Rich Gedman had a very good year in 1985 (.295 with 18 homers), and a fairly good year in 1986, and he entered free agency. He was only 27, coming off a season where the pitching staff he had caught for 135 games had gone all the way to Game Seven of the World Series. Not a single team made him an offer. Under the rules of the day, the Red Sox couldn’t sign him until May 1, so he was more or less idle (certainly in terms of game action) throughout the spring. There were other players going through a similar ordeal of sorts on other teams. It wasn’t a tough call when the Players Association alleged collusion. MLB had been pretty ham-handed about the whole thing, and they were found guilty of collusion and had to pay a reported $280 million to the players. It still didn’t feel good, and Gedman had a disappointing .205 season.
In the case of Roger Clemens, he wasn’t a free agent. He just refused to work for what he’d been offered (he had that 24-4 record in 1986), and walked out during spring training. He was a holdout. Rather than start the season opener, he didn’t come back until the fifth game. The Red Sox lost their first three games, all in Milwaukee. It was Hurst who pitched on Opening Day at Fenway Park, and he won a three-hitter, shutting out the Blue Jays, 3-0.
Clemens started the April 11 game. He got through the first three innings OK, but was hammered for four runs in the top of the fourth, including a three-run homer by Willie Upshaw, and was booed loudly by the fans who were upset at what they saw as the mercenary approach of the owners in the Gedman case and Clemens himself in his case. He was pulled after four innings; the Red Sox lost, 11-1.
The Rocket still won 20 games, with nine losses. He threw seven shutouts and posted a 2.97 ERA - and he won the Cy Young Award for the second year in a row.
For Wade Boggs, it was the third year in a row that he won the batting title (his fourth time overall), and this time he hit 24 homers, as if just to prove he could hit for power, too. He batted .363 with 200 hits on the nose.
Dwight Evans didn’t win any awards, but fans continued to admire his play and particularly his arm in right field. He hit career highs with 34 homers and 123 RBIs.
It was a letdown year, though, after coming so close to winning it all in ’86. They didn’t even win half their games in 1987, landing in fifth place with a 78-84 records. The Tigers finished 20 games above them, and it was Detroit which went on to the postseason.By Bill Nowlin
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