Raindrops Will Hide my Teardrops*
At times, it seems like Tim Wakefield's is the very face of suffering. It continually shocks me to realize what a relatively young man he is; since I've been aware of him, his hangdog features and his slumped shoulders, and something else--something intangible in those cornflower blue eyes, at once weighted with the world and sharp with determination--have made him seem much, much older.
Look at him tonight, after giving up a two-run homer, while the knuckleball, as PAC over at BC put it, "looked more like a meatball": snapping his glove around the toss back from Mirabelli, methodically chewing his gum, Sisyphus reincarnated on a baseball diamond.
Wake stands out in sharp contrast to his teammates in the rotation. While Curt Schilling is the master of flared-nostril intensity and Pedro the spoiled prince of god-given gifts, Derek Lowe the flighty playboy and Bronson Arroyo the fresh-faced rookie--and all conforming to one stereotype or another of a ballplayer--Wakefield is an enigma. He must make peace with the fact that he has utterly no control over his specialty pitch, that stepping out of the gate on any given night might mean a 3-hit shutout or a 10-run track meet. If the feeling you get watching him is any indication, being Tim Wakefield must be a very Zen experience.
The others pitch with zest, flair, and fire. Wakefield delivers the ball with a shrug.
That's not to say he's not a competitor. That's the paradox at the heart of what Tim Wakefield means to the Sox: Even as he chews that gum meditatively, gloves the new ball after the last one has left the park, he is as determined to make the next pitch flutter as he is resigned to his fate the last time around. There's grief on that epic face, years' worth, but there's a steely determination that makes Curt Schilling look like so much bluster, Pedro a silly fop, Derek an unhinged lunatic.
Tim Wakefield is the unsung hero of that rotation. He's never beaten the Yankees in the World Series. He didn't throw Don Zimmer to the ground. He didn't strike out the last two Oakland batters. Sadly, he will probably most be remembered--when he is remembered at all--for being the sacrificial lamb in the after-midnight coup de grace of Game 7. As such, he's also the embodiment of the forgotten lesson on this quest for a Boston World Series Championship: the value, and the valor, in the struggle.
Tonight was another one of those nights. Pop, pop, pop, all over the place. A ghastly bounce on a batted ball sailed over Wakefield's head, and he was watching Bellhorn expectantly when he realized that the ball had settled just behind him. The bases were loaded twice--once with no one out, once with one out. He'd given up four runs by the third inning.
The Sox had cut the lead in half, thanks to RBI hits by Johnny Damon and David Ortiz, when the tarps came out on the field.
A chance to continue the winning streak, a chance to send the knuckler out and wait for the judgement of the umpire, the breeze, the bat, the Fates. A chance to lead the comeback, to settle in, to set that hiccuping butterfly in motion, and all of it cut short tonight by a cloud.
Just another night in the life of Tim Wakefield.
*The Temptations, "I Wish That It Would Rain"