Boston Red Sox top 25-man roster in franchise history

23 of 26


View image |

Luis Tiant

Career Stats: 229 W, 15 SV, 3.30 ERA, 6.24 K/9, 2.85 BB/9, 54.8 WAR
With Red Sox: 122 W, 3 SV, 3.36 ERA, 5.45 K/9, 2.54 BB/9, 28.5 WAR

Luis Tiant’s career is one of great highs and lows, but perhaps the pinnacle of the colorful Cuban’s career came with the 1975 Red Sox.

The Red Sox had essentially picked Tiant up off the scrap heap. After an incredible 1968 season in which he posted a remarkable 1.60 ERA for the Cleveland Indians, leading the league in shutouts while winning 21 games, he slumped terribly the next season. Tiant had trouble adjusting to the lowered mound, which changed after the 1968 season, leading the league in homers allowed and walks and losing 20 games with a 3.71 ERA.

Cleveland traded him to Minnesota, where he was plagued by injury before being released. After Atlanta would not bring him to the majors, the Red Sox signed him to a minor league deal. Tiant worked out of the bullpen in 1971, posting a rough 4.85 ERA in his first season in Boston. Despite those disappointing results, the trade of Sparky Lyle in March 1972 kept him with the team for that season. After working the first half of the season in the bullpen, Tiant went on a 40 inning scoreless streak as a starter that kept him in the rotation to stay. He won the American League comeback player of the year for 1972, winning 15 games and leading the league with 1.91 ERA.

The 1975 American League Champion Red Sox brought Tiant into national focus with his flamboyant style of pitching and variety of arm angles and pitches. Earlier in his career he had been a hard thrower, but by this point, Tiant excelled with deception and changing speeds. In the World Series, Tiant shut out the Reds in Game 1, even scoring a run, comically scampering around the bases on an overcast dreary day at Fenway. Tiant won Game 4 in a complete game, 155 pitch effort in which he was constantly working out of jams, but manager Darrell Johnson had enormous confidence in the wily Cuban, something you don’t see much of in today’s game. After the team bailed him out after a poor performance in Game 6, the team was 4-0 in games he started that postseason.

Tiant won 21 games in 1976 but started to fade in 1977 with a 4.53 ERA. The following year, Tiant rebounded with a 3.31 ERA and won the final game of the Red Sox regular season to get the Red Sox into a one-game playoff, but that did not get him a new contract. Perhaps he had payback in mind when he signed with the Yankees.

Tiant has a strong Hall of Fame case, but his 31 percent of the vote in his first year of eligibility was his best showing. Tiant’s 229 career wins and 49 shutouts are better than Hall of Famers Jim “Catfish” Hunter (224 wins, 42 shutouts, five titles), Don Drysdale (209 wins, 49 shutouts, though a 2.95 ERA and three titles), and Jim Bunning (224 wins, 40 shutouts, no-hitters in both leagues), but perhaps those additional accomplishments are what put those other pitchers over the top.

No matter what the Hall of Fame says, “El Tiante”, big game pitcher, ebullient cigar smoker, and personality extraordinaire will never be forgotten for his eight years in Boston and deserves his spot on the Red Sox All-Time 25 man roster.

Next: Bullpen Pitcher 4