In the “What If?” Files…Ferguson Jenkins

In 1962, Phillies scout Tony Lucadello (who later signed Mike Schmidt) signed a 19-year old Canadian pitcher named Ferguson Jenkins to a minor league deal. Jenkins spent a couple of seasons in the minors, getting called up to the Phillies bullpen in 1965. He pitched 12 innings that year with a 2.19 ERA. He then made one appearance in 1966 before the Phils made him part of a package to send to the Cubs for veterans Larry Jackson and Bob Buhl, both in their mid-to-late 30s.

Jackson had three solid seasons as a starter, while Buhl (who has the MLB record for worst season ever at the plate, going 0-70 in 1962) had a forgettable season in 1966 and retired in 1967. Jenkins, meanwhile, was converted into a starter, and in 1967 emerged as a superstar, winning 20 games, starting a streak of 6-straight 20-win seasons. His numbers speak for themselves. It is tantalizing to consider what the Phillies of the early 70s would have been with both Carlton and Jenkins, but it is probably a fruitless exercise.

After all, would the Phillies ever have ever converted Jenkins to a starter? And if they had, and Jenkins was winning 20 games a year, do they trade Rick Wise for Carlton? If Jenkins becomes a legend in this town, does he open a bar and restaurant called Fergie’s? Impossible to say. But what isn’t impossible to say is that the Phils gave up on a tremendous prospect way too early, and made one of the worst trades in franchise history (Interestingly, the worst trade in Phillies history was probably another one to the Cubs, Ryne Sandberg for Ivan DeJesus) Jenkins would amass a record of 329-244 and a 3.22 ERA, most of those wins coming for the Cubs and Rangers. He was easily a first ballot Hall of Famer in 1991. And if the Phillies hadn’t made a terrible trade in 1966, the most famous Fergie in this town might not be a guy who owns a few great pubs.