Pointless, rhetorical barroom sports debate of the day: Who is the Most Valuable Player of the last two decades for the Boston Red Sox?

The answer is so self-evident that it’s laughable, yet I will be laughed to scorn when I supply that answer. That’s OK. I’m willing to catch the bullets and fiery darts in my teeth for this guy.

Tim Wakefield. No debate. No discussion. No compelling alternative.

If you’re entering your freshman year of high school, Wakefield has been the spinal column of the Red Sox through your lifetime.

Since the day he was plucked from the National League scrap heap, a one-season wonder with the Pittsburgh Pirates, sufferer of a complete loss of the strike zone that would make Mark Wohlers or Rick Ankiel blush, Wakefield has been a godsend in Boston.

Seriously, who else would you nominate for my mythical award?

Manny Ramirez? Please. Management has spent his always-entertaining tenure in left field trying to shake his albatross of a contract from around its neck.

Nomar Garciaparra or Pedro Martinez? What might have been, had it not been for flimsy wrists and rotator cuffs and the customary conundrum of confronting New England’s insane expectations.

Jason Varitek? Great captain, but not even man enough to catch Wake except in an emergency (read: extra innings in the 2004 American League Championship Series).

David Ortiz? A distant second, but he arrived too late.

Wakefield trumps them all with his loyalty, dependability and utter disregard for individual achievement.

With his ridiculous 14-1 start while the AL grew accustomed to his fluttering knuckleball and 66 mph heater, Wakefield was primarily responsible for Boston’s last East Division title in 1995.

While Dan Duquette let Roger Clemens walk into the “twilight of his career” and surrounded Pedro with Pat Rapp, Mark Portugal, Brian Rose, Steve Avery, Pete Schourek, Kent Mercker and Jin Ho Cho, T-Dub merely weaved a career-high 17 wins in 1998.

When Tom Gordon went down in ’99, Wakefield accepted a move to the bullpen and saved 15 games.

Left in the game as the sacrificial lamb after the worst managing blunder in Sox playoff history, Wakefield gave up the devastating home run to Aaron Boone in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. But he didn’t go all Calvin Schiraldi or Brad Lidge on us.

There he was again in ’04, giving a bravura performance in that thankless fifth starter role before barely squeaking onto the postseason roster. And there he was making three relief appearances against the Yankees, one memorably after midnight. And there he was starting Game 1 of the World Series.

All he’s done this year is win 15 games with more than a month to spare, avoiding no-decisions like leprosy and saving the bullpen from the workouts that Daisuke Matsuzaka and Julian Tavarez too often demand.

He wins the games he’s supposed to win. I don’t know who actually owns the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, but Wakefield is at least a silent partner.

Since May 2005, Wakefield has 152 wins, 22 complete games and 1,662 strikeouts. Stack that up against any current AL hurler not named Clemens or Mussina.

He’s the rock that makes the Red Sox roll. The answer to every unsettling riddle about the starting rotation or the bullpen. And his team’s defining player of this generation, gloves down.


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