Three former Boston Red Sox who should be in Cooperstown

COOPERSTOWN, NY - JULY 29: The podium is seen at Clark Sports Center during the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony on July 29, 2018 in Cooperstown, New York. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
COOPERSTOWN, NY - JULY 29: The podium is seen at Clark Sports Center during the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony on July 29, 2018 in Cooperstown, New York. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /
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BOSTON, MA – OCTOBER 23: Former Boston Red Sox player Luis Tiant waves to the crowd before Game One of the 2013 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals at Fenway Park on October 23, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA – OCTOBER 23: Former Boston Red Sox player Luis Tiant waves to the crowd before Game One of the 2013 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals at Fenway Park on October 23, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

Finishing up with another pitcher and a player who was teammates with Dwight Evans and Jim Rice in the 1970s, my third pick for a former Red Sox player who deserves to be in Cooperstown is Luis Tiant.

El Tiante played for nineteen years in the majors and spent eight of those with the Red Sox. He is remembered as a colorful character who was also one of the best big game pitchers of his era and he remains one of the most beloved Red Sox from those great 1970s teams.

First, his career numbers:

19 years, 229-172 W-L, 3.30 ERA, 2416 K, 1104 BB, 3486.1 IP, 3x All Star, 2x AL ERA leader, member of Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame.

On the face of it, those numbers are very good but not great. Add in his postseason numbers and his case gets a bit stronger (and remember, during the 1970s there was only the LCS and the World Series).

2 years, 3 series, 3-0 W-L, 2.86 ERA, 20 K, 11 BB, 34.2 IP.

That’s a small sample size, but when the games mattered, Tiant pitched well.

Now compare and contrast with this Hall of Fame pitcher who was El Tiante’s contemporary.

15 years, 224-166 W-L, 3.26 ERA, 2012 K, 954 BB, 3449.1 IP, 8x All Star, 5x World Series champion, 1x AL Cy Young Award, 2x MLB wins leader, 1x AL ERA leader.

This pitcher is also in the Baseball Hall of Fame and is none other than Jim “Catfish” Hunter. The individual statistics are strikingly similar. It’s the multiple World Series rings where Hunter has it definitively over Tiant, although it should be noted that Hunter had the good fortune of playing his entire career for loaded Athletics and Yankees teams.

His postseason numbers also help, although they lean a bit toward quantity over quality:

7 years/12 series, 9-6 W-L, 3.26 ERA, 70 K, 35 BB, 132.1 IP.

Those numbers are good but not great and if you want to do the mental exercise of realistically extrapolating Tiant’s postseason numbers out to the same amount of games, you’ll find he’d likely outperform Hunter.  It’s been said that Tiant had the misfortune of appearing on the ballot with some loaded candidate classes which is why he was never voted in. I also think that the effect of playing on those great Oakland and New York teams of the 1970s that won a lot of World Series helped Catfish as well.

Next. Red Sox All-Decade Team. dark

As with the case for Dwight Evans, Curt Schilling, and many others, Tiant on his numbers alone as historically judged probably falls short. However, if Hunter or especially a guy like Jack Morris (who has the highest ERA of any pitcher in the Hall, ever, as well as similar numbers  to Tiant) have been inducted, and if we’re playing by the current set of rules set forth by the Hall of Fame voters, then there isn’t a valid reason why Luis Tiant shouldn’t be in as well.