I, kid, I kid…but on a morning like this one, this story on “Pitchers You’d Pay to Watch” raises my hackles. (To be fair, Stark’s story isn’t supposed to be representative of his thinking; he queried 20 GMs, assistant GMs, and scouts. But that’s a group that’s been known to be fairly ignorant when it comes to baseball…)
You could probably more or less guess the makeup of this list after downing a half-case of Sam Adams: Santana, King Felix, Dice-K, Clemens, Oswalt, Wagner, Zumaya. Pedro and Peavy got votes, as did Beckett and Bedard. And — here I’ll quote Stark — “(believe it or not) Tim Wakefield.” Jamie Moyer did not get a “believe it or not.” Tim Lincecum did not get a “believe it or not.” But Wake did.
Which is odd: the knuckleball is a dying art, and when a knuckleballer is on his game, there’s little that’s more fun to watch. I know Zumaya can throw 100 mph gas; I also know I can’t distinguish between a three-digit heater and a 92-mph heater, and if you say you can with your naked eye, you’re a stone-cold liar. Felix’s slider is a nasty, nasty weapon; Oswalt is fun just because he’s a fucking tiger, and Dice-K is, well, Dice-K. But watching a dumpy 40-something toss up paper airplanes that make professional ballplayers’ eyes bug out like Wile E. Coyote’s (and make them swing with such ferocity as to risk throwing out their backs)…now that I’d pay to watch. Especially because you’re likely to see it less and less as time goes on.
There’s also the fact that, at the moment, Wake is, hands down, the best starter in the league. He leads the AL in ERA (1.79.) He leads the league in BAA (.189). He’s put up six quality starts in seven games, compared to five each for Beckett and Schill. After last night’s absolute beauty of a game, he has a May ERA of 0.00, a May WHIP of .714, and lefties are hitting .132 off him for the month. On the season, he’s given up about 20 percent fewer hits than Beckett (38 vs. 31) and a little more than 30 percent fewer than Schilling (45 vs. 31). Even taking into account the fact that he obviously won’t keep this up all year, I’m still willing to bet he’ll have been year-end stats than Roger “Give me $8,000-per-pitch or I’ll stay in Texas” Clemens.
The lack of respect for Wake has been a bit of a bete noire for me as of late, and when I get something stuck in my craw, I’m likely to keep on gnawing on it until I can force it down. I’m thrilled that Beckett seems to have given up the bullheaded ways of his (recent) past. I’m also excited that Schilling appears to be closer to the ’04 model than the ’05 model; the Sox need both of these guys to play deep into October. But it would be nice if, instead of another SportsCenter or Baseball Tonight segment on one of these two, or instead of another full-length feature about Dice-K, someone, somewhere (besides here, I mean) decided to highlight a 40-year old pitcher who’s demonstrated the beauty of a skill that looks to be in its twilight years. After all, if you were a kid, wouldn’t you want to get noticed (and paid) for bringing the high heat (even if it resulted in a mediocre record) instead of getting looked over (and underpaid) for quietly making the best hitters in the world look like fools?
There’s no better time to read about your favorite team than when they’re doing well; it’s a truth that I quite well growing up in Boston. Which is why this is an absolutely perfect time to read Feeding the Monster, which is available from Amazon for only $17.16 (cheap!). And, of course, free signed and personalized bookplates are here for the asking. They’re really nice. Seriously: ask anyone you know who has one. Or just write in. But whatever you do, act today. There’s no better way to add to the glow of this springtime dominance than to revel in the victories and triumphs of the last several years.