Lynn, who has only 43 RBIs—he had 105 in 1975—says, "If I'm not driving in as many runs, it's because I've been moved up to third in the order and I don't have a couple of .300 hitters in front of me." But despite a .306 average, he clearly is not the swashbuckling MVP of a year ago. "Balls that Fred would've dived for and caught last year are popping out of his glove this season," says Evans. Burleson has improved his hitting and fielding in the past six weeks, because, he says, "I stopped pressing and went back to my old way of doing things." Now batting .267, he is the only player on the team whose average is higher this season than last.
Probably no one felt the sting of criticism more than Fisk, a native New Engender whose average has plunged 100 points from last year's .331. Although injuries are partially to blame, Fisk admits, "As a catcher, I have to be totally involved to be effective, but I just couldn't concentrate. I was denying myself the emotional involvement that I need to play well."
According to Jerry Kapstein, the agent for all three players, the holdout issue "was blown right out of proportion. It certainly hasn't hurt the Phillies, who have four holdouts." But bitter feelings did result in Boston. "A sour taste was left in some mouths," Zimmer says, and Burleson claims he could sense the tension. "My teammates would never say so, but I could tell that the little arguments that arose and the nitpicking I sometimes heard were really caused by our holdouts."
Even though that crisis has passed, the Red Sox continue to lose as often as they win. Boston was shut out twice last week, although it did show some old form in a 2-1 win over California. Burleson twice made game-saving stops, and Lynn drove in the deciding run with a single in the 10th inning. In the bottom of the 10th, Leftfielder Jim Rice, whose RBI total is way down from his 102 in '75, clinched the victory by throwing a runner out at home plate. "All year those things have been happening to us," said Burleson. "Tonight we did them for ourselves."
It was indeed a positive sign for the future for which the Red Sox are already preparing. Johnson is said to be scouting the list of possible free agents for a relief pitcher and a second baseman. And if rookie Butch Hobson comes through—he has hit only .196 so far—at third base, 33-year-old Rico Petrocelli may be traded or sent to Seattle or Toronto in the expansion draft.
There will be few banquets, a vastly reduced number of celebrity appearances and no awards for the Red Sox during the coming off-season. "It was fun," Rice says, "but this winter I think we'll all be thinking about baseball."