Wednesday, April 18, 2007

An Unexpectedly Dynamic Duo: Tim-may and 'Belli

This guy is ageless. I freakin' love Tim Wakefield. I remember the first time I saw him pitch. I believe it was back in '91 in the ALCS against the Braves (he pitched for the Pirates). While Barry Bonds was choking on whatever 1991 version of flaxseed oil he was consuming, Tim-May single-handedly kept the Pirates in that series. His story intrigued me: a former 1B in the minors who switched over to pitcher when he realized he could throw a good knuckleball (Stargell described the knuckleball as a ball that "flies like a butterfly with hickups).

Now he is in his 13th Season with the Old Towne Team, and I couldn't be happier that he's still here. First, the guy is an absolute class act. When Aaron "freeking" Boone went yard on Wake in game 7 of the '03 ALCS, he cried. He loves the Sox, the fans, the city, and the park. And you know what? We love him right back. Sure....there are going to be times when Wake gets hammered (if it doesn't dance its just a 65 mph meatball over the plate), but this is a guy who will give you double-digit wins year in and year out. The last three years he's pitched between Schill and Pedro/Beckett, and I expect huge things out of him in the fourth spot.

Even at age 40, we should expect to see Wakefield in Beantown for many years to come. Consider this: Charlie Hough, another knuckleball pitcher, pitched more innings after age 40 than Wakefield has pitched in his entire career. If I'm Theo Epstein, I would plan on exercising Wake's option for the next five years or more.

Receiving Wakefield's knuckler behind the dish is Doug Mirabelli. 'Belli is one of a kind. The rest of the world snickered last season when the Josh Bard project went to hell in a handbasket, and the Sox traded for 'Belli and whisked him to Fenway with a police escort. All this for a backup catcher?? He is a backup catcher who happens to have an uncanny ability to catch an uncatchable pitch (Remember Gedman trying to catch Hough in the '86 All-Star game??). Although his value is primarily in catching Wakefield (and in giving Varitek a rest every fifth day), the last two games Dougie has done something I love to see him do: produce at the dish. 2 HRs in his last two games and an RBI single to boot.

Yankees fans can keep Mussina/Posada...I'll take Wake and 'Belli any time of the week.

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