Red Sox' Tim Wakefield wins Roberto Clemente Award

191542.jpg

Red Sox' Tim Wakefield wins Roberto Clemente Award

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

SAN FRANCISCO -- Tim Wakefield has won nearly 200 games in the big leagues, been a part of two world champions and, in his 17th season, was selected to the All-Star Game for the first time.

But when asked Thursday where winning the 2010 Roberto Clemente Award ranked among his many career highlights, Wakefield didn't hesitate.

"This is the ultimate. This is the highest,'' said Wakefield at a press conference prior to Game Two of the World Series. "This has nothing to do with baseball, or your statistics or anything. This has to do with your character. I take a lot of pride in my character, which ultimately is the highest accomplishment you can attain, it's the highest compliment you can get from somebody.

"I'm very humbled and honored at the same time to accept this award.''

Wakefield, 44, is the first Red Sox recipient to be honored with the award, which has been given annually since 1971, and since 1973 has been named for the late Pittsburgh Pirate great who died in a plane crash while on a relief mission to Nicaragua on Dec. 31, 1972.

Past winners have included Hall of Famers such as Willie Mays, Brooks Robinson, Tony Gwynn, and Al Kaline. Last year's winner was Derek Jeter.

The award is determined by a panel including commissioner Bud Selig and Vera Clemente, the Hall of Fame outfielder's widow. Fan voting is also incorporated into the process.

Wakefield long ago earned a reputation as one of Boston's most generous athletes when it comes to charitable endeavors. Each Tuesday when the Red Sox are home during the regular season, Wakefield hosts "Wakefield's Warriors,'' taking children from the Franciscan Hospital for Children and Dana Farber Clinic to meet Wakefield and watch batting practice at Fenway. He also hosts the annual Tim Wakefield Celebrity Golf tournament, which benefits special needs children in his hometown of Melbourne, Fla.

In addition, Wakefield works with Jason Varitek on the Pitching in for Kids program and generously donates to Teammates for Kids, a foundation run by country singer Garth Brooks.

Wakefield, who was originally drafted and signed by the Pirates, said he was aware of Clemente at a young age.

"Coming up in the Pirate organization,'' said Wakefield, "I got to witness first-hand what his legacy really meant and I've tried to continue to carry that torch into Boston . . . He was one of the greatest Pirates ever to put the uniform on. You knew not only his on-the-field contributions as a Pittsburgh Pirate, but you knew about his off-the-field contributions as well.

"It wasn't something that was harped upon by veteran players. You knew who Roberto Clemente was, what he meant and the ultimate sacrifice he paid for everything he did off the field. Not only was he a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but what he did off the field really epitomizes what I think athletes should be like.

"It doesn't really matter what you do on the field; what matters most is making a difference in someone else's life and Roberto was a class act when it came to that.''

"In addition to winning nearly 200 games in his career,'' said Selig, "Wakefield has been an All-Star when it comes to charitable initiatives for a long time . . . His efforts to help those in need has been remarkable.''

Each Major League team nominates one player annually and Wakefield had previously been nominated seven times before being chosen.

"You deserved this a long time ago,'' said Vera Clemente, the late Hall of Famer's wife. "God bless you.''

Phil Caruso, representing Chevrolet, the corporate sponsor of the award, added: "We all know about your accomplishments on the field. They're very well documented across the board. But it's your dedication to your activities off the field and the impact on the lives of the children that will last with them forever. You're truly a hero on and off the field.''

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

NEW YORK - There won't be any wild pitches on intentional walks this season.

The players' association has agreed to Major League Baseball's proposal to have intentional walks without pitches this year.

"It doesn't seem like that big of a deal. I know they're trying to cut out some of the fat. I'm OK with that," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said.

While the union has resisted many of MLB's proposed innovations, such as raising the bottom of the strike zone, installing pitch clocks and limiting trips to the mound, players are willing to accept the intentional walk change.

"As part of a broader discussion with other moving pieces, the answer is yes," union head Tony Clark wrote Wednesday in an email to The Associated Press. "There are details, as part of that discussion, that are still being worked through, however."

The union's decision was first reported by ESPN .

"I'm OK with it. You signal. I don't think that's a big deal," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "For the most part, it's not changing the strategy, it's just kind of speeding things up. I'm good with it."

