Monday, November 14, 2016

Red Sox in Cooperstown Pt. 27: Ferguson Jenkins

Years in Boston: 1976-1977 (22-21, 3.47 ERA, 247 strikeouts, 79 walks)
Best Year in Boston: 1976 (12-11, 3.27 ERA, 142 strikeouts, 43 walks)
After taking the Cincinnati Reds to the 7th game of the 1975 World Series, the Red Sox decided to try to improve their already impressive starting rotation by acquiring Ferguson Jenkins.  Rick Wise, Luis Tiant, and Bill Lee were all returning and Jenkins would give Boston four starting pitchers that would be aces or number two starters on any other team.  Unfortunately, things did not end up working out as well as expected.

At 33 when he was acquired, Jenkins had already had most of his best years.  He had won 20 or more games seven times, with a career high of 25 in 1974 with the Rangers.  He won the National League Cy Young Award in 1971 with the Cubs when he was 24-13 with a 2.77 ERA and 263 strikeouts.  Jenkins had a little bit of a down season with the Rangers in 1975, going 17-18 with a 3.93 ERA.  Boston did not give up a lot to get Jenkins.  They sent Juan Beniquez, Steve Barr, and Craig Skok to Texas.  Of the three, only Beniquez had much value.

Boston slotted Jenkins into the rotation immediately, he ended up starting on Opening Day in each of the two seasons he spent in Boston.  He pitched a complete game and gave up just one run, but the Red Sox were unable to score and took a hard-luck loss.  Jenkins would have a decent, if not exactly great season for the Red Sox in 1976.  He ended up with a 12-11 record and a 3.27 ERA in 209 innings.  He struck out 142 and walked 43.  It was not his best season, and the rest of the rotation outside of Luis Tiant struggled, leading to Boston finishing third in their division.

Jenkins declined more in 1977, producing just a 10-10 season.  His ERA was a relatively decent 3.68 but he only struck out 105 batters, while walking 36.  Moreover, Jenkins did not get along with Boston manager Don Zimmer, like several other members of the team.  And, like other members of the team like Bernie Carbo and Bill Lee, Jenkins was destined to not last on the team due to not getting along with Zimmer.  After the season, he was traded back to the Rangers for a prospect named John Poloni, who would never appear in a Major League game with the Red Sox.  The trade was not good for Boston as well because Jenkins proved to have enough left in the tank to go 18-8 the next season.

Ferguson Jenkins's stint with Boston can be characterized as a minor detour.  He had decent, but not great seasons in his two years in Boston.  He is in the Hall of Fame primarily for his time with the Cubs, though he had some good years with the Rangers as well.  It is safe to say that he is not remembered for his time with the Red Sox, though he did have more success than he had with the Phillies.

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