It hurt that Luis Tiant was signed by the Yankees, after becoming a free agent – but the Red Sox hadn’t truly put on a push to keep him. He put up the same 13-8 record he had for Boston in 1978, but after that it was definitely downhill.
The Spaceman - Bill Lee - was gone, traded to the Expos for Stan Papi, who hit an underwhelming .188. Everyone knew that it was getting rid of Spaceman and not any desire for Boston’s first Papi that was the reason for the trade. The fan base was a little discouraged to see so many of the most colorful Sox players departing, for one reason or another.
The Eck – Dennis Eckersley – brought some color to the team, however, and won 17, with perhaps his best game being the 1-0 win over Ferguson Jenkins in Arlington, Texas on July 28. Eck started 33 games and was 17-10 with a 2.99 earned run average. Mike Torrez was 16-13, and Bob Stanley – converted to a starting pitcher – was 16-12. The Steamer’s best effort was the 10-inning four-hit shutout he threw against the Kansas City Royals on June 11. The Red Sox scored four times in the top of the 10th.
On offense, Jim Rice and Fred Lynn each hit 39 homers, tied for the team lead. Rice banged in 130 runs and Lynn drove in 122. Rice hit .325 and Lynn hit .333. They could hardly have been more twin-like statistically. Butch Hobson hit 28 HRs and drove in 93. And Carl Yastrzemski hit 21 and drove in 87.
The starting outfield voted in for the All-Star Game was Rice, Lynn, and Yastrzemski – though Yaz played first base in the game. Not one of the New York Yankees was elected to the team. It was perhaps some consolation, after 1978, that the Yankees finished in fourth place.
A few weeks after the All-Star Game, on August 15, Rice homered and then singled in the winning run; it was the sixth multi-hit game in a row for Jim Ed (14-for-26 in the six games). Rice collected 201 hits, which – with his 39 homers – was his third consecutive season he’d reached 200-plus hits and 35 or more home runs. No one else had ever done it.
Yastrzemski set his own record, too. In the July 24 game at Fenway Park, Captain Carl hit his 400th home run in a 7-3 victory over Oakland. On September 12, he made his 3,000th base hit - the first player in A.L. history to have both 3,000 hits and 400 home runs.
The Red Sox won 91 games, but Baltimore won 102 and that left the Sox 11 1/2 games out of first place. They were in third place, behind the Brewers. Under Don Zimmer’s watch, the Red Sox had now won 90 or more games three years running, and drawn good crowds, but had no pennants to show for their efforts. And the sour taste of Bucky Dent still lingered.By Bill Nowlin
- Bill Lee, Bob Stanley, Carl Yastrzemski, Dennis Eckersley, Don Zimmer, Fergie Jenkins, Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, Luis Tiant, Mike Torrez, Stan Papi