Carl Crawford was once upon a time the face of the Tampa Bay Rays. Crawford could bat, steal, and catch; he could rob batters out of home runs and steal six bases in a game. Crawford was an amazing Rays player and Tampa loved watching him grow up. Crawford was only a kid at the age of 17 when the Tampa Bay Devil Rays drafted him and was still young when he entered the big leagues as a Ray in 2002. Though the Devil Rays spent nearly all their time in last place in the A.L. East, Crawford continued to provide entertainment and a stellar performance that only the true fans knew about. He was Tampa Bay’s secret weapon.
In 2008, the Rays dropped the Devil out of their name and with a roster of players, ranging from Rays, rookies, and players hoping for a chance, the Rays made it for the first time to the playoffs and the World Series. For the first time, baseball fans learned about the small market team based in St. Petersburg while the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox (whose payrolls are first and second highest in major league baseball) began to fear the team for the first time in years. Crawford was still relatively unknown across the nation due to Rays’ rookie Evan Longoria, but in 2009, Rays’ fans helped Crawford make it to the All-Star Game. During the game, Crawford made a leaping catch to rob the batter of a home run which would have led the National League to win. Though Rays’ fans have seen this play before, this was the first glimpse of Crawford’s outstanding defense to both American and National baseball fans. Though all of Tampa Bay rejoiced when Crawford was awarded the All-Star Game MVP, Tampa Bays’ secret was out.
In 2010, before baseball season had seven begun, talk about how there was absolutely no way Crawford could stay in Tampa Bay surfaced. Crawford was just too good and the Rays’ payroll was just too small. Throughout the year whenever Crawford stole a base, hit a triple, or made a catch, Rays’ fans were reminded how he would not be with them the next year. In Game 5 of Rays vs. Rangers in 2010, Rays’ fans watched with tears in their eyes, knowing that they will never see Crawford in a Rays uniform ever again. At the end of the season, Crawford received his first Gold Glove Award, Silver Slugger Award, and was voted MVP of the Rays. Crawford left the Rays as a hero.
After the season ended, it was rumored that Crawford would go to Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim; after all, Crawford was good friends with Torii Hunter and the Angels played like the Rays. To everyone’s surprise, especially Hunter’s, Crawford signed with the Red Sox for eight years and $142 million. This meant that the Rays and their fans would be forced to watch Crawford play against their most hated enemy throughout the season for the next eight years. Though Rays’ fans understood why Crawford chose the large amount of money, they felt betrayed by Crawford’s comments during the off season in which he admitted how his young son was a “closeted Red Sox fan” and how in Boston he will finally be playing in front of a crowd. Ouch.
In 2011, Rays’ fans applauded Crawford when the Rays and Red Sox met for the first time during spring training, but that was a game that did not matter. Since spring training, Rays have enjoyed knowing that Crawford had a horrible April in which Red Sox fans were booing him due to his horrible batting average while realizing that Crawford’s defense in left field could be replaced. Red Sox have been giddy lately due to Crawford’s improved batting and the Red Sox eight-game winning streak. On June 14th, Crawford will return to Tropicana Field for the first time as a Red Sox. The question currently is will Crawford receive a standing ovation or boos? Crawford hopes for a positive applause from the locals; tomorrow night he and the rest of Tampa Bay will find out.
Face of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays ESPN
Allan Ryan Crawford preps for return to Tampa ESPN