The Greatest Rookie Season: Fred Lynn 1975

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With this week being filled with announcements of Gold Glove winners, Rookie of the Year nods, and the MVP voting announced, it’s hard to imagine one player winning all three in one season. As hard it is to believe, it actually did happen. In 1975, Boston Red Sox rookie Fred Lynn took home all three, in what should be viewed as the greatest rookie season in baseball history.

Lynn came to the Red Sox via the 1973 draft. He was a two-sport star at USC (he also played football) during a period where the Trojans were perennial College World Series contenders (winning every year he was there). Boston was going through a youth movement. Captain Carl Yastrzemski was given support in the lineup by promising bats like Carlton Fisk, Jim Rice, Dwight Evans, Cecil Cooper, and Rick Burleson.  Out of them all, it was Lynn who had the most skills. Lynn also had the experience of going through college baseball and shining in a September call-up in 1974, hitting .419 with two home runs and 10 RBIs in 15 games.

It’s not hard to imagine a rookie winning a Gold Glove (Nolan Arenado did in 2013), but as an American League outfielder it was unprecedented. Lynn was the first rookie from either league to win the Gold Glove in the outfield. Given how hard it is to assign every facet of defense, especially for that era, a statistic, Lynn was still a great choice for a Gold Glove. Just by looking at his assists, errors, and total zone, he matched up well with past winners like Paul Blair and Amos Otis.

Offensively, Lynn was the total package, hitting for average and power while batting cleanup for the Red Sox. He led Boston in nearly every offensive category. Even compared to the rest of the American League, Lynn was near the top of most offensive stats. By season’s end, he led the Majors in slugging (.566) and tied in doubles (47, with Pete Rose), while leading the American League in runs scored (103) and OPS (.967). Even looking at his season splits, he put up veteran numbers.

Come voting time for the MVP and Rookie of the Year, Lynn’s freshman season impressed the writers enough that he dominated the final results. He took nearly all the first place votes in the MVP (Rollie Fingers was the only other player to get first place votes). Lynn’s only competition in the Rookie of the Year was his teammate Jim Rice (who had a great year himself).

One cannot neglect the fact that Ichiro Suzuki won the Rookie of the Year, MVP, and Gold Glove in 2001. It’s true, from a Major League Baseball perspective, he was a rookie, but he had already established himself as one of the Nippon League’s best players at that point (including three Pacific League MVPs from 1994-1996). In reality he was not a “rookie” in regard to making the jump from amateur or minor league baseball.

Unfortunately for Lynn. the rest of his career did not pan out in a similar fashion to his rookie season. While he was still a very good player, especially for what he brought defensively, his inability to avoid injury prevented him from being a long-term superstar. He played 17 seasons and in only 5 of those seasons did he play in over 130 games. It should not be forgotten how great of a player Lynn was. Tool for tool, Fred Lynn was a great baseball player. The 1975 season was, unfortunately, the peak of everything coming together for him.

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One Response

  1. tl

    Lynn’s 1979 season was superior in almost all aspects. If he had stayed in Boston, he might be in the HOF. What’s also interesting is the idea that of those three tremendous young outfielders who played for the Red Sox, Dwight Evans may well have had the best overall career.

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