Spare Parts: Settlement brings closure to Bobby Jenks’ career

Bobby Jenks
Bobby Jenks in 2011 (Keith Allison / Flickr)

Unlike other members of the 2005 championship team, Bobby Jenks did not live an extensive life in baseball after the White Sox. He went to Boston on a two-year, $12 million contract, only to pitch 19 unproductive games and undergo spinal surgery that ended his career at the age of 30.

Given the nature of pitchers and spines — as well as Jenks’ tumultuous history before the White Sox acquired him — a sudden end to his playing days wouldn’t have been out of the question. But according to Jenks, a surgery was supposed to be a “quick and easy” decompression procedure ended up requiring a second surgery due to a tear in the sac that covers a spine, causing a spinal fluid leak and an infection. He never pitched again.

Jenks initially complained about his treatment from Massachusetts General Hospital in 2012, and seven years later, he was awarded a $5.1 million settlement before his lawsuit went to trial. The basis of Jenks’ claim was that the surgeon was double-booked, and records showed that the surgeon started a second spinal surgery 18 minutes before Jenks’ procedure was considered finished.

The linked story is a feature by the Boston Globe, which had been investigating the practice of concurrent surgeries and complications that stem from them. Jenks just happened to be the highest-profile case that drew renewed attention to it, and Jenks said that’s a concern of his from here:

“I want this to be spread everywhere and known by everybody,” he said in an interview. “What they practiced at the hospital was unsafe and should not be done anywhere.”

Spare Parts

The “accomplished pitcher” in Ken Rosenthal’s story is James Shields, who is one of two pitchers in the history of the free-agent era to throw 200 innings and find no takers the following year. The other is Dallas Keuchel.

Keuchel’s story is better known, although not fully understood. He presents his case as a rational man who is not asking for One Big Payday, but the price at which algorithms value him. He said the offers have come in well below that, although he wouldn’t specify.

Shields said he’s received no formal offers, and salary doesn’t appear to be a stumbling block with him. Rosenthal talked to a team official who said Shields only wanted a guaranteed deal, nothing exorbitant.

As those who watch the White Sox can tell you, there is value in a veteran who can throw 200 innings, even if they aren’t the prettiest. However, in an environment where teams don’t have to get marginally better, it seems as though they’d rather spend the season throwing younger players against the wall, even if none of them stick.

The White Sox’ plan of bombarding the Indians with changeup worked splendidly for Lucas Giolito, and less well for Reynaldo López. The difference doesn’t necessarily come down to quality of the changeup, but what sets them up.

Giolito located his fastball well, and when paired with adequate location and good deception on his changeup, he didn’t need to throw anything else. For López, it seems like losing the angle and reducing the movement on his fastball makes it less of a presence at the top of the zone, which then makes hitters less anxious at the sight of changeups down.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is hitting .162/.244/.189, giving Eloy Jiménez some company as wunderkinds who stumbled out of the gate.

I guess we can wait to see how they handle Manny Banuelos in the finale before offering our personal opinion, but Eno Sarris is wary about the Tribe’s future even if Jose Ramirez’s walk-off homer is the start of an individual return to greatness.

Once again, it’s the bottom half of the order that’s the culprit. By Statcast’s expected wOBA metric, the bottom of the lineup is ranked poorly. Leonys Martin (33rd percentile), Jake Bauers (31st percentile), Jason Kipnis (36th percentile), Carlos Gonzalez (29th percentile) and Kevin Plawecki (30th percentile) all rate as poor when it comes to their expected production given the angles and velocities of their batted balls to date.

What to do about this, though?

Unfortunately, going back in time and spending on the outfield is not an option, if it ever was.

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Josh Nelson

The Bobby Jenks story is a “Wow.” I wonder how often surgeons are double booked across the country and if this practice is common. Sucks that it ended his career prematurely.


It’s pretty common for a surgical resident to be the one “finishing up” operations, which sounds like what happened in this case. For operations considered uncomplicated, it might be the case that the resident is the one performing the entirety of the surgery, while the surgeon supervises. While this is obviously necessary for training purposes (they have to get that experience somehow) it can mean a higher chance of a mistake.

As a life lesson to everyone: check who is performing your surgery during pre-op. Ask questions about who is going to be in the room and who is going to be holding the knife. You have the right to demand that the surgeon is running the show from start to finish, that’s what you (and your insurance) are paying for.

As Cirensica

That’s a lot of The Athletic stories I can’t access 🙁

Greg Nix

Subscribe. It’s cheap. 

As Cirensica

It is cheap, but I have trimmed all my sports readable supscriptions. SoxMachine is the only “subscritption” I keep because I really enjoy Jim’s, Patrick’s, and Josh’s contents. I think I will end up joining eventually. Writing content competes with visual content. I have MLB.TV and DZN. I’ll have to think about it.

Also, a weakened Canadian dollar does not help me to acquire US services.

lil jimmy

Just get it

Lurker Laura

I see Josh already promoted it on Twitter (fellow Block Club subscriber, Josh?), but it doesn’t hurt to spread the word some more.

Josh Nelson

I saw your post first and trying to spread it far n’ wide. Thanks for sharing!


Saw this in the morning digest email, really cool

Lurker Laura

Lots of celebrities or athletes seem to do charity because they’re “supposed” to – “I have lots of money now, I need to be seen doing good things, I guess.” But by all appearances, Tim really means it and really cares about these issues. It’s one of the reasons I’ll defend his bat flips to the end.


Yea, that sounds to me like more downplaying contributions or aiming for modesty than “I guess this is just obligatory.”

Lurker Laura

Michael Jordon was well known for doing it because his face needed to be out there, not because he was  personally invested in issues or communities.


That’s it exactly. Jordan and Timmy are perfectly opposite athletes and my feelings toward both are equally polarized. It’ll be interesting to see Tim after his career ends (NO rush on that, btw). I bet the differences between him and Jordan will continue.


Green light.

karkovice squad

The most frustrating thing about Lopez is definitely that the arm-side run on his fastball is so variable game-to-game. When he loses the movement he allows lots of loud contact.

The second most frustrating thing is the difficulty locating it when he doesn’t have the good action.