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Carl Crawford: Rays Bashing And Lack Of Accountability

I am was a big Carl Crawford fan. He was a lightning rod for the Rays offense and supplied tremendous defense in left field. A lightning rod may not be a strong enough characterization for the dynamic skill set that Crawford brought to the Rays. In Crawford's 9 seasons with the Rays he hit .293/.333/.440 with 104 home run, 105 triples, 215 doubles, and 409 stolen bases. That particular suite of statistics has been achieved by only 9 players (including Crawford) in the history of the game and he accomplished it in 9 seasons.

Most fans didn't need Stuart Sternberg to come out as he did in late September with the statement that the Rays, regardless of 2010's outcome, were going to cut the payroll to the 50 million range or lower to realize that Crawford and his dynamic skill set were going to be too costly for the Tampa market. The fans knew Crawford was leaving and when the Rays appeared to be playing their final home game (Game 2 of the 2010 ALDS) Crawford received a standing ovation during his last at-bat and as he took the field for the final time and the standing ovations were repeated once again, much longer and louder, after the Rays forced a Game 5 back at Tropicana Field.

We knew Crawford was leaving and we here at DRB accepted donations to publish a  "Thank You Carl Crawford" full page ad in the Tampa Bay Times (TBT). The move was a bold move and did receive national attention (YahooSports) for DRB but it was planned before Crawford decided to sign with the dreaded Boston Red Sox.

Many Rays fans expected Crawford to sign with a team like the LA Angels where manager MIke Scioscia could allow Crawford's full suite of skills to be put on display every night. Crawford certainly would be a big addition to a team like the Angels and Rays fans could cheer Crawford and the Angels on as they attempted (as they are this year) to track down the Yankees or Red Sox for a wild card spot  or better yet defeat one of the two teams in the post-season. As long as the Angels and Rays path's didn't interfere with each other, Carl Crawford would remain a darling to the Rays fan base. Crawford in a Red Sox uniform was going to be hard to digest but it would take more than a uniform to tarnish his image as a member of the Rays.  

When word came out that Crawford had signed with the Red Sox it was a blow to the solar plexus and it was a difficult pill to swallow. Still, who could blame a guy for accepting a 7-year, 142-million dollar contract to play a game?  Even if the team signing the check was the Red Sox most fans understood that this was a pure business decision. 

The 9 years of imagery began to become a little tarnished, not by the fans being critical of Crawford signing with the Red Sox, but with several of the statements made by Crawford during his press conference to announce his deal with the Red Sox. Hearing Carl Crawford utter the phrase that his  "Heart was in Boston" or laugh when a reporter jokingly stated (in reference to playing in front of a full house every night) that there are more people at the press conference than at the Trop on a Tuesday night, or hearing Crawford suggest that he was open to batting in the lead off position or playing center field after years in Tampa Bay  of suggesting that he disliked both. (Read more of the press conference here or watch it here  ).

The dust up between the Rays and Crawford had seemingly settled some and the Rays became focused on replacing the pieces of the 2010 team they had lost and preparing for the 2011 season. The flames were stoked, again by Carl Crawford, when in early February he told USA Today : 

how tough it was coming back hyped up after a big road trip, "then you look up at the (empty) stands and say, 'Are you serious?' It gets you down. You want the energy the other teams have, and you don't have it. But in Boston, what I hear is you can have a broken arm, you hear all of those people screaming and yelling, and you forget about that arm and you're playing. I can't wait." -

The anger and resentment towards Crawford again became a secondary story as the Rays got off to a 1-8 start, lost Manny Ramirez for the season thanks to a positive drug test, and lost Evan Longoria to the DL due to an oblique injury. The fans of the Rays concentrated on the team on the field and were more concerned with getting back to .500 (which they did on April 24th) than they were with Carl Crawford and the Red Sox (who both also got off to poor starts). 

The Rays fans had their first opportunity to either cheer or boo for Carl Crawford when the Red Sox came to Tropicana Field on June 14th through 16th for a 3-game series. As Crawford came to the plate he was met with mixed emotions.  Initially he was met with a loud round of boos which were eventually drowned out by cheers. After the game Crawford said that he appreciated those who cheered but was upset at the voices from the stands in left field who referred to him as a traitor and mocked his uncharacteristically low batting average. It could be that those who called him a traitor were in fact Rays fans upset that he signed with the rival Red Sox, complained about the attendance and lack of energy at Tropicana Field, or any number of statements from his press conference that had upset them. The fans mocking his uncharacteristically low batting average may very well be a mix of Rays and Red Sox fans. Crawford entered action with a slash line of .243/.276/.388 which is far below what the Red Sox nation thought they were getting when the team made a 7 year commitment of 142 million for his services. Imagine that, Crawford can't fathom a Red Sox fan at Tropicana Field upset with his output, only Rays fans would jeer him for it?

