CF B.J. Upton rode the bench Saturday night as the Rays dropped their sixth straight. Upton, however, has been in a prolonged slump that might be attributable to a "mechanical flaw" noticed by the Rays coaching staff yesterday. He should be back in the starting lineup today, hopefully with the flaw corrected.
Meanwhile, LF Carl Crawford will most likely see his turn on the bench for this afternoon's series wrap-up game in Cleveland. Crawford has not recorded a hit in his past 25 at bats, the latest disappointing stretch in a poor year.
So what is the cause of Crawford's slump? It surely isn't his mortifyingly undisciplined approach at the plate. No, the cause of his latest struggle is his start in center field on Monday:
Crawford said his problems are physical, the result of making an unexpected, and unwanted, start in centerfield Monday. He said he agitated his left hamstring trying to make a play on a ball over his head, and it has made him uncomfortable at the plate since, unable to set up properly or get any drive off his back leg.
I can respect the possibility that a physical injury might hamper his performance at the plate. That is entirely realistic. When you don't have a strong footing at the plate, you cannot gain the leverage necessary to handle the bat with strength.
However Crawford's continual harping on having to make one start in center field is obnoxious. It is yet another instance of a player who refuses to take responsibility for his own failings. What Crawford is describing is an injury incidental to the game of baseball; making over-the-shoulder catches is not a phenomenon exclusive to the position of center field. I find his excuses especially hollow since he already plays an outfield position.
Is there an adjustment necessary to move from left field to center? Yes. Is it insurmountable? Absolutely not, especially for someone who isn't even 27 years of age. I find it impossible to believe that Crawford, a player who takes the field upwards of 160 times a year, cannot transition to center field hastily without being crippled in the effort.
Could Joe Maddon have handled this better? Perhaps. Without knowing the specifics of the situation, I don't want to indict him. All I do know is that Crawford has an obligation to do what's best for the team, under any and all circumstances. If that means moving over less than 100 feet for one day, then so be it. Be a martyr. But don't be making excuses to the media five days later about how the subsequent slump isn't your fault because of it.
I wish Carl Crawford the best in his recovery. I really do. I don't doubt that he hurt himself, but I do hope that whatever pain he is in subsides for what hopefully will be a tremendous second half. But he needs to stop shirking accountability and start taking responsibility for his own lackluster play. He has been terrible all season long at the plate, and his embarrassing lack of patience is an abortion to watch.
- Maddon does not agree with Scott Kazmir's assertion that the team's struggles can be tied to too much scoreboard-watching.
- RHP Troy Percival threw a successful 26 pitch mound session, his first since going on the DL. The best case scenario he laid out has him returning as soon as next Saturday, although given the results following his last DL stint, the team may opt to wait a little while longer.