Williams, Yaz, Fisk, Pesky…Wake?

Don’t ask me why I remember this.  I have a vague recollection of a day with my family at Hampton Beach in the summer of 1995 and I’m confident I can give you an exact date.  I believe it was August 13, 1995 where my parent, my sisters, my cousins, aunt uncle and myself grabbed a spot in the sand near a group of people with a radio.  It was a Sunday, the Red Sox were playing a day game, and Tim Wakefield was spinning another gem.  While we enjoyed a hot August day, Tim Wakefield provided the background noise as the knuckleballer, pitching in his first season with the Red Sox, won his 10th start in a row dropping his ERA to a jaw dropping 1.65.  Even at age 11 I was a nerd and a stat head, so I was fully aware of how impressive this feat was for a guy I had never heard of a few months earlier.

Here we are just over 16 years to the day, and Wakefield is gunning for win number 200.

I’m not going to beat around the bush.  Here it is, I think the Red Sox should retire Tim Wakefield’s number 49 after he retires (which might not be for another 12-15 years).  185 of his 199 wins are in a Red Sox uniform.  If he gets 8 more (and it’s looking like an increasingly big IF) to knock Roger Clemens and Cy Young off the all time franchise win list, they NEED to retire his number

For a long time, the Red Sox had certain requirements for player’s numbers to be retired.

1.       You had to be elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame

2.       You had to play at least 10 years with the Red Sox

3.       You had to finish your career with the Red Sox

Tim Wakefield has endeared himself to the people of Boston for nearly two decades, but with only right around 200 wins and a career ERA north of 4, he will not get any consideration for the Cooperstown.  Exceptions have been made!  The Red Sox abolished the third stipulation and posted Carlton Fisk’s number on the façade.  They made an exception for Pesky who never made it to the Hall.  Things change!  I’m not about to suggest, that Wakefield’s contributions over 17 years to the franchise can nearly match what Pesky has done in the last 70, but retiring number 6 was long overdue

I realize that having your number retired is supposed to mean something.  Celtic and Yankee players will be using three digit numbers before we know it, but Tim Wakefield is in a different category.  No he didn’t dominate like Manny, Ortiz or Pedro, he didn’t have a legendary post season like Schilling, he didn’t throw a no-no like Lester, but in a an era where almost nobody stays in one place for more than 5 years, Wakefield has not only been in Boston, but he’s been a pillar of everything that fans can appreciate in an athlete.  He represents loyalty, hard work, reliability and a team-first attitude.  He has pitched in every role the team has ever asked him to do and he hasn’t complained.  He was a valuable part of the team that broke an 86 year old curse, and if he can get 9 more wins in a Red Sox uniform, he’ll erase the name of one of the biggest liars and cheaters ever to wear the uniform from the top of the team’s most coveted pitching record.

If he does that…if he becomes the winningest pitcher in the history of a franchise that’s been around for over a century, don’t we owe him that much?  Doesn’t he deserve to be remembered with the all time great Red Sox?  Not necessarily just the greatest players to represent Boston baseball, but the ones who best embody the spirit of the city?

Maybe this opens a pandora’s box of good players who were fan favorites in another decade…aside from Dwight Evans, I can’t think of any who were around nearly as long as Wakefield.  Lonborg, Monboquette, Tiant and Foxx all spent less than a decade in the Hub.

Or maybe as I head into my late 20s, I can’t help but be enamored with the career of a man who has been a constant for me since I began to seriously follow the team, but when I think of the reasons to retire a number, I think about players that you want your fan base to think of when they talk about a team’s history 20, 30, or even 50 years from now.  Players who were a part of the big moments and players that a city could rally behind.  Tim Wakefield is one of those players that I hope gets that well deserved tribute for fans to remember 20, 30 or even 50 years from now…unless of course he’s still pitching

How hard is it to pick ONE winner…17 times in a row?

After months of uncertainty, the NFL makes it’s glorious return this week!!  Of course millions are wrapping up fantasy drafts, and looking for point spreads to start their pick-em pools, but one of my new favorite (and most frustrating) forms of football gambling is the survivor pool.  Pick one winner each week.  No point spread, just a winner.  Win and stay alive, lose and see ya next September.  I’m sure most of you are familiar with how it works, but the caveat is that once you pick a team, you are not allowed to pick them again for the rest of the season.

Week one is always the hardest for obvious reasons.  You’re dealing with a whole lot of unknowns.  There are a couple of different schools of strategy.  A lot of people try to pick a “lock” while still leaving the best teams unpicked.  In order to win 17 weeks in a row, you need to win AT LEAST 5 games with non playoff teams.  You don’t want to go into the last month of the season with no available teams above .500.

Others take the easiest pick available.  If that means burning a 7-0 team against an 0-7 team, so be it.  Some people would hate to lose with the Texans when they still had the Eagles, Packers and Patriots still available.  Last year I tried to leave some of the strongest teams and I think I was out in week 6.  I don’t know how I’m going to approach 2011, but let’s look at week 1 and figure it out as we go.

