(Note from Cyn:Â The idea for my original post was to get into the backgrounds of the players left in MLB born in the 1960s – the same decade I was born – but after I got writing, it morphed into something slightly different and very long and maybe rambly since it took a while to write.Â Now that it’s finished, I figured I should just warn folks ahead of time!)
Baseball is not supposed to make me feel old…but sometimes it does.
When I was much younger, my parents would go on “dates” to Fenway Park and, since my sister and I weren’t invited, they would bring us back mementos.Â Sometimes it was something as simple as popcorn but there were times when it was something really cool, like the yearbook for that season.Â My sister and I would pour through the yearbook, finding out things like when and where our favorite players were born and whether they were married and had children or not.Â I remember being devastated that Fred Lynn and Dwight Evans were SO much older than me.Â To an 8 year-old girl, 24 and 25 years old is ancient and it always bothered me that I’d be too young “to date a baseball player”.
Years went by and I started paying more attention to the team winning and losing than remembering when the players were born and if they were married or not.Â All that mattered were that the guys were young and able to give it there all on the field.
Then more years went by…
I was probably around 30 when I actually realized that many of the players were around the same age as me.Â It seemed impossible that the men I looked up to as being “so old” were suddenly my peers.Â (Yes, I know they were all different players but in the realm of generic players they’re all the same!)Â As the last ten years or so have unfolded so many of the players who were in my age group have retired.Â There’s still an “old guy” here and there.Â A cursory glance at the MLB rosters has the number of active players in MLB who were born in the 1960s at seven*.Â Â Of those seven, two are position players (hello Omar Vizquel and Ken Griffey, Jr!) and four of them are older than me.
Yes, there are four active players in MLB right now who were born before 1968 (I’ll be 42 in December).Â Both Omar Vizquel and Trevor Hoffman in 1967 – Omar just turned 43 on Saturday, Jamie Moyer in 1962, and our own Tim Wakefield, born in 1966, will be 44 this August 2nd.
In the real world, none of these men would be considered “old”.Â But in baseball they’re ancient.Â And if there is one thing baseball writers and fans seem to love to do it’s point out how old the players are.Â If they do well, they’re doing well for an old guy.Â If they struggle it’s because age is catching up with them.Â (Of the seven active players born in the 60s, Mariano Rivera, born in 1969 along with Ken Griffey, Jr. and Arthur Rhodes, is the only one who doesn’t get tagged with the “old” moniker.Â Dude is a robot…there’s no other logical reason.)
While I’ve been writing this, I’m watching the Mets/Braves game on ESPN.Â Joe Morgan has spent an inordinate amount of time talking about how OLD Chipper Jones is.Â (Chipper shares Omar Vizquel’s birthday…five years later than Omar.)Â You really can’t get away from it.
I’ve spent a couple of hours reading about the seven players I’ve listed here (and others, like Chipper, too) just to get a feel for how they are performing and how the media and the fans react to them all because I want to write about Tim Wakefield but can’t get myself to actually READ about him right now.
Here’s the thing…we all know Wake is getting older.Â We also all know that people love to say things like “Knuckle ball pitchers could throw 300 pitches in a game and it wouldn’t bother their arm” which most folks know is a bit of crap.Â It isn’t the same violent motion that other pitches produce but it’s still an unnatural motion that causes wear and tear on the pitcher (whether it’s his arm or back or legs).Â I’m not ready to say it’s time for Tim Wakefield to hang up the cleats because I still think, as his performance on Sunday showed, he can be a productive part of the team.Â My preference, as is Tim’s, is that he produces for the team from the rotation.Â Wanting that, though, doesn’t mean I can’t understand the team’s thinking in putting him in the bullpen.
On Thursday, the news was leaked that Clay Buchholz would stay in the rotation and Wake would go to the bullpen.Â Given all the “Wake is a starter” talk coming from the Red Sox in Spring Training, this came as a surprise to most folks following the Sox.Â No one was going on record as saying this was the case but it seemed pretty well-accepted that the rumor was true.Â In response to this news, Clay Buchholz came out and pitched a hell of a game on Thursday (as did Wake today).Â The team waited until after the game today to tell us what we all knew (the fans gave Wake such an ovation when he left the game today that Timmy tipped his cap – none of that was a coincidence) and now starts the true speculation:Â Is Wake pissed?Â Do the Red Sox think it’s the end of the road for him?Â How will this effect the team and it’s chemistry?
Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal, has a wonderfully written piece on Tim Wakefield’s final (for now) outing as a starter and his post-game responses.Â It is, to me, the best representative I’ve read thus far of both sides of this situation.Â It doesn’t paint the Red Sox as being evil for trying this out nor does it write-off Wake as a possible starter further on down the road this season (reminding us that Paul Byrd got his starts in last year so anything could happen this year).Â But, honestly, there is nothing that could be written that doesn’t highlight that Wake deals with everything (publicly) professionally, regardless of what some reporters (I’m looking at you Steve Buckley) would like him to say.
Was it more difficult than usual to pitch under these circumstances?
â€œNo. It was just another start.â€
What are your thoughts on going to the bullpen?
â€œI donâ€™t have any.â€
Are you concerned at all about the transition to relief pitching?
Now for all I know Wake went home tonight and punched holes in every wall in every room of his house.Â He might have a Terry Francona effigy burning in his back yard and a picture of Theo Epstein on his dart board.Â (KellyO and I joked on Thursday that after being told he was going to the bullpen he called his wife and had her make a Clay Buchholz voodoo doll.)Â I’d understand any of these responses.Â Then again, this is a man who took himself out of the rotation in game 3 of the 2004 ALCS (he was scheduled to start game 4 to save the pitching staff.Â He took himself off of the 2007 playoff roster because he knew Jon Lester would be more effective than he could be.Â There is nothing in Wake’s history that indicates he will handle this latest wrinkle with anything more than professionalism and class.Â I’d expect nothing less.
I don’t have a bloody clue what the right way to deal with this is.Â I know I can’t see Buchholz working out of the bullpen and I know I’d hate to see the team possibly ruin the progress he’s making by throwing him back to Pawtucket.Â I believe that Wake an be effective from both the bullpen and the rotation and I worry that the team will need him as a long man out of the ‘pen more times than I want to think about right now.Â I’m often reminded that anything can happen over the course of a 162-game season.Â Players get hurt, or traded and rotations and lineups are ever-changing because of it.Â So while today seemed like it was the beginning of the end for Wake…none of us really has any idea what’s going to happen with him going forward.
I’m upset for Wake in that no one wants to be shuffled around and if he’s upset about it it upsets me for him.Â But I don’t think this is the end all for the team or for Wake’s effectiveness with the team. One of the best parts of the baseball season is just following the ups and downs of what gets the team from Opening Day to the final day of the season…it’s a rough bump but it’s one the team, the fans and Wake will all be able to work through.
*(My math could be off.Â It’s been a long day and my eyes are bleary! I’m pretty sure I got it right, though.)