Wakefield is finally an All Star. In the past few weeks a lot has been made of his 1995 season and how he should have gone that year. Wake had a legendary season in ’95, but didn’t make his first start for the Red Sox and in the bigs until late May. He was pitching well at the break, but the late start cost him and the All Star spots went to those who had pitched well in the almost 2 months that he missed, as they should have. If the All Star game had been in August Wakefield would probably would have started it. This year he is 10-3 at the time of selection and completely deserving of an All Star spot for every reason that has nothing to do with his current ERA or win/loss record.
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Until this year, and with the exception of 1995 or that one night in October 2003, Wake has largely labored away under the radar, almost taken for granted. In 15 seasons he’s had good days and bad days, but he’s always shown up and put the team before himself. He’s never made excuses for the bad stuff and he’s never drawn any extra attention to his best performances. We could argue why his numbers are or aren’t All Star worthy this year, but that no longer matters since Joe Maddon has officially declared them up to par. In this day and age of steroids allegations and over-priced spoiled-brat professional athletes perhaps we need to really take a look at what it should take to be an All Star. Would you rather tell your kids to look up to Tim Wakefield or Alex Rodriguez?
Tim Wakefield has been nominated by the Red Sox 7 times for the Roberto Clemente Award (given annually by the MLB to a player deemed committed to serving their community and helping others, 1 player from each team is nominated each year). He’s done everything the club has asked for on the field and never complained. He’s on pace to reach 200 career wins early next season. In 2005 he signed a contract unlike any other in sports, the Red Sox have the option to renew it at the end of every season, no tense negotiations over salary or contract length, no media circus, just one more year, yes or no? $4 million a year every year is certainly nothing to scoff at. He could ask for more, he probably deserves more. He doesn’t get a raise, he doesn’t care about a raise, he just wants to pitch for as long as Boston wants to have him. When Boston says no he’ll quietly enter retirement. Not long after signing this unique document Wakefield summed up his thoughts about playing baseball in Boston with these words:
“It meant more to me to have the stability to stay here, I’m a firm believer in loyalty, which the Red Sox have been very loyal to me over the last 12 years, and I want to stay loyal to them. The stability and security is more important to me than trying to be a free agent. I’d much rather stay with a team that I’m comfortable with in a city I love, regardless of the money. At this stage of my career, it really doesn’t matter anymore.”
So what if this All Star appointment is partially viewed as a lifetime achievement award? Hasn’t he earned the right over 17 seasons of pitching to have his moment in the sun? I will freely admit that if I were a fan in another city I might feel a little differently, but because I am a Boston fan, and privileged enough to have experienced 15 seasons with him, I can say without a doubt that sometimes what it takes to be an All Star goes beyond the statistics and highlight reels. Sometimes being an All Star means showing up day after day, doing your job without complaint and giving back to those who have helped you along the way.
Statistics and performance should definitely be the biggest factor in deciding who makes the All Star team each year, but what about guys like Wake who have had season after season of consistent success, while being an exemplary teammate and actively involved in their community? Luckily for Wake, his 10-3 record and early season heroics have brought him the recognition he has earned over the years, not only through his actions on the field, but in the dugout and in his charitable contributions as well. For all of these reasons, Tim Wakefield is an All Star Major League Baseball can be proud of.