There were 932 intentional walks last year, including 600 in the National League, where batters are walked to bring the pitcher's slot to the plate.

"You don't want to get your pitcher out of a rhythm, and when you do the intentional walk, I think you can take a pitcher out of his rhythm," Girardi said. "I've often wondered why you don't bring in your shortstop and the pitcher stand at short. Let the shortstop walk him. They're used to playing catch more like that than a pitcher is."

Agreement with the union is required for playing rules changes unless MLB gives one year advance notice, in which case it can unilaterally make alterations. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope Tuesday that ongoing talks would lead to an agreement on other changes but also said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Some changes with video review can be made unilaterally, such as shortening the time to make a challenge.

"I know they were thinking about putting in a 30-second (limit) for managers to make a decision," Francona said. "I actually wish they would. I think it would hustle it up and if we can't tell in 30 seconds, maybe we shouldn't be doing it anyway."

Bean: There's no way to spin a potential Ortiz return as a bad idea

Bean: There's no way to spin a potential Ortiz return as a bad idea

As if there weren’t enough storylines with the 2017 Red Sox, there figures to be the lingering possibility that, at any point, one of the franchise’s greatest hitters will return to make a push for his fourth World Series title.

As Pedro Martinez keeps saying, he won’t believe David Ortiz is retired until season’s end.

And with that possibility comes a good ol’ fashioned sports debate: You’re maybe the biggest lunatic in the whole wide world if you’re hoping for the latter.

There are exactly two potential downsides to Ortiz coming back. One is that the team would be worse defensively if it puts Hanley Ramirez in the field, a tradeoff that seemingly anyone would take if it meant adding Ortiz’ offense to the middle of the order. The other is that we would probably have to see Kenan Thompson’s Ortiz impression again . . . which, come to think of it, would be the worst. Actually, I might kill myself if that happens.  

All the other drawbacks are varying degrees of noise. It basically boils down to the “what if he isn’t good?” fear. Which may be valid, but it shouldn’t be reason enough to not want him to attempt a comeback.

Ortiz is coming off a 38-homer, 127-RBI 2016 in which he hit .315 with a league-best 1.021 OPS. It's probably the best final season of any hitter over the last 50 years.

We also know Ortiz is 41 and dealt with ankle and heel injuries so vast in recent years that he was “playing on stumps,” according to Red Sox coordinator of sports medicine services Dan Dyrek. There is the possibility that he was almost literally on his last legs in 2016 and that he doesn’t have another great season in him.

Unless Ortiz is medically incapable and/or not interested in returning, what would the harm be in rolling the dice? Is it a money thing? It really depends on just how intent the Sox are on staying under the luxury-tax threshold, but it’s hard to imagine that holding them up given that they’ve bobbed over and under the line throughout the years.

The one unacceptable argument is the legacy stuff, which expresses concern that Ortiz would tarnish his overall body of work if he came back for one last season and was relatively ineffective.  

If you think that five years after Ortiz is done playing, a single person will say, “Yeah, he’s a Hall of Famer; it’s just a shame he came back that for one last season,” you’re absolutely crazy. The fact that one could dwell that much on a legacy shows how much they romanticize the player, meaning that in however many years it's the 40-homer seasons, and not the potentially underwhelming few months in 2017, that will stand the test of time.

But he’ll have thrown away having one of the best final seasons ever for a hitter.

Oh man. That’s a life-ruiner right there. A 10-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion totally becomes just another guy if you take that away.

Plus, the fact that he’s a DH limits how bad it could really be. You won’t get the sight of an over-the-hill Willie Mays misplaying fly balls in the 1973 World Series after hitting .211 in the regular season. Ortiz will either be able to hit or he won’t, and if it’s the latter they’ll chalk it up to age and injuries and sit him down. Any potential decision to put him on the field in a World Series would likely mean his bat was worth it enough to get them to that point.

The Red Sox, on paper at least, have a real shot at another title. Teams in such a position should always go for broke. Ortiz has absolutely nothing left to prove, but if he thinks he has anything left to give, nobody but the fans who dropped 30-something bucks on T-shirts commemorating his retirement should have a problem with that.