The First Anniversary/The 2005 Fire Brand

Today is the first anniversary of Fire Brand of the American League. This page has come a long way, from a thrown-together Geocities page to what you see today. My very first post was titled, “There is No Such Thing as the ‘Curse of the Babe’” and we can give a resounding “Affirmative!” to that today. I’m not going to brag that the Red Sox just happened to win the World Series the the baseball season that Fire Brand started writing (oops, I just did) but what a first year to have in the archives.

I just want to thank everyone who has visited, whether it’s once or a regular visitor. I appreciate it, and I never thought it would get this far with this many people reading. I don’t know if I’ve made you smarter or if you’d miss me if I ended the blog, but I’ve had fun doing it.

When I made this site, I also made a logo, and that logo did not include Tim Wakefield.

I then put in Tim Wakefield, and after a couple more modifications (and not so great logos) I ended up with the one I liked.

This logo will change tomorrow. I have decided that the Fire Brand logo should rotate yearly, with a new person every year.

The Fire Brand of the American League is a Red Sox player who exhibits character under pressure, an unassuming man who leaves the spotlight for other people but makes his indelible mark on the past season’s Boston Red Sox. A piece most people take for granted, but whom we would have missed dearly.

Unfortunately, I never made a post explaining why Tim Wakefield was the inaugural Fire Brand of the American League, although I did reference him many times over the year, so regular readers know why Tim Wakefield is my favorite player. He is everything I just explained above in what the Fire Brand winner will be for the 2005 seasons and beyond. In 2003, he pitched 202.1 IP, 35 games, 33 starts, 11-7, with a 4.09 ERA. He pitched brilliantly in the 2003 ALCS, and would have won the ALCS MVP award, if not for Grady Little and Aaron Boone. He didn’t do so hot this year, 3 games in the ALCS with a 8.59 ERA and one start (the opening start of the World Series, as he deserved) with a 12.27 ERA in 3.2 IP. To be fair, the Red Sox didn’t help him out defensively, but those are ugly ERAs. We still love Tim anyways, and his 8.59 ERA doesn’t tell the whole story – that he helped us win the ALCS. In Game 3 of the ALCS, he volunteered to pitch in the Yankees mashfest, giving up his Game 4 ALCS start to save the bullpen.

He is a leader in the charities, a quiet, unassuming man who took the ball everyday and did as asked. He was a starter, a reliever, a closer, a mop-up man, everything for the Red Sox. To stay with the Red Sox.

Since the rule is now that you can’t pick the same Fire Brand two years in a row, I decided to pick someone who bears a lot of similiarity to Tim Wakefield.

Bronson Arroyo.

Like Wakefield, Bronson was bid adieu by the Pirates, and was claimed on waivers by the Red Sox. Unlike Wakefield, he spent the 2003 year in AAA, throwing a perfect game, before being called up and pitching so well in relief that he made the postseason roster. This year, he was going to be the middle relief ace, but when Kim imploded, he stepped in the rotation. He posted an ERA of 4.09, same as Wakefield’s in 2003. He was one of the top AL starters with regards to ERA, and pitched 178.2 IP in 29 starts, 32 games. He was 10-9 after losing a lot of games early on due to lack of run support. Wakefield was 28 when he stepped in for the Red Sox, Arroyo 27, so Arroyo’s got a year on Wakefield.

Both bring uniqueness to the mound. Wakefield has his knuckler, Arroyo has his high, extended leg kick. His windup is one of, if not the smoothest in the league. He simply rocks back and in a fluid motion, brings the leg up, then back down and releases, and heaves the ball to the plate. He doesn’t have outstanding stuff, but just inexplicably gets the job done due to his guile, his mix-and-match speed and control, and the game calling of Jason Varitek. A lot of people (myself included) think that he will somehow mature and become a frontline starter. There’s been a lot of talk of trading Arroyo this season, which I don’t like, because Theo is (apparently) trying to trade a baseball player, one of those people that quietly takes the ball and goes out on the mound and delivers.

He delivers so well that this past year, when he made $330,000, he got in the head of someone making $17,100,000 (and starting in 2008, will be making $24,000,000). That’s right, Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod didn’t like the fact that Arroyo threw a 82-mph slider that clanged off of A-Rod’s elbow protector (and Yankee fans complain that Varitek didn’t take his mask off?). A-Rod also certainly didn’t like the fact that Arroyo beat him in the ALCS, in a tight situation. So fustrated, he smacked his hand off of Arroyo’s glove, and we all know what happened with that play.

The Fire Brand of the American League is a Red Sox player who exhibits character under pressure, an unassuming man who leaves the spotlight for other people but makes his indelible mark on the past season’s Boston Red Sox. A piece most people take for granted, but whom we would have missed dearly. The 2005 Fire Brand of the American League is Bronson Arroyo.