In the second year of Eddie Kasko's management, the Red Sox finished 16 games behind the eventual American League champions Baltimore Orioles. The Sox did not have a .300 hitter in 1971, with Reggie Smith's .283 batting average being the best among their regulars. Tony Conigliaro, his health still a question, had been traded the previous October to the California Angels for reliever Ken Tatum and rookie infielder Doug Griffin. Conigliaro played in 74 games for the Angels in 1971 but then had to give up baseball, his sight having deteriorated greatly. Tatum was 2-4 with the Red Sox, and Griffin batted a season .244, while becoming the regular second baseman.
Highlights of an otherwise forgettable season included the late arrival of a big catcher from Bellows Falls, Vermont, Carlton Fisk, who got into 14 games for the 1971 Sox and hit two home runs. Making a bigger splash was a utility fielder who had been acquired in 1970 from the New York Yankees but came into his own in 1971. John Kennedy hit .272, with five homers and 22 RBIs, and was nicknamed "Super Sub".
Another bright spot for the Sox in '71 was Jim Lonborg's winning 10 games (and losing 7). But Sonny Siebert, a pitcher acquired in a deal with the Cleveland Indians in 1969, was the top hurler for Boston, winning 16 games. A feisty left-hander, Sparky Lyle was 6-4, with 16 saves and a 2.77 ERA.