The discussion about who is the greatest player in the history of the Tampa Bay Rays franchise is a short one. In the relativity short history of the Rays franchise the only true superstar the organization has had who experienced continued success over multiple seasons is Carl Crawford (although it’s fair to say that David Price and Evan Longoria are both viable candidates to replace Crawford as the greatest Ray of all time). For nine seasons Carl Crawford was a fixture for the Rays in left field while usually occupying the second spot in the Rays lineup. During his tenure with the Rays Carl Crawford collected 1480 hits; 215 doubles; 105 triples; 104 home runs; 592 RBI’s; 409 SB; .295 BA and played gold glove caliber defense. Carl Crawford accomplished all of this before his 30th birthday.
In professional sports when a player who is the face of a franchise decides to leave that team via free agency in the prime of their career the fans of the team they are leaving usually view the player as a villain. A perfect example is how the Cleveland fans treated LeBron James on his return to Cleveland this season as a member of the Miami Heat. However, things are different in the Tampa Bay area. As a fan of the Rays one thing you must always understand is the economics of baseball. Based on the limited payroll the Rays have to work with all Rays fans understood that after 2010 Carl Crawford would be wearing a different uniform. So it came as no surprise when Carl Crawford signed a 7 year $142 million contract with the Boston Red Sox in the offseason. The Rays fans knew this was coming (although we would have been happier to see him in an Angels uniform instead of playing for a division rival) and there are very few Rays fans who feel animosity towards Carl Crawford for leaving. It was a business decision and he made the right decision. Most Rays fans are still Carl Crawford fans even though he has moved on to the Red Sox. During his tenure with the Rays Carl Crawford was not only an exceptional baseball player he was also a stand up individual who never got in trouble; never complained about his contract and was an excellent teammate.
As a fan of Carl Crawford and all of the positive things he did in Tampa Bay it makes it difficult to watch his early season struggles with the Red Sox. In the month of April Carl Crawford had a .155 batting average with only 4 stolen bases and 6 RBI’s. Crawford went from batting second for the Red Sox to being dropped to seventh and then as his struggles continued he was eventually dropped to eight in the lineup. To their credit the Red Sox fans haven’t been too hard on Carl Crawford yet. He has shown some signs of breaking out of his funk by batting over .320 during a nine game stretch from April 23 thru May 3. However, if Carl Crawford slips back into a funk I can only imagine the Red Sox fans will start to wonder what exactly the team paid $142 million dollars for.
The only thing I can tell the fans of Red Sox Nation is that I’ve watched Carl Crawford for 9 seasons and he can be a streaky player, especially at the plate. There are going to be times where his swing looks off; he’ll chase bad pitches out of the strike zone and he can look lost at the plate. However, when he does get hot he can get red hot and with his speed and athleticism Carl Crawford at the top of his game is a joy to watch. You’ll see him spray hits all over the field; steal bases; play amazing defense and score runs. Don’t worry Red Sox fans, as tough as it has been to watch Crawford thus far this season I would bet that his best is still to come.
* Statistical information courtesy of Yahoo Sports