Mike Timlin

October 14, 2008

There are still members of the Red Sox’ 2004 championship team making significant contributions to a playoff team in 2008. Unfortunately, these contributions are being made for the Los Angeles Dodgers. While the Dodgers lean heavily on 2004 World Series MVP Manny Ramirez and the pitcher who won the clinching game in each playoff series in 2004, Derek Lowe, the Red Sox seem to be nearing a point where they will have to find a way to win in spite of the last few holdovers from that legendary 86-year-drought-ending roster. When Mike Timlin, shown here in a 2006 card, entered the game in the eleventh inning on Saturday night, weary Sox fans watching at home began to get ready for bed, knowing things would be ending badly soon. And yesterday, before the game became a blowout, Jason Varitek continued to display his flagging offensive skills by failing to get a runner home from third with no outs (he struck out with his bat on his shoulder), then in the following inning he committed a passed ball that allowed the Rays to take their first lead. Throughout both of the losses, the Red Sox offense was crippled by cleanup hitter David Ortiz’ inability to hit anything with authority. (One member of the 2004 Red Sox has been effective in the current series against the Rays, but that player, Kevin Youkilis, was not someone the Red Sox counted on in the playoffs in 2004—he got two at-bats in the division series, then was not used again.)

Perhaps it’s fitting that the only remaining member of the 2004 Red Sox yet to appear for the Red Sox in the 2008 playoffs now seems to be the 2008 Red Sox’ last hope. If the Red Sox lose tonight, they will be down 3 games to 1, and though they found themselves at a similar disadvantage in last year’s ALCS and an even worse hole in the 2004 ALCS, it seems unlikely that they would be able to dig themselves out of such a hole once again. They pretty much have to win tonight. And to do so, they pretty much have to get a good game from Tim Wakefield.

Wakefield has been my favorite Red Sox player for a long time. First of all, he throws a pitch so erratic and unpredictable it resembles life itself. Also, it is starting to seem that he has always been on the Red Sox (besides being one of the last of the 2004 Red Sox, he’s also the last of the 1995 Red Sox). And I just like the way he quietly goes about his business. According to his peers, he has always been a great teammate, an attribute most famously on display in the 2004 ALCS playoffs, when he volunteered to sacrifice his game 4 starting assignment in order to save the bullpen in the 19-8 massacre in game 3, a sacrifice that is pointed to by his manager as a turning point in the series that was the turning point in Red Sox history.

As can be seen in the following video clip from the immediate aftermath of the Red Sox World Series victory last year, no one will be rooting harder for Wakefield to come through tonight than the only other pitcher left from the 2004 squad:


  1. 1.  Since my last comment was tinged with Sawx-hating, I feel the need to be magnanimous and admit that I’m a Tim Wakefield fan. I love the old guys that try to play forever (with certain Clemensian exceptions). It’s like they’re defying time itself. Baseball is so often obsessed with its own history, and guys like Wake and Jamie Moyer and Greg Maddux are living history. I believe Wakefield signed a one-year contract several years ago with a perpetual option, so that he theoretically always has a shot at coming back for one more year.

    I also have to admit that I love the Wakefields and Moyers of the world because they are among the forever-shrinking group of active players who were in the big leagues in 1993, the year I began collecting cards and following baseball as a middle-schooler. Every time a Mike Piazza or Frank Thomas hangs up his spikes, I am forced to confront my own mortality.

    I hope that Tim Wakefield is throwing that knuckler until he’s sixty.

  2. 2.  1 : ” I also have to admit that I love the Wakefields and Moyers of the world because they are among the forever-shrinking group of active players who were in the big leagues . . . the year I began collecting cards and following baseball…”

    You’re crossing the “Jesse Orosco” gap. It’s a tough one watching all the guys you grew up with gradually disappear. That’s why, like you, I love the guys who somehow keep hanging on. (Orosco being the last from my childhood to still be out there toiling, though there’s always the slight hope that Rickey Henderson will make his way back to the bigs.)

    The next gap for you will be the one I’m going through now, when you slowly become older than almost everyone in the game. This is another of many reasons why I love Tim Wakefield. He, like Moyer and maybe a couple others, are the only guys left who are older than me.

    Once that gap is crossed I guess the next one would have to do with obituaries.

  3. 3.  FYI: A cool reminiscence has been posted recently in the comments for the 1976 Skip Jutze card (Astros).

  4. 4.  1 I never knew that about Wakefield’s recurring option. According to Cot’s, the Red Sox can keep him for $4 million a year as long as they want him.

  5. 5.  Yeah, I think some folks think that contract isn’t really copascietic because it, in effect, subjects him to the reserve clause.

  6. 6.  I’ve got my fingers crossed for the return of the Ricky as well. My dad and I spent ALOT of time at A’s games during that era and we happen to be there for the big day when he broke the record. The enormity of records like that are often lost on younger kids but getting picked up by my dad so I could see over the heads of the screaming fans as Ricky pulled the bag out of the ground and saluted the crowd – that wasn’t lost on me. Lots of people took issue with his “I’m the greatest of all time” line but to my ten-year old self, nothing could have been closer to the truth. I wore “Ricky” glasses (the old reflective Vs) for weeks after that game, much to my mother’s chagrin.

  7. 7.  “This is another of many reasons why I love Tim Wakefield. He, like Moyer and maybe a couple others, are the only guys left who are older than me.”

    I was thinking the same thing. Reminds me of when I was a kid and a Phil Niekro fan, in part because he was older than my dad, which meant it wasn’t too late for my dad to learn the knuckler and get into a game.

    There were only three AL players older than me in 2008 — it’s possible tonight was the swan song for two of them, Wakefield and Timlin. Kenny Rogers is the other, and he looks done, too.

  8. 8.  In the NHL I like that there is at least 1 guy still playing who is older than me. Chris Chelios.

  9. 9.  1 2 6 I loved that when no one in the big leagues would sign Rickey Henderson, he went ahead and played in the Golden State Independent League. This wasn’t some has been trying to claw back into having one more shot in the bigs, this was a first ballot hall of famer playing with a bunch of guys similar to me. Henderson was already one of my favorite players of all time, but that put him over the top for me.
    In some odd way, I miss Jose Canseco too. I was in wonderment of his theatrics, which were always backed up by mammoth sized home runs. It was sad for me when he went form being a WWF wrestling style heal, to an actual real life loser. I think that is when I crossed the Jesse Orosco line.

  10. 10.  Ran into this today, Dennis Eckersley’s favorite Ricky H. story: Rickey! Oh, man. One time we were playing in Baltimore, at the old stadium there, way before Camden Yards. Rickey used to call everyone by one letter. Half the time I was “Hey D!” but sometimes I’m “Hey E!” and a couple of times in there, I was “Hey B!” Some guys on the team were saying, “Does he even know everyone’s name?” In Baltimore, the one thing about Memorial Stadium was: they always seemed to play better music than all the other stadiums. So Rickey’s out there with the bat on his shoulder, and Aretha Franklin comes on: “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.” Rickey’s trying to sing along to it, but he keeps messing up the letters. I’m pretty sure he was saying “R-E-D-B-P-S-T-C” or something. Everyone’s laughing, guys are saying “Can he even spell it?” Rickey used letters for everything. Now, I want to be careful to say, I’m not saying he’s stupid. Rickey’s a smart guy. But the Aretha Franklin story was classic.

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