Al Bello/Getty Images
Wake celebrating in 2004.
Many Red Sox fans probably feel that Tim Wakefield should take the No. 4 spot over Luis Tiant. If anything however, Wake has a debatable hold on this spot over guys like Lefty Grove and Mel Parnell.
Regardless, Wake has spent an incredible 16 seasons with the Red Sox. Few players last that long in the majors, never mind all with one club. Yes, the knuckleball gives Wakefield a leg up with durability, however the pitch is also a uncertain one, and it's unpredictability is reflected in various meandering paths of Wakefield's stats sheets.
Wake's overall Red Sox numbers are not the prettiest to look at: a 4.39 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP. His 2853.1 innings and 407 starts are the most in franchise history, and he ranks third in wins (179) behind Cy Young and Roger Clemens, who both have 192.
However, Wakefield hasn't hung around with Boston this long just because he's a good guy. He's never been a star, however, he has turned in several fine performances over the years.
In 1995, the young, struggling knuckleballer was released by the Pirates in April and picked up by Boston. After being called up from Triple-A Pawtucket, Wakefield went 16-8 with a 2.95 ERA and 1.18 WHIP, helping push the Red Sox to the AL East division title. His 1995 was good enough for a third-place finish in AL Cy Young voting, and he also won the AL Comeback Player of the Year Award.
Since then, Wakefield has served in seemingly every role imaginable for his team. He's been a starter, He's a been the long man. He's even been the closer.
Wakefield has only recorded a season ERA below 4.00 twice since 1995, however that is, partially at least, reflective of his role. One game he might called upon to spot-start in a big game at Yankee Stadium. A week later, he might be pitching in a mop-up role in a random blow out against the Blue Jays.
It's difficult to firmly ascertain Wakefield's value because of his ever-shifting role and his knack for streakiness.
One thing's for sure though is that Wake holds a special spot in the hearts of Red Sox fans. By and large, no one called for Wake's head in 2003 when he served up Aaron Boone's 11th inning home run Game 7 of the ALCS. He did not become his generation's Bill Buckner, for what that's worth.
When the Red Sox won the pennant the following year, Terry Francona honored Wakefield, who had given up an ALCS start to eat innings out of the bullpen, with the start in Game 1 of the World Series.
In 2005, Wake signed a unique contract with Boston, a "rolling" $4 million club option that essentially makes Wakefield an indentured servant to the Red Sox. Not that $4 million is chump change, but, given this day and age, now there's humility.
Honorable Mention: Lefty Grove (1934-1941)