As the Red Sox learned again in 2010, it’s hard to win enough games if most of your main payers miss huge chunks of the season.
The 1980 Red Sox were a team hit hard by injuries. Butch Hobson, Fred Lynn, Jerry Remy, and Carl Yastrzemski all missed about a third of the season – more than 50 games apiece. Jim Rice was hit on the wrist again, taking away much of his power for the rest of his career. At one point, the disabled list included the entire All-Star outfield from the preceding year: Rice, Lynn, and Yastrzemski - all at the same time.
Despite it all, the Sox still won 83 games, but that wasn’t enough for the powers that be, and Don Zimmer was let go, with Johnny Pesky running the team for the last five games. The team was in fourth place on May 25, and not often above it. They wound up a rung lower, 83-77 on the year, and in fifth place and 19 games behind the first-place Yankees.
Boston had signed Tony Perez as a free agent, taking on the man who’d helped beat them in the ’75 Series. He didn’t disappoint, leading the club in both home runs (25) and runs batted in (105). Jim Rice was second, with 24 homers and 86 RBIs, despite missing 36 games.
Lynn hit .301, with 12 homers and 61 RBIs in the 110 games he got into. He had one signal accomplishment, hitting for the cycle on May 13, helping the Red Sox double down the Twins, 10-5.
Carlton Fisk hit 18 homers, .289, and drove in 62, ranking third on the club.
It was Dennis Eckersley who led the team in wins again, but with a losing 12-14 record. Bob Stanley (10-8) was the only other pitcher to win as many as 10.
Other than Perez and Eck and Remy, most of the team had come up through the Red Sox farm system. And the system was beginning to produce more pitching, too. Bruce Hurst, Bobby Ojeda, and Bobby Ojeda were all lefties and 1980 was the rookie year for all three of them.
The worst day of a disappointing year came on December 20. That was the deadline to tender Carlton Fisk and Fred Lynn contracts for 1981 – but when they went out, they were unaccountably postmarked on December 22. As a result, both players became free agents. Historian Glenn Stout called it “the biggest front office error in the history of baseball.” GM Haywood Sullivan’s best defense was to deny it was a mistake. He claimed – though one would be at a loss to understand why – that he had mailed them two days late on the advice of the Player Relations Committee.By Bill Nowlin
- Bob Ojeda, Bob Stanley, Bruce Hurst, Butch Hobson, Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk, Dennis Eckersley, Don Zimmer, Dwight Evans, Fred Lynn, Haywood Sullivan, Jerry Remy, Jim Rice, Johnny Pesky, Tony Perez