Interesting team, these Red Sox. Two of the owners, Buddy Le-Roux and Jean Yawkey, can't stand the sight of one another. Their best player, Rightfielder Dwight Evans, goes in for contract talks with General Manager Haywood Sullivan and comes out asking to be traded. LeRoux, who owns the hotel where the team stays during spring training, gets the players angry enough to file a grievance by charging them $125 a night for a player and wife and $38 for a player alone. Somebody should hang a Do Not Disturb sign on this club.
The Sox had a nice stay at the top last year, but check-out time was Aug. 2. Over the next nine days they went from a tie for first to 4½ games behind the Brewers.
In the off-season Boston sent Third Baseman Carney Lansford, whose contract was about to become a problem, to Oakland for Tony Armas, who will be the Sox' new centerfielder, and Catcher Jeff Newman. Both are righthanded hitters whose swings seem meant for Fenway Park. The key to the deal was Wade Boggs, a .349 hitter in 104 games as a rookie last year. Boggs had to play somewhere, and even if he isn't a Baryshnikov at third, he fields as well as Lansford.
Boggs is superstitious, to put it mildly. He eats only chicken, and his wife Deborah knows 20 different recipes for it. He once went five for five after eating lemon chicken, so she works that into the rotation more often than the other recipes. He wakes up and eats at the same times every day. He always puts on his left sock and shoe first. He carries his bat with him at all times when he's at the park. He uses a C-235 Louisville Slugger for righthanders and an R-161 for lefthanders. He runs his wind sprints at precisely 7:17 before every night game. "That reminds me to go seven for seven," he says. Before he steps to the plate, he draws the Hebrew chai sign, a symbol for luck, in the batter's box. Going out to his position he steps over the baseline, and coming in he steps on it. He takes two steps in the coach's box each time. But, of course, Boggs didn't hit .349, or .318 over six minor league years, on superstition.
Elsewhere, if outfielders Evans, Armas and Jim Rice do as expected and if First Baseman Dave Stapleton, Catcher Rich Gedman and Shortstop Glenn Hoffman can avoid slumps, the Red Sox will have an even better lineup than last year, when they had a .274 team average. Oh, yes, the man they call Yaz is back for his 23rd and possibly final year—the last game of the season, against the Indians, is already sold out in anticipation of the event.
Pitching is Boston's big shortcoming. Behind Dennis Eckersley and John Tudor, the starters fall off to a grab bag of Bob Ojeda, Mike Brown and Bruce Hurst. The bullpen, with Mark Clear, Luis Aponte and Bob Stanley, is among the best in baseball. But the starters will need miracle years if Red Sox fans are to avoid another stay in Heartbreak Hotel.
Dwight Evans worked hard to attain the American League's finest on-base percentage (.403), swatting 178 base hits (32 homers, 7 triples, 37 doubles) and wangling 112 bases on balls. Once aboard, though, Evans all too often became a victim of Red Sox Rubout as Boston established a major league mark by grounding into 171 double plays. Jim Rice was responsible for 29 of them.