During the series with the Red Sox, Carl Crawford was asked to state the difference between the two organizations and his answer raised an eyebrow or two:

"It’s all baseball. But it’s a little different,’’ he said. "It’s more a younger team [in Tampa], so it was more like party central all the time. [In Boston] it’s a little more calmer, a little more conservative. That’s probably the biggest difference.’’

As the season progressed the Rays dropped in the standings and the Red Sox rose to the top all but securing at least a wild card birth by September 1st as they had a 7.5 game lead on the Rays and a 9 game lead on the LA Angels. Crawford had shown flashes of production during parts of the year but he had been unable to sustain it and entered September with a rather marginal slash line of .253/.288/.398 with 10 home runs. I surmise most Rays fans spent the end of August preparing for their Fantasy Football Drafts and getting caught up with their college football teams than they did worrying about Carl Crawford or the Red Sox.

Then the improbable happened, the mighty Red Sox collapsed. Even the behemoth payroll has not been enough buffer to overcome the slew of injuries that have hit them and the team that seemingly has put the most pressure on the Sox was the Rays who won 6 out of 7 games versus the limping Sox in a 10 day period to crawl within 2 games of the wild card lead. Not only have the Rays re-entered the wild card picture, but the team that everyone thought Crawford would be best suited, the LA Anges, have raced up to within 2 1/2 games of the wild card lead. All this led to a very interesting blog post by Carl Crawford, who for some reasons takes every opportunity to ignite the ire of the Rays fans. 

On September 18th, Crawford penned a Diary Post for ESPN titled "Sorry for the year I've had." On the surface, the title seems to suggest that Crawford is making an attempt to reconcile some bitter emotions that may have surfaced from fans jeering him from the stands at Fenway Park (even ridiculing him for his uncharacteristically low batting average), or angry callers on Boston sports radio airwaves, or comments on blog entries surrounding the Red Sox organization, but that wasn't the object at all. Instead, the blog entry may reveal more about Carl Crawford's character than any other comment or action taken to date.

My view of Crawford's statement will be skewed.  I am not a psychiatrist but  have longed accepted the fact that professional athletes are in fact sheltered from criticism and often lash out when confronted with a heavy dose of doubt, and the Diary post was in my opinion Crawford lashing out.

The first statement Crawford makes is about a play at the plate where he throws a teammate under the bus:

I had the run where I wasn't sure whether to slide or not at home. I figured I could get in standing up, but it was kind of close. I definitely want Marco Scutaro next time to let me know if it’s going to be that close, and I told him that. He said he was telling me to slide but I didn't see him. 

What this has to do with apologizing for your season is beyond me?

Crawford digs in on the Rays:

Having played for Tampa for so long they definitely know how to pitch to me a little bit. It's then up to me to make the adjustments. I've had a full season of seeing how they want to pitch to me, how they want to get me out. I think over the years, you'll see me get better hitting their pitching because I've had to think about and figure out what they're trying to do with me. 

Crawford alludes that he'll do better versus the Rays next season. So, are we to believe that his struggles versus the Rays is the only reason he has struggled? I agree he needs to do better against the Rays in 2012 and beyond, but maybe he needs to include a few more teams to the list. Check his team by team splits (here).

Crawford continues to take his apology for the year he's had as an attack on the Rays, this time the fans:

Now that I am in a Red Sox uniform, I definitely hear the boos when I go back to Tampa, like our recent trip we made there. When I was in left field, I definitely heard heckling there. It was a bunch of haters in left field, pretty much. Hey, it's cool. I understand. The thing is, they've got to realize they've got to deal with me for another six years. I struggled this year and I'll give them this year. But I am definitely, definitely going to remember all that has happened. When I'm trying to work out and get better in the offseason, those haters will be on my mind. Just know they have another six years to deal with me. 

Again, he hears the boos when he comes to Tampa, what does this have to do with apologizing for the year you've had? And, is there any chance that the fans heckling you are angry bitter Red Sox fans? If the Red Sox fans were happy with you, why did you write this apologetic Diary?

And the final dig to summarize his disdain for the Rays organization and the fan base in Tampa Bay:

If Tampa makes a miracle comeback and takes the wild card from us, I will be devastated. I definitely wouldn't want to lose to those guys and watch them get into the playoffs while we go home. That would just be devastating to me.

One last note about the Diary. Crawford continues to reference most of his comments about the team, individuals who are performing well, and most problems are focused on a "we" perspective. Carl Crawford says he is apologizing for his season when in fact it appears he is venting about the Rays organizations and their fans and focuses on problems that the Red Sox on a whole are having.

Accountability Carl, it goes a long way in a clubhouse and in life.