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How John Farrell Destroyed the Last Knuckleballer

Updated on October 23, 2018
Billrrrr profile image

Bill Russo is a retired Newspaper editor who admits to skipping a few college classes in Boston's Kenmore Square to see some Red Sox Games.

The Last Knuckleballer, Stephen Wright

The 2016 All Star Season

Make no mistake about it. Stephen Wright in 2016 was on his way to one of the best seasons ever pitched by a Knuckleballer. And that’s saying something because the iconic ‘Flutter-by’ pitch delivered 318 wins for Phil Niekro, 260 for Ted Lyons, 221 for Phil’s brother Joe, 216 for Charlie Hough and 200 for Tim Wakefield.

The stats leave no doubt about the fabulous season Wright had in 2016. On May 8, he baffled the New York Yankees with his ‘flutter-by’ pitch for nine full innings allowing just three hits in his first complete game win, a 5-1 victory. The only run mustered by the Bronx club came with two outs in the ninth inning – a sacks empty shot by Brett Gardner. Wright struck out seven. As the All-Star game approached, the fans and MLB took note, placing him on the American League roster, with his glittering ERA which was the lowest of any starting pitcher in the league. His record going into the break was 9-5 for a Red Sox team that featured a very young Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley, and a superbly aging Big Papi, David Oritz.

By mid August the 31 year old right-hander racked up 13 plusses with only six losses. He also showcased his endurance by hurling four complete games. Only Chris Sale and Johnny Cueto, with 6 and 5 respectively had more; and they had a whole season to accumulate their stats. Stephen Wright did not…thanks to Farrell.

When R A Dickey Retired in 2017, Wright became the Last of the Breed


One of the Worst Managing Decisions Ever!

Flashback to Sunday, August 7, 2015. The Red Sox were playing the Dodger in Los Angeles on their way to a 93 win season and a division title. The Dodgers had a 6-3 lead going into the sixth but the Fenway gang closed the gap to 6-5. David Ortiz walked and went to second base on an RBI single by Mookie. Farrell suddenly decided to pinch run for Big Papi, although he didn’t make the move when the slugger was on first base.

Pinch running for Ortiz may have made some sense, but taking the greatest clutch hitter in baseball out of a game where he might get another at bat is pretty dumb. Next Farrell became Dumb and Dumber when he chose his best pitcher Stephen Wright to be the pinch runner. Wright was scheduled to start against the suddenly hot Yankees in just three days, but Farrell sent him in anyway even though he had Sandy Leon or another position player available. Wright hadn’t run bases since his college career ten years prior.

Like a good soldier Wright took second base. Trying to grab a lead off the bag, he was forced back when the pitcher tried to pick him off. The worst-case scenario played out as he jammed his shoulder, was forced to leave the game, and went on the disabled list.

He missed almost the entire 2017 and 18 seasons. This year he pitched just enough to show us that he still has the potential to be ranked with the all time greats. He was 3 and one with a miserly 2.68 ERA. Only Chris Sale and late pick-up Ryan Brasier had better numbers.

To be fair, the foolhardy Farrell decision resulted in a shoulder problem while the more recent injuries have been knee problems. But the shoulder bone is connected to the back bone and the back bone is connected to the knee bone and the knee bone is … oh ‘Dem Bones’. They are all connected and the whole thing is Farrell’s fault.

Ageless Phil Niekro Tossed the 'Flutter-by' Until he was 48


Stephen Wright's Career is Over. Kaput! Finis!

I think it’s safe to say that Stephen Wright, who became the last Knuckleballer in Baseball when R A Dickey retired; is all washed up. His career is over, kaput, finis.

Except for one thing. He throws a ‘flutter-by’ pitch, the Knuckleball. Knuckleball pitchers often don’t get started until they are past 30.

Cases in point: Hoyt Wilhelm who won 143 games and had 227 saves, pitched in the major leagues until 16 days before he turned 50! Phil Niekro was not far behind retiring at age 48. Charlie Hough hung up his spikes at 45. R A Dickey was 42 and didn’t start to get good until he hit 37, when he won 20 games for the first time as well as the Cy Young Award. Tim Wakefield pitched until he got his 200th victory at the age of 44.

At this writing Stephen Wright is 33 years old. He can take a year or two off and come back at 35 and still be one of the greatest Knuckleball throwers of all time.

I hope so, because he is the last of a dying breed and it’s always a fun adventure to watch a knuckleballer flirt with both disaster and greatness in the same game.

Good luck to you Mr. Wright we’ll be wishin’ and hopin’ to see you on the mound sooner than later.


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    • Billrrrr profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Russo 

      13 months ago from Cape Cod

      It's old school Bill. A little bit crazy, a little bit scary, and a whole lot of fun. Good for you mastering that pitch. People wonder why there are not more knuckle ballers. If it was easy, there would be.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      13 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I'll have you know the knuckleball was my bread and butter pitch in high school and college. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing some power hitter flailing helplessly at a good knuckler. :)


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