originally posted on ComcastSportsnet
Like many baseball fans, Fred Lynn will be tuned in later today when the MVP awards for both the American and National Leagues will be announced on national TV, followed immediately by interviews by satellite, texts, cellphone calls, and postings on social media. It’s a far different scenario than when Lynn won 37 years ago.
“To be honest with you, it was a non-issue,” Lynn said Thursday morning by phone from his home in Southern California. “Because after the season was over I was so crushed that we lost the World Series that nothing really mattered to me as far as awards. And there was no ballyhoo. No one talked to me about it. It was really a non-issue.
“In fact, I don’t even remember when they gave me the Rookie of the Year award. When the MVP came down, I was driving across the country and I learned about by either seeing it on TV or reading about it in the newspaper and no one could even get hold of me to talk to me because I was en route from Boston to California in a car.
“It’s so different than it is now. You hear ‘You’re an MVP’ and I thought ‘That’s great’. There’s no interviews, there was none of that kind of stuff.”
Lynn, the 1975 Red Sox center fielder on the team that suffered a crushing loss to the Reds in the World Series, made baseball history that season becoming the first player to win Rookie of the Year and MVP awards in the same season. He won both in landslides. He beat out teammate Jim Rice for the Rookie of the Year, with 23.5 first place votes. In MVP balloting, Lynn took 22 of 24 first place votes, beating Royals first baseman John Mayberry, 326-157 – the 169-point margin of victory was the largest ever in either league.
A lot of things from that season stand out – playing in the World Series, coming up with Rice, playing with Carl Yastrzemski, Rico Petrocelli, Carlton Fisk. His three-home run, 10-RBI game on June 18 in Detroit. But as a rookie, Lynn, who played 17 seasons, was just trying to keep his head down and do his job.
But he wasn’t thinking about postseason awards at the time.
“No,” he said. “No one talked about it. [Not even] the media. We were so intent in getting to the playoffs. And you have to understand as rookies in those days you were seen but not heard. No one was going to ask our opinion about anything. They went to the veterans. It’s not like now.”
Lynn’s accomplishment didn’t really sink in until much later.
“For the first couple years after I had done that, we’d play on the road and they’d have a quiz for the fans, ‘What player was the first to win both?’” he said. “And my name would come up. And then I really didn’t understand what I had accomplished until my career was over. And you look back on it and you say ‘You know what, that was pretty groundbreaking.’ Because rookies in those days, we were second-class citizens, even on your own club. You had to prove yourself not only to fans and the media but to your own teammates. So it was much more difficult for rookies to do anything because a lot of times rookies didn’t even make the club.”
Thursday’s MVP announcements, especially that of AL MVP, will be accompanied by a great deal of national – and international — attention, along with much debate, discussion, dissection, and analysis over whether the right player won. Angels center fielder Mike Trout, who was named the AL Rookie of the Year earlier this week, has a chance to join Lynn and Ichiro Suzuki as the only players to win both awards in the same season. Trout’s strongest opposition will come from Detroit third baseman Miguel Cabrera, who etched his name in the history books this season, becoming the first Triple Crown winner since 1967, when Carl Yastrzemski accomplished the feat.
Although Lynn lives in Southern California, and has ties to the Angels from his four seasons playing for the club, he hasn’t seen much of Trout. Lynn got a chance to see the Angels phenom in August, when the Angels and Lynn visited Fenway Park at the same time.
“I always watch centerfielders, anyway,” Lynn said. “And I just said, ‘Wow, this is a big kid.’ He looks like he’s about 220. I played football. He looks like a fullback, almost like a middle linebacker, and with speed. So that’s a really, really rare combination. You don’t see it that often. You see one or the other, the size or the speed. He kind of reminds me of when Bo Jackson came into the league.
“He’s a fun player to watch. I watch defense. I don’t watch offense, because a lot of guys can swing the bat. And guys that size it’s no surprise that he can hit home runs. But I watch guys defensively. That’s what I’m noted for and that’s what I watch in other guys, and that’s pretty much how I judge centerfielders, not with their bat but with their glove. So he’s fun to watch, there’s no question about it.”
Asked if there was anything about Trout’s game that reminds Lynn of himself, he laughs and quickly replies, “No!”
“No, because of our size differential. At the end of the ’75 season, I was wearing down. There was no weightlifting in those days, you have to remember, and I was barely 6-feet tall and by the end of the season I bet I was about 170 pounds. This kid hits about 225.”
So, who does Lynn think should win the 2012 AL MVP?
“From what I’m hearing it’s going to be closer than I think it should be. But it’s Cabrera all the way,” Lynn said.
“Cabrera stepped up big time in September and he carried that club and all of a sudden he’s leading in every category. And you go, ‘Hey, wait a minute, we have a Triple Crown candidate.’ And not only did he carry that weight on his shoulders, he carried his whole team. You look at what he did in September, he hit [.333 with 11 home runs and 30 RBI in 31 games], whatever it was. Men on base, ho got the big hit. Got the home run. He did all these things. And his team won. And they won because of him primarily. So that was the deciding factor. As an ex-player — I played with the last guy to do it, Yastrzemski — so I know how difficult it is to achieve that feat. And to be able to say that you got your team to the playoffs, too. The other guy didn’t? I think it’s a no-brainer.
“In your lifetime you might not see it. And if he doesn’t’ win, it just shows me that these new sets of criteria or statistics have crept into our game that no player was a part of, no player thought of these things. It was a guy from MIT. If he doesn’t win, I’ll just say ‘What? How can you do that to a Triple Crown winner and a guy that got the team to the playoffs?’
“Plus the fact that – here’s another thing I’m not hearing much. He’s a first baseman by trade. So he was willing to move to third base. Obviously he knows he’s not Brooks Robinson. But he’s got pretty soft hands, he catches everything that he can get to, and he’s got a pretty good arm. He knows that their team is better with [Prince] Fielder over at first. So he’s willing to go to a new position. And when you do that, there’s a stress factor that you can’t even imagine. And no one’s talked about that. It’s stressful. Ok, I’m playing third, don’t screw up. These are things he wouldn’t think about if he was playing first. So that tells me he’s a real team-oriented guy. You love to have guys like that on your club. They’re willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of the team. That is points. Trout played better defensively. Well, OK, what if you put him at third base or someplace where he really feels naked out there? So that’s a big deal. This is a real team guy. I just like the guy a lot.”