I’m going to use the process of elimination, so we’ll start with games that I’m not touching…

Saints @ Packers…the last two Superbowl champs…I don’t think I need to justify leaving this one alone.

Bengals @ Browns…divisional matchups are scary enough when you can easily identify the better team…never mind when they are two terrible teams…from Ohio

Titans @ Jaguars…pretty much the same reason as the battle for Ohio.  Also you put a lot of faith in a QB in these picks…I’m not putting my fate in the hands of David Garrard or Matt Hasslebeck in week 1.

Steelers @ Ravens…combine my logic from Saints/Packers and Bengals/Browns.

Panthers @ Cardinals…Two more miserable teams.  No thanks.

Seahawks @ 49ers…divisional opponents…Tavares Jackson or Alex Smith?  I’ll pass.

Giants @ Redskins…I think the Redskins (per usual) will be awful this year, but I’ve heard way too much negativity from Giants fans about their team this month to pick them on the road in a week one divisional matchup.  If I’m still around, maybe I’ll revisit this one when they rematch in the Meadowlands.

Raiders @ Broncos…You know why…this is getting repetitive.

8 games down, 8 games left…let’s look at the games I considered for less than 10 seconds

Falcons @ Bears…The Falcons are a trendy pick to play in February, and I’ll never put an ounce of faith in Jay Cutler to win when I need him to, but he’s just talented enough with a good enough defense that he can screw me over when I want him to lose.

Colts @ Texans…The pick to think about here was the Texans!  They always play the Colts hard at home and the uncertainty regarding Peyton Manning could leave the Texans as a solid favorite, but this still scares me.  I wouldn’t put it past Manning to play.  If he’s ruled out before the weekend, I may reconsider but this one still doesn’t feel right.

Lions @ Buccaneers…The Lions are a sexy playoff pick, but they are still the Lions and they are playing on the road against a talented young quarterback in Josh Freeman

…oh man the Redskins just announced that Rex Grossman will start on Sunday…ughhhh I might have to think a little harder about the Giants.

Cowboys @ Jets…This kind of goes back to the quarterback dilemma I mentioned earlier.  The Jets are a really good football team, with a stellar ground game…but I still just don’t trust a Mark Sanchez team against a talented Cowboys squad in week one.  The Jets looked MISERABLE in week one against the Ravens last year on National TV.  I think they probably win this game, but I’m not willing to bet my survivor pool life on it.

That leaves us with four possibilities…let’s take a look…

Patriots @ Dolphins…The Pats are a possible Super Bowl contender and the Dolphins are a team moving in the wrong direction.  There is no question that the Patriots are the better team, but any longtime Pats fan will tell you that all bets are off IN Miami.  The best example would be the 2-11 Dolphins beating the 12-1 Patriots in 2004 on National TV.  This is probably a safe bet, but I’m not sure I want to use the Pats in week one while they are playing a rival on the road

Eagles @ Rams…A Superbowl contender visiting a team on the rise.  The Rams scare me a little…I might be overrating them because I have a man crush on Sam Bradford, but again road teams make me nervous regardless.  This isn’t a terrible option, but I think the Rams are a little scary.  I am all for picking the best matchup available, but if I’m not significantly more confident in one team, I’ll try and save the better team for later in the season.  I might keep the Eagles in my back pocket

Vikings @ Chargers…I think this is the best matchup on paper, but the Chargers under Norv Turner are notorious for horrible starts.  They’ve started 2-3 in three of the last four seasons.

Bills @ Chiefs…A very popular and pretty successful strategy last year was picking against the Buffalo Bills.  If you like to plan ahead and save the top teams for later, this is probably the pick for you.  Matt Cassel says he’ll play, though the injured ribs could be a concern.  Regardless, I think Jamaal Charles has a big day, and Arrowhead is one of the great home field advantages in the NFL.  Their only home loss in 2010 was a meaningless week 16 game against the Raiders.

I’ve got all week to figure it out, but right now, the Chargers and Chiefs are my front runners…unless I can convince myself that Rex Grossman is bad enough to pick the Giants

I’m Here!

Welcome to Going Oppo, a hopefully somewhat unique take on the world of sports from a native New Englander with a bit of music and pop culture.  I don’t think anybody is interested in a full length autobiography, but let me give you a quick lowdown on who I am and what I’ll be posting about from day to day.

I was born in Boston, raised in Londonderry, NH and I’ve been playing, watching, debating or broadcasting sports since my parents had me memorize the batting order of the 1986 Red Sox at the tender age of 2.

As one would expect, my favorite teams are the Bruins, Patriots, Red Sox and Celtics.  I love to debate, I love international competitions like the Olympics, World Cup and Ryder Cup, and I love lists and countdowns.  Expect lots of lists!

In addition to being a sports fanatic, I’m an avid music lover with a spot on my ipod for MOST genre’s.  Without getting into too much detail in my intro, my all time favorites are Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, John Legend, Bruce Springsteen and pretty much any rap from the 1990s…Heavy D, Tribe Called Quest…all the fun stuff.
So thanks for checking in!  More on the way!  Please feel free to weigh in with any feedback, positive or negative.  You can reach me at goingoppo@gmail.com