MESA, Ariz. — Fred Lynn's ability has never been questioned, only his intensity.
He has been described as passive, laid-back, the quintessential Californian. Lynn has heard it all.
"People accuse me of having a Malibu mentality," the former Angel said at the Baltimore Oriole training base in Miami last week. "The truth is that I'm one of the few people who grew up in California and have never been to Malibu.
"People also said and wrote that I wanted to leave Boston. I never wanted to leave Boston. I'd have to be crazy to want to leave Fenway Park."
Add Lynn: A block from where the new Oriole now trains is a pizza parlor with life-size pictures of Babe Ruth, Sandy Koufax and Roberto Clemente on three of the walls, and one of Lynn on the fourth.
"Obviously, the guy got a deal on mine," Lynn said. "The only eating establishment where I thought I'd see my picture on the wall was a hot dog stand."
A recent Times story dealt with Bob Boone's bid to pass Al Lopez on the all-time list of games caught. Lopez is No. 1 at 1,918. Boone is 15th at 1,518 and will pass Lopez in three years if he maintains his three-year Angel average of 141 a season.
Additional research shows that Boone set a record for 36-year-old catchers last year and that he probably will set another this year for those 37.
Boone caught 137 games last year despite torn cartilage in his left knee. That's 18 more than any 36-year-old catcher ever caught. Only one 37-year-old has ever caught more than 100 games. Sherm Lollar caught 107 in 1961.
Boone expects to catch at least 130. He is in marvelous condition, for which he credits a Kung Fu training regimen that he began under Philadelphia Phillies' strength coach Gus Hoefling in the late 1970s.
Boone has said, however, that although he can separate the offensive and defensive facets, he doesn't deserve to catch that many if he hits .202 again.
Bet this, though: The Stanford psychology grad will be back there even if he hits .102. That's how much Gene Mauch, the thinking man's manager, thinks of his thinking man's catcher.
Rich Yett, 22, a right-hander who played at Chino's Don Lugo High School, was considered a strong candidate for the Minnesota pitching staff after posting a 12-9 record at Toledo last year.
Yett reported to spring training overweight, however, then suffered a shoulder injury that has further hampered his spring bid.
Said displeased Manager Billy Gardner: "I thought he spent the winter at the beach because he showed up with the inner tube still around him."
Add Twins, or Department of What a Difference a Year Makes:
"Before the pennant drive, if you walked downtown and yelled, 'I play for the Minnesota Twins,' people would hide and then a bus would try and run over you," outfielder Tom Brunansky said.
Bart Johnson, 35, last pitched in the majors in 1977 and last pitched, period, in the Mexican League in 1980. Johnson, a White Sox scout since then, is attempting a comeback with the Sox. Asked to supply a scouting report on himself, Johnson said, "No location, little idea, needs a lot of work."
The Major League Players Assn.'s man of the year is Kansas City co-owner Avron Fogelman, who first rewarded George Brett with a lifetime contract and has now reached handshake agreements on similar packages with Dan Quisenberry and Willie Wilson.
Quisenberry's accountants have told him that shrewd handling of the contract's nuances could provide him with $40 million over 40 years.
Fogelman seems to be living in another time and place, for he said, "You always hear about players who have nothing when they're through. I'm hell-bent to be sure that the money we pay the players benefits them and their generations to come."
Kansas City first baseman Steve Balboni, traded by the New York Yankees, who figured that Balboni would not make contact often enough to justify employment of his potential power, averaged a strikeout every 3.2 at-bats with the Royals last year but a home run every 15.6. He hit 28 homers and struck out 139 times in 438 at-bats.
"I know he's going to set an American League record for strikeouts eventually, but that doesn't bother me and it doesn't bother him," Manager Dick Howser said.
"I also think he can win the home run title. He hit 28 playing half his games in our park last year (the Kansas City park does not yield cheap homers), and he only had 450 at-bats. He's a legitimate 30-a-year guy, and once in that range you're a title contender."
Boston reliever Mark Clear was working an exhibition game last week when his catcher, Rich Gedman, threw out a runner trying to steal second. It was the first time a runner had been thrown out with Clear on the mound since June of 1983. Eighty-one of 83 base stealers have successfully taken advantage of Clear's lack of interest in them during his career.
"To be honest, I never thought about runners once they got to first base," he said. "I completely lose any concentration as far as the runner is concerned.