Today we bring you a special guest article from Michael Pina. Michael is a writer for ESPN’s TrueHoop Network, and ScoreBig.com. Michael normally doesn’t write about Baseball, but apparently he is a Red Sox fan who has recently moved to Los Angeles, and has been following the Carl Crawford situation since he was first signed by the Red Sox back in 2011. Michael has a very Unique viewpoint considering he is coming from the other side, meaning as a Boston fan. Michael wonders can Carl Crawford regain his all-star form with the Dodgers? Check out Michael’s take on Crawford below in this very well written article.
The 2011 World Series was thought to be won in December 2010, when the Boston Red Sox signed free agent Carl Crawford to a seven-year, $142 million contract for the right to become their left fielder. The four-time All-Star was splashed into a free agency haul that already included elite first base slugger Adrian Gonzalez and closer Andrew Bailey.
The Red Sox were unbeatable on paper, and the addition of Crawford was like a cherry on top of the baseball’s sweetest, and most expensive, ice cream sundae. The previous season he went to the All-Star game, won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award, and finished seventh in the MVP vote. That year he also posted a career best OPS, slugging percentage, home run and RBI total, and his best batting average since 2007.
The Sox were golden. Until they weren’t. And Crawford personified the disappointment. Across the board, his numbers nosedived off a cliff. His home runs, RBI, walks, and runs all dropped at an alarming rate, as did his batting average (from .307 to .255!), on base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS.
To his credit, after getting off to a slow start, Crawford was yanked around the batting lineup, from the top to the bottom, then back to the top. Baseball players are creatures of habit, and that type of instability couldn’t have been positive for Crawford’s confidence.
Of course, this doesn’t excuse or explain his transformation into Manny Ramirez on the base paths. After stealing 60 bases in 2009 and 47 bases in 2010, Crawford’s greatest strength turned into dust with just 23 total stolen bases in a Red Sox uniform. (For people in Boston who watched Crawford steal a minimum two bases every time the Red Sox played Tampa Bay, this development induced more rage than anything else.)
Every at bat was an unpleasant exercise in whatever the exact opposite of “self-restraint” is. By July, 0-2 counts preceding strikeouts out on sliders that bounced a good two feet in front of the plate were the norm. (Had Red Sox fans invented a drinking game that centered around Crawford AB’s, and wild swinging misses on 0-2 counts required a casual sip of alcohol, everyone would be dead.)
(Editor’s Note- We can feel your pain Michael. Dodger fans have had a multitude of players that have given us unpleasent experiences on every at-bat. Over the years those players have ranged from Ron Fairly, to Dave Anderson to Billy Ashley, to Garret Anderson, (The true Auto out), to this year and Juan Uribe. Dodger fans can certainly empathize with Boston fans on this one.)
The numbers back this up. According to FanGraphs, Crawford’s strikeout rate leapt to 19.3% in 2011 (a career low) and his total of 140 Ks equaled the previous season’s, despite having 124 fewer plate appearances. His RAR (Runs Above Replacement) went from 65 in 2010 to 2 in 2011. Add all these bits of information up and the result equals embarrassment. If the Carl Crawford Experiment was a total disaster in 2011, whatever happened in 2012 is safe from negative hyperbole. He played in just 31 games and was a mess for all of them. In 17 he had at least one strikeout, and registered more than one hit in just five of them.
Which brings us to Los Angeles, where Crawford was dealt at last year’s trade deadline in a particularly monstrous blockbuster transaction between the Red Sox and Dodgers. There he’ll enter his 12th season coming off Tommy John surgery, the biggest injury of his career and a worrisome detail.
Crawford is now at a crossroads, on the wrong side of 30 and with his speed (his greatest strength) in serious question. As if the elbow injury wasn’t significant enough to create doubt in his ability to become a positive factor this season, Crawford has everything he did in a Boston Red Sox uniform hanging over his head. Not to mention the elusive expectations $100 million in guaranteed money will continue to bring no matter what he does.
Will Carl Crawford ever look like an All-Star again? Smart people would say no. But the projections aren’t terrible. If he gets healthy, and if the pressures of playing in Los Angeles weigh less on his shoulders than they did in Boston, Crawford could definitely, at the very least, restore some credibility as a relevant major league baseball player.