Wakefield on Red Sox-Yankees and retirement

Tim Wakefield chats with Yankee and Met legend David Cone at MLB Headquarters. Photo by Jason Schott

Major League Baseball held a media event for MLB Draft team representatives at their headquarters on Monday afternoon. The Red Sox were represented by legend Tim Wakefield, and we caught up with the knuckleballer.

Wakefield said of what he is currently doing now, “I do a number of things for the Red Sox, more importantly I’m am analyst for NESN and an honorary chairman of the Red Sox Foundation.”

The Red Sox recently changed pitching coaches, bringing in Carl Willis to replace Juan Nieves. On if he had any interest in the job, Wakefield said, “No, no, no, no, no, I don’t want that job right now. That’s too full time and I have two little kids at home.”

On the current state of the Red Sox, “They’re right on the edge of either really breaking through and going on a really great run, they’re very talented they just can’t seem to put it together on all aspects. They pitch good, they don’t hit – they hit, they don’t pitch – so it’s a matter of getting all that going together in the same direction and they need to get some momentum built up.”

The Red Sox have a knuckleballer in Steven Wright, and I asked Wakefield if it is a requirement that Boston always have a knuckleballer on the team, and he said, “He’s done a great job. He’s a very valuable asset to the pitching staff. He just came out of the bullpen yesterday. They put him in the ‘pen instead of sending him to Pawtucket because his value is so great. He can pitch out of the ‘pen, he can start, and he pitched three innings and got a win last night, good for him.”

Wakefield said of his experience coming out of the bullpen, “I did close, for a year, 1999 I think, Flash Gordon got hurt, and they asked me to step in and I saved like 15 out of 17 games. Me and Derek Lowe switched, we were part-time closers together, and then he became the closer after that. He had four years of being a closer, then they put him back in the rotation.”

On coming in to a game in the 9th inning with his knuckleball and how that was a weapon, “I was a little scared at first, then I kind of got used to it, can’t make a mistake for three outs.”

On if he still hears about giving up that home run to Aaron Boone while he’s in New York, “Sometimes, once in a while, it is what it is.” On if 2004 took a lot of the taunting about that away, “I think so, yeah, for sure.”

When Terry Francona was the manager in Boston from 2004 to 2011, the Red Sox won around 95 games a year, something they had not done at any other point in their history. Wakefield said of what was special about that group, “I just think that we had great chemistry. When the new ownership group took over in 2002, obviously Grady Little was the first move that they made. We enjoyed playing for Grady, and it was unfortunate after 2003 he was let go. But then Terry came in and took over and kind of the same core group of guys that stayed together for such a long period of time that you really might not see anymore.

On the battles with the Yankees, “You know, you talk about the rivalry between us and New York, it was because we had five or six guys that played against each other for almost ten years, you know, Posada, Jeter, O’Neill, and Bernie, and then on our side, it was me and Tek (Jason Varitek), Millar, it’s like it was the same guys every year and when you played each other 19 times a year, you’re fighting each other, it’s like fighting with your brothers. It was fun to be a part of.”

On if he plans on reading Jorge Posada’s new book, Wakefield said, “I haven’t gotten it yet, I plan on it.”

On Posada being an antagonizer in the rivalry, “Him and Tek were the captains of those teams as far as catching goes. Although Derek (Jeter) had the title of captain, when you sit behind the plate and you could see everything, those two guys had the best views in the house.”

The Red Sox and Yankees have not been as consistent since Posada and Varitek retired and Wakefield said of that, “I don’t know about catching-wise, I can’t put my finger on why teams struggle for a couple of years. It could be leadership, you know, I think the Red Sox are in a transition stage now, where they’re waiting for, I guess Christian Vazquez would be their guy, and he’s hurt, so we’ll see what happens. The guys that are doing the job now are pretty good.”

On how he has liked working in broadcasting, “I love it, I really enjoy it. It’s a way to stay in the game without being too busy.”

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