Friday, December 08, 2006

Fred Lynn

This Fred Lynn card is from 1980, just after the second and final of his great seasons. He was still a young man, just 28 years old, seemingly about to hit the prime of his career. He had already won three Gold Glove awards for his spectacular work in centerfield, had been the first player ever to win the Rookie of the Year award and Most Valuable Player award in the same season, and had in his most recent season come as close to winning the Triple Crown as anyone had since his aging teammate Yaz actually accomplished the legendary feat in 1967.

In 1980 he slipped back into the groove of pretty-goodness that had defined his seasons between the great seasons of 1975 and 1979. In 1981 he was traded to the California Angels and hit .219, perhaps trying to once and for all signal his fallibility to his adoring, overly needy fans who kept voting him onto all-star team after all-star team (even while he was hitting .219) and staring at him expectantly as if he was about to blossom for good into some incredible combination of Joe Dimaggio and Ted Williams.

In 1982 he began the second stage of his career for real, posting seasons of remarkable sameness and pretty-goodness. His home run totals told the story of this stage of his career the best. He hit 21 homers that first year, 22 the next, then hit 23, 23, 23, and 23 homers the next four years before wrenching himself into hitting 25 homers in 1988. If he hadn’t strained himself and had instead stuck with the usual 23 home runs, maybe he could have stuck around a little longer, but apparently the push for 25 took most of the fight out of Fred Lynn. In 1989 he only managed 11 home runs, and in 1990, long after everyone had finally stopped hoping for the golden Cooperstown version of Fred Lynn to return, Fred Lynn hit his last 6 dingers while clad in a brown and yellow San Diego Padres uniform. I have never seen an image of him in that uniform. I hope I never do.


Anonymous pete said...

I regarded Lynn and fellow "Gold Dust Twin" Jim Rice with awe from my perch across the Major League standings (in the NL East) when they first came up and set the AL East on fire.

His acsent/descent into better-than-average-but-not-great-ness always seemed vaguely poetic in some way.

Let us not forget the '82 ALCS when Lynn batted .600-something and won the MVP even as the el-foldo Angels blew the series. First time that happened for a player on a losing team.

Or the (first-ever) All-Star Game grand slam and player-of-the-game honors in the 1983 contest.

With Lynn on the trading block at the 1988 trade deadline, one wonders what inspiration and productivity he could have lent to the Red Sox pennant drive that year.

Though the Sox turned their nose up at Lynn, the Tigers acquired him for a broken pop-up toaster and a smattering of "players to be named later," and he hit seven homers over the remaining 27 games.
The Sox of course didn't even bother showing up in the playoffs and were swept effortlessly by Oakland....

12:51 PM  
Blogger spudrph said...

Wasn't this the transaction where it was made very late at the deadline, and the Tigers had to argue to MLB that the plane Lynn was on had contacted the tower in Detroit before midnight, and therefore Lynn was a Tiger by the deadline and could be included on the postseason roster?

8:45 AM  

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