OAKLAND — Steve Lyons is standing in right field, down the first base line, at Harold Alfond Fenway Park, and he is awestruck. The youth baseball Fenway replica at Camp Tracy is a kids-sized version of the home of the Red Sox, and Lyons loves it.

“It comes up on you quick. You’re driving down the street and next thing you know, you’re driving past Fenway. This is really beautiful. As we stand here talking, you can hear the crickets, which is a cool thing to hear,” Lyons says.

Lyons takes baseball seriously. Himself, so not much. That’s how he got the nickname “Psycho.” That’s how he drew national attention in 1990, when playing for the Chicago White Sox, he dropped his pants to shake out the dirt after sliding into first base in Detroit. That’s why when he talks about his nine-year Major League career, Lyons is the butt of his own jokes, even when he’s reminded he was the Red Sox first round pick in 1981 out of Oregon State University.

“I don’t know how big a prospect I was, because it was an odd selection that I was a first round pick, that’s for sure,” Lyons says. “I talk about the game a lot better than I played it, anyway.”

Lyons was in central Maine this past week to take part in the GHM Golf Classic at Belgrade Lakes Golf Course, supporting the Alfond Youth and Community Center’s backpack program. We stood on the field at Harold Alfond Fenway Park and chatted for 12 minutes. It felt much longer, in a good way.

Since he retired from playing after getting into 28 games for the Red Sox in 1993, Lyons has made his living as an analyst. working for Fox and ESPN, as well as the Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, and since 2014, NESN and the Red Sox. As for the 2019 Red Sox and their disappointing meandering through the season after 2018’s historic dominance, Lyons has opinions. Don’t we all?


“For me, maybe it’s oversimplified, but I don’t think they were ready. They were babied in spring training because everyone was worried because they’d played a month longer than everybody else did and they might be a little worn down,” Lyons says. “These guys are the most finely tuned athletes in the world and they’re in their 20s and they had four and half months off. I mean, how much more time do you need to get ready? I don’t think they were ready to go when the season opened, and their record indicated that early on. They never recovered from that.”

As of Saturday morning, the Red Sox were six games out of a wild card spot with 21 games to play. The pitching staff has spent the season being consistently inconsistent. The bullpen blows saves like it’s flipping a coin (heads we save it, tails we don’t), but Lyons lays a lot of the blame for the pitching woes at the feet of the starters.

“They’re overworked every night, when the starters are going four or five innings. You can’t get six innings out your bullpen every night and expect those guys to go out and keep pitching well,” Lyons says. This is Wednesday afternoon, before the Sox went with “bullpen games” in the weekend series against the Yankees, and Milwaukee Brewers castoff Jhoulys Chacin went just two innings Friday night.

The Red Sox are disappointed in their 2019, Lyons has no doubt about that. He sees the way the players bristle at the media and he gets it. Nobody likes seeing their failures picked apart over and over like bleached bones on a beach. Lyons also thinks the current Sox have it a lot easier than their predecessors, who didn’t have the goodwill of four World Series titles in 15 years to somewhat soften the criticism.

“It didn’t get to me that much because I wasn’t any good anyway. I knew that they didn’t think I was going to do anything. There’s no question the media in Boston was way tougher when I played than it is now. The media these days may ask a tough question but they won’t follow up on the answer if they don’t get the answer they want. You have to have a little bit of a thick skin to play here,” Lyons says. “I’d say more so than than media, it’s the fans. The fans expect greatness. The organization has had that. They pay for that. But if you ask any athlete who’s worth his salt, he’d tell you he’d rather play in a town where they want you to win and expect you to win than someplace where they don’t care.”

Lyons’ father was from Boston, so he grew up in Oregon as a Red Sox fan. Lyons was traded by the Red Sox in the middle of the 1986 season to the White Sox for future Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver. Boston wanted a veteran pitcher for the stretch run. Chicago wanted a young prospect. Seaver got hurt and missed the postseason. Lyons settled into a career as a utility player.


“It’s kind of weird when you go through it. I thought (the trade) would be more helpful to my career, but it really wasn’t,” Lyons said.

Tony LaRussa was the White Sox manager at the time of the trade, and Lyons thinks he lobbied to get the younger player back for Seaver rather than a veteran like outfielder Tony Armas. But almost as soon as the trade was complete, LaRussa was fired.

“He went to Oakland. I ended up playing for Jim Fregosi, and Fregosi didn’t even know who I was. When I got there it was almost like a tryout again,” Lyons said.

Thus began a career of playing sporadically, anywhere an everyday player needed a rest.When your career highlight is mooning the Tiger Stadium crowd, you shrug it off. With more than 25 years of hindsight, Lyons is at peace with his playing days.

“I made the team as a utility player, so I got tabbed as a utility player and never really got the opportunity to be anything more than that. I spent the next nine years of my career in the big leagues fighting to be more than the guy sitting at the end of the bench. If you don’t play consistently, you’re not going to play that well,” Lyons says. “I look at my numbers overall, and think, this guy was a below average player. But when you really look at playing twice a week and hitting .260 off the bench and doing what I did as guy who didn’t play very much and play against the other team’s ace pitcher every time, because that’s the only guy you’re facing, my numbers looked a lot better to me, I guess.

“The two best years I had were the two years I got the most at bats. It just makes sense. You play more, you play better. You sit on your butts, you don’t get to play that well.”

That’s the past. The present is a Red Sox season that looks like it will end meekly in a few weeks, not in October euphoria. Has this season been one long hangover after the 119 wins of 2018? Maybe, Lyons says.

“The Los Angeles Dodgers played in the World Series last year too as far as I remember and they’re looking pretty darn good,” Lyons says.

That fact hits like a line drive off Little Fenway’s Green Monster, and rain starts to fall.

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