Wakefield focused on team, not milestone


Wakefield focused on team, not milestone

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com Staff Reporter Follow @dannypicard

By Danny Picard

BOSTON --Its been over a month since Tim Wakefields last win. Andhis next one wont be just any old victory. It will be the 200th of his career.

Unfortunately for the veteran knuckleballer, hes beensearching for that personal milestone since his last win, back on July 24against the Seattle Mariners. And whether he admits it or not, that searchseems to be turning into a never-ending weight on his shoulders.

But after Friday nights 15-5 loss to the Oakland Athleticsat Fenway Park, in which he picked up his sixth loss of the season, Wakefieldinsisted that his biggest disappointment was the fact that he made Red Soxmanager Terry Francona dip into the bullpen before Saturdays double-header.

I think thats my biggest disappointment, knowing that wehave a double-header tomorrow, and I was only able to go four innings tonight,said Wakefield.

I think the biggest disappointment is that I didnt getdeep in the game. Ive got to take my personal numbers and throw them out thewindow right now. Were trying to hold onto a one-game lead in the East, andthe biggest thing coming off a long road trip like that, is to try to win thegame, for us, for the team, not for me personally.

That 200th win will eventually happen, hopefully, addedWakefield. But I think the thing I pride myself most in, is to try to give theclub quality innings and get deep in the game, and not have to use the bullpenlike we did tonight.

Wakefield lasted only four innings on Friday night, while allowingeight runs (four earned) on eight hits, two walks and two home runs.

Most of the damage was done in the top of the fourth inning,as Oakland scored six runs with two outs. Sizemore ripped a two-run home rundown the left-field line to extend the Athletics lead to 4-1.

Jemile Weeks then struck out, but a passed ball by JarrodSaltalamacchia allowed Weeks to get to and extend the inning. After Coco Crispwalked, Hideki Matsui drilled a double off the wall in center field, scoringtwo more runs and giving Oakland a 6-1 lead.

Josh Willingham added insult to injury in the next at-bat byhitting a two-run home run into the monster seats in left-center to make it8-1.

Not a real good night, said Francona. Kind of aninconsistent knuckleball tonight. Some he threw so well, and had sharp break.And then some were up that got hit.

We get the third out in the fourth inning, and the ballgets by Salty, because it is moving. Then they tack on four more. It was justkind of a rough night all the way around.

Thats just the way the fourth inning went, saidSaltalamacchia. Theres nothing really on his part. He still threw the ballthe same way. They just did a great job fighting pitches off, fouling them off,fouling them off, and not really trying to pull it too much.

So heres Wakefield. Six starts since win No. 199, and an0-3 record in those six starts. Friday night marked his shortest start of theseason, but Wakefield insists I has nothing to do with how he feels physically,or any type of pressure thats come with the search for his 200th win.

I take a lot of pride in trying to stop the bleeding theretoo, and trying to pick up my teammates, said Wakefield. I wasnt able to dothat tonight. Unfortunately I couldnt stop the bleeding there in the fourth.

I feel great, added Wakefield. I thought I had somepretty good movement on the ball, except for the end of the fourth inning, andthe ball started leaving the ballpark.

Danny Picard is on twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard.

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.