The Red Sox and the Carl Crawford signing failure
The Boston Red Sox have made some contract blunders in their history that have a life of their own. One such contract was inked in December of 2010 when Boston signed Carl Crawford to a seven-year, $142 million deal. The “Perfect Storm” was coming to Boston!
Crawford’s resume with his previous team, the Tampa Bay Rays, was exceptional. A Gold Glove winner as an outfielder, four-time All-Star, a constant threat to lead the league in steals and triples, and a close to .300 hitter. I loved this deal. Now I have buyer’s remorse.
Crawford would join Jacoby Ellsbury to run other teams into panic mode. Both were left-handed, and both could hurt you with the long ball. Then it just imploded.
Crawford’s stay was littered with injuries, including Tommy John Surgery, disappointing statistics, fans disenchantment, and performance morass. Did he just shut down?
Crawford never adjusted to Boston, nor did Boston adjust to Crawford. There were racial undertones, Crawford simmered over management, claimed the environment was toxic, and on and on. A petulant child? A baseball answer to Veruca Salt?
Crawford’s issues with management centered upon his health. As mentioned above, a chronic wrist condition and a strained ligament in his elbow were far more significant and resulted in the wrist and TJ surgery. The Red Sox had an adverse history at this time regarding injury evaluation. Eventually, the medical staff had a top to bottom revision, so Crawford was not alone in his having treatment issues.
The 2011 season was Crawford’s first in Boston, and this team became infamous. The beer and chicken escapades, a late-season implosion, manager Terry Francona’s personal and health issues, and finger-pointing. Crawford was not immune to fan hostility and media blathering.
Crawford and high-priced Adrian Gonzalez both became targeted directly and via innuendo by print and social media. The team was viewed far too often as a back-to-future contingent of the 1950s – the 25 cabs for 25 players. Self-indulgent, overpaid, underperforming, baseball divas, and Crawford became a notable target. And with rabbit ears, the message was heard.
Could it get any worse?
Ben Cherrington took over the dysfunctional family and gathered in a new manager. Bobby Valentine came to Boston, and Boston went to the basement. On August 25, Cherrington found a lifeline in the Dodgers who scooped up Crawford, Gonzalez, and Josh Beckett. A messy situation partially resolved.
Crawford’s days in Los Angeles never really materialized into the talent he was with Tampa. Injuries, diminished speed, and bat quickness that was disappearing. Crawford was released in 2016, with the Dodgers eating the remaining years of his contract.
Is there any validity to the debate that some players cannot adjust to the highly critical markets of Boston and New York? My memories may have faded, but Crawford did not seem to have the welcome mat out from the fans. I tend to dismiss some aspects of the ire directed since J.D. Drew faced personal scrutiny as intense as Crawford’s. The difference is Drew was quite insular to the verbal harassment.
Was it the injuries? The 2011 season was a disaster, and Crawford was part of it, but the wrist injury that resulted in surgery is the key for me. Crawford may have played 2011 with an ongoing and deteriorating condition exasperated by off-season activities since the history of the condition dates back to 2005.
Crawford’s left wrist injury took some zip out of his left-handed swing. We have seen a similar situation with Nomar Garciaparra and now Xander Bogaerts. Crawford and Nomar never really become 100% again.
What could have been is interesting. If Crawford repeated his 2010 season in Boston by hitting .307, the outcomes could have been far different. Boston fans expected a track meet with Ellsbury and Crawford, and it didn’t happen. That is precisely what I expected.