Red Sox Fellowship of the Miserable: Haywood Sullivan

Apr 3, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; A general view of Fenway Park during the fifth inning of the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Pittsburgh Pirates at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 3, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; A general view of Fenway Park during the fifth inning of the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Pittsburgh Pirates at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Red Sox have had their share of management boondoggles and Haywood Sullivan contributes with failing to mail a contract. That started a few years of misery.

Just what is The Fellowship of the Miserable? The original term was coined by former (thankfully) Celtic coach Rick Pitino to describe the perpetually angry Boston fans who mount continual assaults via talk radio. The tactic has also migrated into the realm of the media that quite naturally supports and encourages such activities – face it, folks, it does boost ratings.

The Red Sox have a long and illustrious history of contributions to the Fellowship with displays over the years that brought forward a crescendo of negativity. I will focus on the Red Sox and it is both an oral and written history passed down from generation to generation.

More from Red Sox History

How difficult is it to mail a letter? How about sending it certified mail? You simply spent a minute or so at the post office and get a receipt for mailing and one for when it is delivered and signed. Simple enough, right? In 1980, United Parcel Service existed and had since 1936 so that is a viable alternative for a rush delivery of important items – say a baseball contract? Thank you, Haywood Sullivan – Red Sox GM.

The Red Sox failed to get new contracts in by December 20 for Carlton Fisk and Fred Lynn for the 1981 season – they’re last before entering free agency. Both players filed a grievance and were granted free agency. The Red Sox chose to trade Lynn to the Los Angeles Angels in the middle of his arbitration grievance hearing. The Angels quickly signed Lynn to a four-year deal and his Boston career was history.

"”As a matter of fact, there was absolutely no reason for there to have been such a case. If the club does not tender the proposed contract on time, the player is a free agent. Why waste the time, energy and money of everyone involved? It’s stupidity of the highest order.” Marvin Miller (NYT)"

A few weeks prior to the Lynn trade the Red Sox sent another core member of their 1975-80 team out via trade as shortstop Rick Burleson was shipped to the Angels for Carney Lansford, Mark Clear, and Rick Miller. At least Langford would win a batting title in the strike-shortened 1981 season.

The turmoil for Boston continued as they held steady on Fisk until he became a free agent. The talk around the campfire was Fisk would stay in Boston if the money was right. It was not and Fisk moved on and signed with the White Sox rejecting several other potential suitors.

"”I had to make a monumental decision to leave Boston. It’s been very trying and rough on the entire family. A few months ago, I never could have visualized this scene taking place here today.” – Carlton Fisk (NYT)"

The Red Sox had a sudden bout of stinginess as they were attempting to hold the line of what they perceived as fiscal sanity. But baseball was rapidly changing and salary barriers were being raised almost daily. The Red Sox had long had a buying mentality, but Tom Yawkey had died and his wife Jean Yawkey placed the day-to-day baseball operations into the hands of Sullivan as the Red Sox chose another path to follow after some initial free agent spending.

"”We know what we can afford. But I honestly believe Carlton wants to play here, and I think he’ll sign here. We will continue to negotiate and try to sign him.” – Red Sox GM Haywood Sullivan"

The years that followed were not only professionally embarrassing, but offered up some of the nasty racial issues that Boston was attempting to rid itself of. Most notably was the Tommy Harper incident where Harper – an African-American – was fired after he was critical of the organization’s connection to an all-white Elks Club in Winter Haven and their nefarious practice of entering the clubhouse and extending invitations to players – white player only. Harper eventually received a settlement from the Red Sox.

Next: Eduardo Rodriguez placed on DL

The management issue was one of the public broadsides as Sullivan engaged in a bitter dispute with Buddy LeRoux. This resulted in dueling press conferences and the trading off of dirty laundry in public. This made for great theater, but what was most important was the ball club was sinking fast with losing seasons in 1980 and 1983 before the farm system kicked in with an influx of talent.

The ineptness and management confusion set Boston baseball back a decade.