Tim Wakefield: When Life Throws A Curveball, Learn The Knuckleball

I’ve learned a few things in my life. The second- and third-most important lessons, of course, are “never get involved in a land war in Asia” and “never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line.” (Thanks, Vizzini.)

But the most important lesson is: “Life WILL throw you curveballs. It’s how you deal with them that dictates your happiness and success.” (You can use that if you want, just give me the credit or my lawyers will get you.)

Which leads me to Tim Wakefield, who retired from professional baseball today.

Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1988, he was actually a first baseman. But because his skills with the bat were not Major League caliber, he gave pitching a shot by learning to throw a knuckleball — a highly difficult pitch to master (since it’s nearly impossible to control where it goes). Heck, he got so good at it, his picture is on the Wiki page.

Wakefield rose through the ranks to reach “The Show” and stay there. And for 19 years, he baffled hitters (and often, his catchers) with the fluttering pitch that few others have thrown with long-term success.

He finished his career with 200 wins, 2,156 strikeouts and more than $55 million in career earnings. (Info courtesy his page at Baseball-Reference.com.)

All this from a guy who was good enough to reach the minor leagues as a position player, but not good enough (as a hitter) to make the leap to the big leagues.

So when you’re told you’re not good enough, or you encounter an obstacle that you think will ruin your life…remember Tim Wakefield. And do whatever the equivalent of “learning the knuckleball” is to your life.

(Bet you didn’t think I’d get all “personal development-y” on you. Not normally my style.)

I wrote all this because (as you might have read here in other posts) life has thrown my family and I more than our fair share of knee-buckling, 12-to-6 curveballs that stopped us in our tracks. Health issues, layoffs, you name it. But I/we learned to adjust, adapt and go on to find our happiness.

Your turn, kid. Get in the game, and be ready for the curveball — because it’s comin’.

The Phillies in 2014?

In my “keeper” fantasy baseball league (I KNOW, nobody cares about your fantasy team — trust me, I’m going somewhere with this one), my fellow owners and I have to think not only about this year, but the years ahead.

For example, we have two annual prospect drafts of two rounds (although unlike the real world, we can trade draft picks) and unlimited “prospect” spots. So you can hop on someone like superubermegaprospect Bryce Harper (whom I traded for this offseason) and when he hits the bigs, keep him at a very low salary.

Anywho, all this preparation I’m doing for the upcoming season (yes, I’m the returning champ for the first time in 17 seasons) got me thinkin’ about my Phillies and their future.

Baseball America posts (for free) their analysis of each team’s minor league organization and top 10 prospects. But one of the fun things they do is try to project the 2014 lineup:

http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/prospects/rankings/organization-top-10-prospects/2011/2611043.html

Let’s discuss those 2014 Phillies, shall we? (Except for Manager, all other names are the BA predicted starters.)

 

MANAGER = Ryne Sandberg. This is MY prediction, based on nothing but unbelievably brilliant insight. And the fact that he’s the Phillies’ AAA manager this year, and Charlie Manuel probably will be hanging up his lineup-fillin’ pencil right about then.

CATCHER = Sebastian Valle is the guy that BA lists as the starter. And I defer to the guys like @phuturephillies on Twitter who are way into the Phils’ minors, as well as my top-secret fantasy resource (the founder’s name rhymes with Blon Blandler for those of you “in the know”) who has him as an 8D — meaning he’s an 8 out of 10 talent-wise, but right now a D (A being most likely to fulfill his potential) when it comes to hopefully developing.

1B = Ryan  Howard will be 35 in 2014. So he should still be solid and hitting bombs, although power hitters generally start to fade in their mid-30s. If he keeps himself in shape, he’ll be serviceable defensively and probably still hitting 30-40 HR. I’m wondering if he gets dealt somehow to the AL to become a DH by this point though.

2B = Chase Utley will be 36 in 2014. Another guy who will need to stay in shape, especially if he wants to stay in the physically demanding middle infield. He’d be the easy choice to slide to 1B if Howard was sent to DH-land.

3B = Placido Polanco will be 39 in 2014. I can’t imagine that he’ll be the everyday 3B. Gotta believe that there’s somebody in the low minors who will develop by then. If not, yikes. Or we go get David Wright as a free agent, as some bloggers/Twitterers have predicted. He’d better re-establish his value in 2011 for me to get on board with that.

SS = Jimmy Rollins will be 36 in 2014. But if 2011 is anything like 2010, Jimmy will be a backup or something else. Doubtful he’ll have the wheels/athleticism to stick there. BA mentions infield prospect Freddy Galvis as being the “best defensive infielder” and having the “best infield arm,” so I’m hopeful he develops with the bat and can take over by then.

LF = Jonathan Singleton is BA”s choice here. Which means that Jonny Boy, a 1B by trade, will have to make the transition to the outfield if Howard or Utley is at 1B. And with a developing bat like J-Sing (made that up myself, like it?) has, he’s a keeper.

CF = Shane Victorino will be 34 in 2014. Probably slower, probably still playing super-hard. But maybe more of a 4th OF at that point. Especially since the Phils have young speedster Jiwan James working his way up the ladder. BA has JJ listed as “best defensive outfielder,” “fastest baserunner” and “best athlete.”

RF = Dominic Brown will be peaking at that magical “age 27” year in 2014. Hopefully, the Phils don’t mess up with the kid in 2011 after a 2010 season in which he came up and mostly sat — which doesn’t exactly help you become a better player. (I should know — look up my college stats.)

FUN DOM BROWN FACT = His middle name is Larun.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/b/browndo01.shtml

Anyway, love me some Dom Brown. Especially in 2014.

 

STARTING PITCHING: This was pre-Cliff Lee signing, so BA had Halladay/Hamels/Oswalt/Brody Colvin/Jarred Cosart as the 2014 starting five. Quick hits:

Halladay = All hail King Leroy. He will only stop dominating when he WANTS to stop dominating. Yeah, he’ll be 37. But he’ll be pitching on pure genius, and will take whatever’s left physically and make it sing.

Hamels = He’ll be 34. No biggie. Most lefties age well, and hanging around Halladay/Oswalt/Cliffie should smarten him up and make him effective for many years.

Oswalt = Like the “other” Roy, he’ll be 37. Again, genius. No worries here.

Clifton Phifer Lee = Will clearly be in this spot at age 36. And likely dominating. (Jeez, this exercise is REALLY making me crazyexcited about 2010!)

Colvin/Cosart = BA has Cosart has having the “best fastball.” Always a good sign. Gotta believe that either of these kids (or both), would benefit from being around R2C2, the Fab Four, the Phab Phour, or whatever they end up being called.

BULLPEN: Probably one of the hardest things to predict, since most bullpens are very volatile. BA thinks Ryan Madson will be the closer, and many agree that’s where he’s headed. The cool thing is that with the starting spots locked up for at least a few years, the Phils could turn some of the good young arms they have into power relievers and really have a strong corps.

Anyway, all things considered, it will be interesting to see how things develop as the core of this team gets older. Most experts agree that the current prospects in the low minors will be ready to start taking over around 2013 or 2014, so this roster could be WAY different than it appears above.

This was Phun! (Sorry.)

Catcher Sebastian Valle
First Base Ryan Howard
Second Base Chase Utley
Third Base Placido Polanco
Shortstop Jimmy Rollins
Left Field Jonathan Singleton
Center Field Shane Victorino
Right Field Domonic Brown
No. 1 Starter Roy Halladay
No. 2 Starter Cole Hamels
No. 3 Starter Roy Oswalt
No. 4 Starter Brody Colvin
No. 5 Starter Jarred Cosart
Closer Ryan Madson