Michael Wacha is trending toward journeyman status as the starting pitcher is now on his fourth team in as many seasons, inking a one-year deal with the Boston Red Sox on Saturday. The interesting aspect isn’t his effect on Boston’s starting rotation, but rather that he’s playing in the park where his most notable run ended.
Wacha’s 2013 postseason – in which he won the NLCS MVP and helped lead the Cardinals to the World Series, including winning one of his two starts against the Red Sox — would’ve had you guessing he’d be the heir to the nearly ended Adam Wainwright era, and not someone who could never quite get right.
His 2014 season started off as promising before he got injured, a recurring theme to his career, and 2014, like 2013, ended in large part due to his pitching. He was the loser of the championship clincher against Boston in 2013 and gave up a series-ending, walkoff homer to Travis Ishikawa in relief in the NLCS the following year.
His only All-Star season, 2015, featured another postseason letdown, this time against the rival Cubs. It wasn’t as dramatic as the two previous years, but considering he went 17-7 and still couldn’t get a W when it mattered, you kind of knew 2013 was an aberration. It could have been familiarity or injuries that felled Wacha, but whatever it was, he’s never been the same.
Since then, he has oscillated between effective and hurt in the regular season and remained beyond shaky in the postseason. He hasn’t won a playoff game since 2013, losing last season as a Ray facing the team who just signed him, in addition to the walkoff against the Giants in 2014 and Cubs in 2015.
I’m not sure Red Sox fans are going to be welcoming of a pitcher they’ve been on the better end of two out of three times when it matters, but who knows? Maybe they forgot his 2 2/3 innings of nine-hit, six-run ball in the ALDS a season ago and are totally cool with it. No history of that fanbase having bias.
The What If is strong with Wacha, as it is with so many postseason phenoms. Fellow former Cardinal postseason hero David Freese, who actually capped off his run with a World Series title, never hit that peak – or hit like that — again. I don’t want to make too big of a deal of a guy who had a 5.05 ERA last and went 5-6, so I won’t.
I doubt he’ll have any contributions of consequence, but it would be poetic for him to have a big moment as a salt-and-peppered veteran on a team he faced as a rookie in the World Series nearly a decade ago. It could happen. Boston stays in the postseason, and October heroes come in all shapes and ages.
Or he could fail, in which case that’d be extremely cruel and probably more likely.