Despite ten 20-HR seasons, one batting title, and All-Star appearances in each of his first nine seasons, Fred Lynn always fell short of expectations–betrayed by a fragile body and burdened with one of the finest rookie seasons in ML history.
In 1975, Lynn captivated Boston with his effortless lefthanded swing, ringing line drives, and almost daily sprawling catches in centerfield as he led a young Red Sox club to within one win of the World Championship. On June 18 he bombed the Tigers with 3 HR, 10 RBI, and 16 total bases in one game, and by season’s end Lynn had hit .331, led the AL in runs and doubles, and became the only player ever to be named Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same season. In 1979, he was even better, leading the AL in batting (.333) with 39 HR and 122 RBI. Lynn, however, longed to play in his native California, and the Red Sox obliged by trading him to the Angels in January 1981. Away from Fenway Park, Lynn would never hit .300 again.
He remained one of the AL’s better-fielding outfielders when healthy, and had six consecutive 20 HR seasons (1982-88). His grand slam in the 1983 All-Star Game (the only grand slam in All-Star play) was his fourth All-Star Game home run, second only to Stan Musial in ML history. But he was never the Hall of Famer he had appeared destined to be in 1975, and the main culprit was injuries. While some were the result of reckless play (he broke a rib crashing into an outfield fence and twice tore up his knee breaking up double plays), more often it was nagging strains and sprains that kept him off the field. The only year in which he played 150 games was 1978.