At the winter meetings, Sullivan traded Burleson and Hobson to the Angels for Lansford, Miller and Pitcher Mark Clear. He tried to trade Lynn to the Dodgers for pitchers Steve Howe and Joe Beckwith and First Baseman Mike Marshall, but the deal fell through at the last minute when L.A. refused to give Lynn only a one-year contract. That was a much better deal than the one Sullivan finally had to settle for: Lynn and Pitcher Steve Renko to the Angels for Pitcher Frank Tanana, Outfielder Joe Rudi and minor league Pitcher Jim Dorsey. Rudi and Tanana are strictly temps; both are in the final year of their contracts, as are Yastrzemski, Second Baseman Jerry Remy, Outfielder Tom Poquette and Reliever Bill Campbell.
"I just couldn't make a trade for Fisk," Sullivan says. Because he mailed his contract offer to Fisk two days after the deadline, Fisk was ruled a free agent. Sullivan likes to give the impression he did that on purpose. He would have people believe that instead of paying Fisk a high salary won through arbitration this year, and then losing him to free agency next year, he decided that losing once was better than losing twice. It doesn't wash, though. Fisk left and the Red Sox got nothing in return.
That Sullivan got as much as he did for Burleson and Lynn is a tribute to his baseball savvy. "Sully's a good baseball man," says Tiger General Manager Jim Campbell. "He's just a victim of circumstances, and his club is no different from the other clubs which have lost players." Sullivan has been careful to depict his stand not as a penny-pinching exercise but as a crusade against outrageous salaries. "The insanity has to stop somewhere," he says.
What do the boys in exile think of Sullivan? "I still don't know what their objective is—to win or to make money," says Lynn. "I'm sure they'll make money. I don't think they can win." Says Renko, "Baseball is a millionaire's toy. If they can't afford to run a club the way it should be run, they should sell and get out." Says Burleson, "It's their club and they have a right to run it the way they want." When Fisk was told that Ruth's response to being sold to the Yankees was "My heart is in Boston—I have a farm in Sudbury," the catcher said, "My heart is in Boston—I have a farm in New Hampshire."
How did Haywood and Buddy get into this fine mess? Sullivan was an ordinary catcher and a decent manager who was hired by Yawkey in 1965 to be the Red Sox player personnel director. LeRoux was a Red Sox and Celtics trainer who made a lot of money massaging real estate in Winter Haven, the Red Sox Florida home. When the Yawkey estate put the team up for sale in 1977, Sullivan and LeRoux got the scratch together, with the considerable help of Mrs. Jean Yawkey, who remains an Invisible Owner. "I don't know why people are against us," says LeRoux. "Where else but in America can a former catcher and a former trainer buy a baseball team?" Harry Frazee, by the way, was a former bellhop.
Sullivan and LeRoux are nowhere nearly as strapped financially as was Frazee, who kept using the Red Sox to finance his Broadway flops. (Two years after he sold the ball club, Frazee struck it rich with No, No, Nanette, which featured the hit tune Tea for Two.) "We don't owe a single dime," says Sullivan. That isn't strictly true. The owners need a reported $3 million a year to pay the interest on the loans they took out to buy the team. And pardon the expression, it's a whole new ball game nowadays. One baseball executive says, "It's too bad for the Red Sox, but that's the kind of time we're living in. The market of players today has become crazy. They don't have the money they had under Yawkey. Yawkey would have handled it." He might have done what the Baltimore Orioles did. Faced with much the same problem, they signed most of their stars to long-term contracts.
The overall impression the Red Sox owners give is that they're commanding the U.S.S. Caine—someone is always stealing the strawberries. Last year the Red Sox wasted a lot of energy in a battle with the D'Angelo brothers, who own two lucrative souvenir shops on Yawkey Way and Lansdowne Street. The team wanted the brothers to pay a licensing fee for use of the team logo. When the brothers refused, the Red Sox set up their own "official" souvenir shop on Lansdowne Street.
In the past, LeRoux and Sullivan have raised ticket prices without public announcement. The next time they're tempted to raise the prices, they should remember how much money they saved by not signing Fisk, Lynn and Burleson. On Opening Day, they angered the players' wives by switching their complimentary seats behind home plate to less desirable locations.
Of the Visible Owners, Sullivan seems to be overworked. While LeRoux handles financial matters, Sullivan takes care of everything else. He sits on two important owners' committees, serves as general manager, carries a walkie-talkie for crowd control, and yet he has no assistant to tell him when contracts should be mailed. He can't do it all alone, but he tries, either out of pride or penury.
Ruth's 29 homers were more spectacular than useful; they didn't help the Red Sox get out of sixth place.