In baseball, very few ballplayers get the "opportunity" to see both ends of the spectrum with the same ballclub. I refer to the transition from laughing stock of the league to American League Champion as an opportunity, because that is exactly what it is. To be a piece to the puzzle, a pillar in the foundation; to know that without you, it may have never come to fruition. To become a part of the solution, and no longer be referred to as part of the problem—that is opportunity.
While my naivety may play too large of a role in this post, I believe that the Rays owe Carl Crawford that opportunity; he owes it to himself. Amidst the trade rumors and the looming All-Star break, Crawford is having himself a great year. We’ve made comparisons to Clemente and there have been talks of selling him high. But why not begin establishing this team’s legacy? Our short history has been a constant collection of spring training hopes eventually spoiled by continuous disappointment. All of our preseason hype finally cultivated this past year into one of the greatest baseball stories of my young lifetime. And with that, I see a chance to begin developing our team’s legacy. Rather than succumb to the era of free agency and the rat race won by the highest bidder that is today’s game, let’s stay true to our roots. Why not let the trade deadline roll past and give Carl the opportunity to become that recently hard-to-come-by team icon. Sacrifices will most definitely have to be made, on both fronts. Crawford might have to play for less money; the Rays might have to find other means to acquire young talent at catcher or reliever. But I think the avenues are in place to allow for this to happen.
In an era when most players dream of playing in pinstripes, Carl has lived his dream by competing against them. Carl has never demanded a trade, has never berated our town or team and has never been tainted by the almighty dollar sign. He has continued to be the solid foundation on which this small-market club was built. Our fan base embraces him, and in my opinion, our fan base needs a player like him. I envision a new role for Carl in Tampa. As the longest standing Devil Ray, he now has the opportunity to transform into a veteran leader. The chance to do so at such a young age is priceless. It is these opportunities from which heroes are born. And in the eyes of a Tampa Bay Rays fan, the number 13 will no longer signify an ill-fated omen, but will transform into a symbol of perseverance and the prospect of a bright future.
Carl Crawford serves as a reminder not only to the organization, but also to the Tampa Bay area, as to where we came from, where we’ve gone, and how we’ve accomplished it. While I understand that feel-good stories don’t win games, Crawford undoubtedly contributes more to the team’s success than a heart warming feeling. We are not nurturing a washed up athlete, but grooming our future. With a foundation of core offensive players including Longoria, Upton and Pena as well as our maturing pitching staff, Carl can separate himself as a leader, and be proud to call himself a Tampa Bay Ray. As for the fans, well we might finally get that hometown hero.