Levine: A win-win situation

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Levine: A win-win situation

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

On Sunday, Tim Wakefield threw eight strong innings in the Red Sox 12-3 win over Milwaukee.

On Monday, we peeled off a number in the slowest countdown in baseball history:

Wakefields pursuit of the Sox all-time wins mark.

I think it officially began in the summer of 2009.

At the time, Wake was 11-3 and fresh off one of the best stretches of his career. He was 42, but also a first-time All-Star and only getting better.

It was about that time he also started to leave his mark on the franchise record books. On July 3, he broke Roger Clemens' record for starts in a career and, in the process, woke everyone up to the realities of Wake's marathon tenure with the team. He suddenly sat on top, or near the top of every major statistical category. Most notably: Wins.

At the 2009 All-Star break, Wake had 175 wins 17 behind Clemens and Cy Young (who were tied at 192). And while 193 wasnt automatic, it was certainly possible. For a knuckleballer, Wake was still a kid.

It was entirely plausible that Tim Wakefield would retire as the winningest pitcher in Red Sox history.

But then he got hurt.

After the stellar first half in 2009, Wakefield missed six weeks because of a sore back and didnt win another game for the rest of the season. His resurgence was busted. In the meantime, the race to 193 moved slower than Wakefield himself. It was the equivalent of a Dice-K start. It took a lot of time to go absolutely nowhere, and everyone was ready to give up.

And now, in the midst of yet another resurgence . . .

Sundays win was Wakes 183rd with the Sox, leaving him 10 away from the record. And in most cases, that probably cause to throw some champagne on ice. In most cases, youd see a guy 10 wins away from a major achievement and feel at least slightly optimistic about his chances.

And with Wake, I guess there's a chance.

The injury to Dice-K creates more opportunities. And with Buchholz hurting and Lackey no sure thing to stay healthy, Wakefield could get more starts than we ever imagined. And what if the Sox wrap things up early entirely possible and want to give their starters some rest? Yup, more starts. And you cant disregard the fact that, with this line-up, most every one of Wakefields starts will be accompanied by ridiculous run support. That helps the cause!

You know, now that I think about it, maybe he ca

No. I cant do it. He cant do it.

He only needs 10 wins? Well, Sunday marked only Wakes 10th win since June of 2009. Thats two years. He might not have another two months. You really think hes got 10 more wins in him?

No, probably not.

But you know what? Im okay with that.

I mean, of course it would be nice to see him do it. First of all, because I know he wants to. I think that whenever Wake walks away from the game hell do so proudly, but if he can do so with his name sitting above Clemens and Young in such a prestigious category, for one of the most storied franchises in baseball? That's really special.

Not to mention, it would be great to see a real member of the Sox holding down the fort on top of the all-time wins list.

Clemens is a jerk. You dont want to celebrate him. And Cy Young isnt even real. I cant knock his skills, but that eras so far removed from todays game that its not even worth comparing. I'm sorry, but any pitcher who threw more than 40 complete games in a season should have their own record book. It's a different world.

It would be cool to have someone in there who fans don't detest, and also someone they can relate to. And Wakefield fits that bill.

But when you think of Tim Wakefield, do you really think he's the greatest winner in Red Sox history? Do you really want to? For all that he is, and as great as he's been for so long, is Tim Wakefield really that guy? Does he really deserve that distinction? Does that best fit what he's meant to this team over the last 17 years?

I don't think so. So while I won't be upset if he gets there, there will be no injustice if he comes up short.

In the meantime, I'll just enjoy any and all wins he's has left.

Regardless of the final number, a few more like Sunday will be more than enough.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

MLB may make rule changes for '18 season

MLB may make rule changes for '18 season

PHOENIX - Major League Baseball intends to push forward with the process that could lead to possible rule changes involving the strike zone, installation of pitch clocks and limits on trips to the pitcher's mound. While baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope the ongoing process would lead to an agreement, he said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Union head Tony Clark said last weekend he did not foresee players agreeing to proposed changes for 2017. Under baseball's collective bargaining agreement, management can alter playing rules only with agreement from the union - unless it gives one year notice. With the one year of notice, management can make changes on its own.

"Unfortunately it now appears that there really won't be any meaningful change for the 2017 season due to a lack of cooperation from the MLBPA," Manfred said Tuesday during a news conference. "I've tried to be clear that our game is fundamentally sound, that it does not need to be fixed as some people have suggested, and I think last season was the kind of demonstration of the potential of our league to captivate the nation and of the game's unique place in American culture."

Yet, he also added: "I believe it's a mistake to stick our head in the sand and ignore the fact that our game has changed and continues to change."

Manfred said while he prefers an agreement, "I'm also not willing to walk away." He said he will send a letter to the union in the coming days and plans to continue dialogue with Clark and others in hopes of reaching agreement.

Clark met with Cactus League teams last week, five at a time over Thursday, Friday and Saturday, before departing Monday for Florida to visit each Grapefruit League club - and proposed rules changes were a topic.

"I have great respect for the labor relations process, and I have a pretty good track record for getting things done with the MLBPA," Manfred said. "I have to admit, however, that I am disappointed that we could not even get the MLBPA to agree to modest rule changes like limits on trips to the mound that have little effect on the competitive character of the game."

Clark saw talks differently.

"Unless your definition of `cooperation' is blanket approval, I don't agree that we've failed to cooperate with the commissioner's office on these issues," he wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "Two years ago we negotiated pace of play protocols that had an immediate and positive impact. Last year we took a step backward in some ways, and this offseason we've been in regular contact with MLB and with our members to get a better handle on why that happened. I would be surprised if those discussions with MLB don't continue, notwithstanding today's comments about implementation. As I've said, fundamental changes to the game are going to be an uphill battle, but the lines of communication should remain open."

Clark added "my understanding is that MLB wants to continue with the replay changes (2-minute limit) and the no-pitch intentional walks and the pace of game warning/fine adjustments."

Manfred said he didn't want to share specifics of his priorities for alterations.

"There's a variety of changes that can be undertaken," Manfred said. "I'm committed to the idea that we have a set of proposals out there and we continue to discuss those proposals in private."

MLB has studied whether to restore the lower edge of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level - at the top of the kneecap. Management would like to install 20-second pitch clocks in an attempt to speed the pace of play - they have been used at Triple-A and Double-A for the past two seasons.

Players also have been against limiting mound meetings. The least controversial change appears to be allowing a team to call for an intentional walk without the pitcher having to throw pitches. In addition, MLB likely can alter some video review rules without the union's agreement- such as shortening the time a manager has to call for a review.

"Most of this stuff that they were talking about I don't think it would have been a major adjustment for us," Royals manager Ned Yost said.

Manfred said starting runners on second base in extra innings sounds unlikely to be implemented in the majors. The change will be experimented with during the World Baseball Classic and perhaps at some short-season Class A leagues. Manfred said it was a special-purpose rule "beneficial in developmental leagues."

Manfred also said Tuesday that a renovated Wrigley Field would be a great choice to host an All-Star Game and Las Vegas could be a "viable market for us."

"I don't think that the presence of legalized gambling in Las Vegas should necessarily disqualify that market as a potential major league city," Manfred said.

Bulpett: Ainge 'really protective' of ability to go to free agency this summer

Bulpett: Ainge 'really protective' of ability to go to free agency this summer

Steve Bulpett joins Mike Felger to weigh in on the NBA trade deadline and the lack of moves made by Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics thus far.