Tim Wakefield's still waiting for the phone call ... the one from his agent, telling him there's a substantial offer on the table for Wakefield to pitch Major League Baseball in 2012.
Yes, ideally the Boston Red Sox, for whom Wakefield has pitched forever and ever amen. But does it have to be the Red Sox, who seem intent on taking some new paths?
FloridaToday.com's John Torres spoke to Wakefield about the waiting game:
"There have been a number of clubs who have called, who have an interest in signing me but I’m kind of just weighing my options right now," he said, obviously waiting and hoping that Boston will make an offer. "I think I can be a valuable asset to them as an insurance policy, you know a fifth or sixth starter or if something doesn’t pan out for some of the guys they have already penciled in to the rotation. You know that’s kind of been my job these last two years; I don’t have a problem doing that."
Wakefield didn’t say whether he would sign with a team other than Boston, but he didn’t rule it out, either.
"Hopefully, it doesn’t come down to the last hour," he said. "But I’m not closing any doors."
"I have to be prepared when the phone rings, that’s how I’m approaching it," he shrugged his shoulders. "I would have liked to have something in place by this weekend but I don’t have a specific date that’s going to dictate whether I make a decision or not."Much like the unpredictability of his signature pitch, Wakefield is left armed only with a vexing knuckler and hope that his baseball journey has a few innings remaining.
Of course vexing works both ways. Wakefield's ERA over the last two seasons is 5.22, largely because he's surrendered 44 home runs in 295 innings. Of course he's always given up home runs -- when the knuckler doesn't knuckle or when he's felt compelled to throw 3-and-0 "fastballs" -- but his strikeout rate has fallen to the point where he simply can't afford to give up so many long fly balls.
So maybe Wakefield just needs to get out of cozy Fenway Park?
Nice theory, but Fenway's actually not a particularly good home-run park, relative to the rest of the league. In fact it's not a good home-run park at all. According to the The Bill James Handbook 2012, over the last three seasons it's been the fourth-toughest for left-handed hitters and dead even for right-handed hitters.
So it's not so much that Wakefield needs to get out of Fenway; it's that he needs to get into a ballpark that's particularly friendly to fly-ball pitchers. And those parks, based on the last three seasons, include Target Field, Kauffman Stadium, Busch Stadium, Petco Park, Citi Field and Willie Mays Memorial Grounds.
But it doesn't make sense to sign Wakefield unless 1) you're trying to get to the playoffs in 2012 and b) you need a No. 5 (or 6) starting pitcher. And it's not apparent to me that the Twins, the Royals, the Cardinals, the Padres, the Mets, or the Giants meet both of those criteria.
Except maybe the Royals. But they've shown no interest this winter in veteran pitchers. Which is a real shame because I would absolutely love to see Wakefield wearing the livery of my favorite team and I don't know how to use Photoshop.