I checked in here yesterday at 7am and got to bed at 3am, took a nap, and was back here by 8am. It has been a busy day since then running information and numbers, so I have not yet had a chance to fully put to words my reaction to the Crawford deal. However, Rays fan Jake Stein did reach out to me with a letter he penned to the fan base that I think people should read. It is entitled, “Take a Breath.”
I have not had this compulsion to write and get something off my chest in quite some time. However, the reaction to Carl Crawford signing a reported 7 year, $142 million contract with the Boston Red Sox last night has suddenly rekindled that burning feeling in my stomach. I must say, I’m a little disappointed but not overly surprised by what I’m seeing and hearing.
“He betrayed us!” “Why would you go to Boston?” “I hate you CC!” These are just a small (and non-profanity laced) sample of what fans are feeling towards Carl Crawford. How can anyone be upset at this man after all he’s done for this organization? Carl was a big part of changing the culture for a habitual 100+ loss team. Let’s not just quickly glance over that previous statement. Changing the mindset from, “Maybe we’ll win tonight.” into “We expect to win tonight.” might be the single toughest thing in all of sports. Losing becomes habit, one that is not easily broken. Just take a look at franchises like the Pittsburgh Pirates, Kansas City Royals, and Detroit Lions. These teams have not been competitive for well over a decade and it appears there is still no real hope on the horizon even after all this time. It wasn’t that long ago when the Tampa Bay Devil Rays were also apart of that list. But with the change in ownership, the smart moves by the front office, and the leadership from players like CC, they became the team to beat in baseball’s toughest division.
The biggest issue that I’m having right now, are fans accusing Carl of turning his back on the team by signing with a division rival. Does it sting a little bit? Sure. The fact is 4 teams are sweating a little more than they were on Wednesday morning because CC is still in the AL East. Nobody wants to have to consistently deal with a player of his talents that can beat you in so many ways.
Here’s why I cannot allow myself to be angry towards Carl Crawford, the person. You hear this all the time in sports and it’s so evident at times like these: This is a business and Carl Crawford made a smart business decision. Yeah, all the reports had the Angels as being the leading candidate but you have to take that with a grain of salt. Maybe that was coming from CC’s camp and leveraged that against the Sox? I will say this, there was a separate report claiming the Angels were offering around $30 million LESS over the same length of time. If that is indeed true, then who can really blame Carl for putting himself in a position to make more money and be competitive every single season?
This next point is sure to rub many readers the wrong way but it is a harsh reality: the Rays and Red Sox are not as big of a rivalry as you want to think. Now here me out first. I’m not saying that the Tampa-Boston rivalry isn’t a big deal, especially to the fans. These two teams have been very competitive with each other over the past couple of years and yes, the Rays defeated the Bo Sox in Game 7 of the ALCS for their only World Series birth. What I’m saying, is that it’s no Yankees-Red Sox, Cubs-Cardinals, or Giants-Dodgers. But really how could it be? These rivals have had upwards of 100 years to develop such a hatred for one another. It’s in their blood, passed down from generation to generation. In comparison, the Rays-Red Sox battles are still in infant stages of such a rivalry.
I make that point because we shouldn’t be on that level of hating a player just because he signs with a certain team. Maybe you remember a couple of years ago when Mariano Rivera was in the last year of his deal. He made the statement that his future was very much up in the air, but made it very clear that there was NO way he would ever play for Boston. Mariano understood that by doing that, it would practically erase all the good will and legacy he earned in New York. Carl Crawford signing with the Red Sox however, just simply does not have that kind of impact.
I also should mention that I’ve been preparing myself for this moment before the 2010 season even started. Everyone should have known going in, that this was going to be the last season for many of the fan favorites on the Rays. Any sliver of hope that a miracle could happen was slammed shut when the Rays announced that they would indeed be cutting payroll for the 2011 season. That should have put both fans and players on notice that the Rays would have a much different look next season.
To me, Carl Crawford’s free agency was handled about as well as it could have been. The player did not come out and bash his previous club or ownership, and the Rays themselves did not deceive any of us by giving a false impression that they were in the hunt of bringing him back. Much like Carlos Pena mentioned in his press conference with the Cubs, he understands that right now, the Rays are limited in what they can do and how they spend their money. Maybe it’s time for the rest of us to begin understanding as well.
So rather than to sit here and be dejected about the Carl Crawford’s departure, I choose to remember the speedy, clutch, well respected, good natured guy who maxed himself out every single time he took the field and got noticeably better every season with the Rays. He showed many of these young players what it takes to be a professional athlete and left the Rays organization in a state where they should still expect to win games in the future. For that Carl Crawford, I thank you.