With six strikeouts in Tuesday's 2-1 win over the Minnesota Twins, Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester passed Hall of Famer Cy Young on the storied franchise's all-time strikeout list, per ESPN Stats & Info.
Lester, now in his ninth MLB season and ninth year on the Red Sox, is fourth in team history with 1,342 career strikeouts, trailing only Roger Clemens (2,590), Tim Wakefield (2,046) and Pedro Martinez (1,683). Young now slots in at fifth place, with 1,341 of his 2,803 career punchouts coming in a Red Sox uniform.
With the exception of Lester, who still has plenty of time to cement his legacy, the top five of the Boston strikeouts list is comprised of some fascinating names.
Clemens, perhaps best known for his shocking late-career revival and subsequent involvement in the performance-enhancing drug controversy, ranks ninth on the all-time wins list (354), third in strikeouts (4,672) and third in wins above replacement among all pitchers (139.4). He also won seven Cy Young awards and one MVP, while garnering 11 All-Star Game nods.
Wakefield took a much different path, as he was known for his knuckleball and longevity, rather than any sort of dominance. In 19 major league seasons—17 spent with the Red Sox—Wakefield made just one All-Star Game appearance in 2009.
Pedro Martinez rounds out the group, sitting in third place despite the fact that he's widely considered the greatest pitcher in franchise history.
Martinez not only played for the curse-breaking 2004 Red Sox championship team, but also pieced together one of the most dominant stretches of pitching in baseball history from 1997 to 2003, while the rest of the league was overrun with massive sluggers. He earned the pitching Triple Crown in 1999, leading the American League in wins (23), ERA (2.07) and strikeouts (313).
The current Mt. Rushmore of Boston pitchers undoubtedly includes Young and Martinez, but the other two selections would cause no shortage of debate. Clemens, while deserving based on his performance, is one of the least popular players in both franchise and MLB history. Wakefield may have the longevity numbers, but he was never one of the better pitchers on his own team, much less in all of baseball.
With the other candidates consisting of non-Hall of Fame players like Luis Tiant—who was only with the Sox from 1971 to 1978—and Mel Parnell (1947-1956), it may not be long before Lester is viewed as one of the three or four greatest pitchers in franchise history.
On the other hand, Boston is barely hanging on in the playoff chase during Lester's contract year, so his time with the only franchise he's ever known may soon come to an end.
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