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No more excuses, time for Carl Crawford to produce

02.23.12 at 8:20 am ET
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If Josh Beckett didn’t say enough this week, Carl Crawford has probably said too much.

Before we get into the rights and wrongs of what Crawford said, let me just note that this is once again an example of why the media (raising hand) can often be completely and totally inconsistent: When a guy gives us nothing or close to nothing we’ll kill him for it. And when a guy — as Crawford has done over the past couple of days with Lou Merloni in a Comcast interview and with Rob Bradford over here — gives us his true feelings and we don’t like them we blast away again. I personally have no problem with an athlete that never speaks to the media, at the end of the day where’s the benefit for the guy?

But Carl Crawford — coming off as bad a season as any outfielder has had in Red Sox history and entering year two of a $140 million deal — decided to make his feelings known in Fort Myers this week. Turns out he wasn’t thrilled with hitting sixth and seventh in the order with the Sox in 2011.

“There’s nothing else you can do [but try to hit home runs],” Crawford told Merloni. “A lot of the other teams, they would come and tell me, you know, they were like ‘we hope they leave you in the seventh hole because we’re not afraid of you at all there. You don’t intimidate us at all. You can’t hit a triple, you’re not probably going to hit a double. And you don’t hit that many home runs. You can’t do nothing, really.’ And to hear that from your peers gives you a feeling on the inside that you just, you know, you just can’t hit there. And I mean, it’s true.”

And that’s the real problem. Carl Crawford isn’t embarrassed about stealing $14 million dollars from the Red Sox (and the owner who, evidently, never wanted him) and doesn’t seem overly embarrassed about playing a not insignificant role in the (wait for it) greatest regular-season collapse in baseball history.

Nope, he just doesn’t want to have to deal with the embarrassment of being a seventh hitter in the order. It’s tough, apparently, to chat with guys from other teams when that’s the case. Makes the slap-and-tickle fests behind the cage a little more uncomfortable, and who the hell wants that?

This strikes me as a pity party, plain and simple. Do I think Terry Francona did a lousy job managing Crawford last season, dropping a four-time All-Star with a $140 million contract to seventh in the order in the third game of the season? Sure, to me it was a staggering overreaction at best.

But let’s ask this: Now that the dust has cleared, does Crawford really deserve to his anywhere higher than, say, sixth in the order? Take away salary and what we thought we knew about players and just look at numbers. Is Crawford a better hitter than Jacoby Ellsbury (who had a far better year in 2011 than any in Crawford’s career) or Dustin Pedroia or Adrian Gonzalez or a healthy Kevin Youkilis or David Ortiz? Other than to pacify Crawford — a legitimate concern, this is the real world and egos do matter — why would Bobby Valentine mess with a lineup that led the American League in runs scored, hits, doubles, OBP and slugging?

“You can’t do nothing,” Crawford told Bradford about hitting lower in the order. “You can’t really steal.”

Well, here’s what you can do, Carl. You can try and draw a walk every week or two (he had 23 walks in 539 plate appearances last season — his .289 OBP was 70th of the 73 qualified American League batters last year). You could actually hit, I’m not sure why you think there is some legislation that outlaws doubles and triples from the No. 6 or No. 7 spot. Were the bases clogged every time you stepped to the plate? And since when is that such a terrific burden? Bill Mueller — who I don’t recall ever being embarrassed about his spot in a lineup and making 1/10th of Crawford’s annual salary — won a batting title hitting mostly sixth and seventh in 2003.

I’m sure Crawford will get his shot at the top of the order to start 2012, but what happens if it’s May 11 and he’s hitting .236? We know now that he’ll be pissed about being dropped, and he’s made it plenty clear that it could affect his on-field performance. He’s put the team in a hell of a spot first by failing last season and now by trying to put some of the struggles on Francona (who told the Big Show yesterday that Crawford’s claim that the manager never spoke to him after moving him down the lineup was “revisionist history,” which is a nice way to say Crawford is full of crapola) to force himself back to where he wants to hit.

The time for excuses are over. It’s time for Carl Crawford to produce. It doesn’t matter if he’s hitting first, second, third or seventh, he needs to be the Carl Crawford the Sox thought they were getting. It was an overpay at $140 million, on that we can all agree, but it shouldn’t be the disaster we saw last season.

And if it is, we don’t need to hear why from Crawford. We’ll have figured it out on our own.

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