108. It has its significance as a spiritual number for Hindus. To players and fans, it’s the numbers of stitches in a baseball. But, for Tim Wakefield, it will become the number that will mark him as the 108th pitcher to collect his 200th career win.
While Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit was marked with commercials and even a one-hour HBO documentary, titled Derek Jeter 3K, Wake’s quest for 200 wins has gone fairly unnoticed. Perhaps because that’s how Wakefield is; he might not have the outstanding statistics that dominant players have but for him, it’s not about his statistics or his successes, but the success of the organization as a whole. Jeter’s accomplishment deserves to be celebrated, but what deserves more reverence is Wake’s quest for 200 (perhaps solely attributed to the fact that I am a Sox fan and definitely not a Jeter fan). Wakefield’s quest is a team effort; if the defense doesn’t back him, runs can score whereas Jeter’s benchmark could be achieved whether or not the Yankees won or lost, his achievement was an individual achievement. I don’t mean to slight Jeter; his accomplishment is impressive let alone beautiful in the fact that he reached it with a homerun. His celebration is well deserved, but Wakefield’s attempt at 200 should receive more coverage.
With Sunday marking his fourth, and hopefully successful attempt at the elusive number, Wakefield’s career seems reminiscent of a Hollywood story, perhaps For Love of the Game. He reminds us of the genuine players who don’t seek the statistics for themselves but for the team. When his third attempt against the Twins came and went, Wakefield wasn’t downtrodden when the Sox won too late in the game, instead he was simply happy the team won, that the Sox were a step closer to the postseason. In 17 seasons wearing a Red Sox uniform, Wakefield hasn’t created a dominant role as a pitcher, but he’s added the numbers to where they matter as statistics within the organization. In a game of numbers, the statistics are constantly changing, creating a market that is much less reliable than current stocks, but Wake has remained steadfast.
200 is not a question of if, but simply, when. At 45, the oldest pitcher in the league, Wake has said he’d continue to play, “until they tell me I stink, or they don’t want me around anymore.” He’ll reach 200, perhaps flying under the radar, he’ll become the 108th pitcher and then he’ll move on to whatever the rest of the season has in store for the Sox.
~~Trenna Field, Thomas’ Trolley Blogger at Large