Without a big-league contract for the upcoming season, Tim Wakefield has decided that his famed knuckleball will no longer flutter at Fenway Park.
Or any other ballpark for that matter. The 45-year-old right-hander is set to announce his retirement at a Friday evening press conference, ending a very noteworthy 19-year career in the big leagues.
Seventeen of Wakefield's seasons came in a Boston Red Sox uniform and he'll end his run at or near the top of several spots in the team's record book. His 3,006 innings and 430 starts are the most in team history while his 2,046 strikeouts rank second. His 186 wins in a Boston uniform rank only behind the 192 that Roger Clemens and Cy Young won.
Wakefield made only one All-Star team in his career (a feel-good appearance in 2009) and finished in the top five of only one Cy Young race (third in 1995, his first year in Boston), but he was as consistent as his mastery of baseball's oddest pitch. He'll carry a fun legacy into retirement as the top knuckleballer in an era when the pitch more or less died. Any discussion of the best knuckleballers of all time will feature Wakefield's name being debated among guys like Phil Niekro, Hoyt Wilhelm, Ted Lyons, Wilbur Wood and Charlie Hough.
Wakefield's decision to retire is a good one as he struggled the past few seasons. His prolonged attempt to hit 200 wins, a number he'll retire on, was particularly painful.
But despite that inevitability, it would now seem that baseball has a vacancy atop its king of the knuckler throne. R.A. Dickey? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.