Carl Crawford is already heading into Mike Hampton territory. You
remember Hampton, don't you? He parlayed a 15 and 10 season into
a monster of a contract. The Colorado Rockies gave him an 8-year,
$121 million dollar contract, which was unheard of for a pitcher.
Hampton wore that mega-deal around his neck like an albatross. He
buckled under the pressure of it like Bernie Madoff did after his Ponzi
scheme was uncovered. Hampton was always getting hurt or whacked
around like a Pinata at a 10-year olds birthday party. Over the next 8
years, Hampton won just 63 games. Oh, but he could hit. He finished
his career with a .246 average.
Crawford could only wish he could hit like Hampton right about now.
After Friday's oh-fer, the speedy outfielder is hitting .135 with an OBP
of under .200. That's not exactly what the Red Sox had in mind when
they signed him to a 7-year, $142 million dollar contract in the off-season.
Right now, Crawford is hitting seventh in the lineup as an outfielder with
not many hits and no power. He can't steal any bases because he never
gets on-base to even try.
Is this a case of Crawford getting caught in the Boston headlights? Is
the pressure of signing the 14th richest contract in sports history causing
his to squeeze the bat so tight that saw dust is coming out? Crawford makes
a cool, $125,000 per game. That is insane!
When Crawford played for Tampa Bay, he never had to be "the man."
Thathonor was bestowed upon All-Star third baseman Evan Longoria.
I was goingto say that Crawford just blended into the crowd, but the
trouble is, there weren't many of them at Tropicana Field. High school
football games had more fans for Friday night football games than the
Rays averaged during Crawford's time there.
In addition, the media down there is softer than the stay-puff
marshmallow man. They would much rather be your friend, than ask
you a tough question or write something bad about you. Crawford had
it so good and so easy down there.There was no pressure, no criticism,
and he could go unnoticed around Tampa and not have to worry about
fans getting all over him if he was in bad slump.
And Crawford's personality was perfect down there. He is just a nice
guy. Nevercauses any waves and is friendly to his teammates, media,
and fans. I wouldn't say he had anything close to thick skin. He is a
ridiculously talented player who was so good at football and basketball
in high school, he could've played just about anywhere he wanted in both.
Now, he's in the Hub of the sports universe. A place where every
game is covered like the World Series, and fans pack the house every
night. If you pick your nose and say you did it with your right finger, the
fans will call BS and tell you did it with your left. Fans in Boston know
the name of the mother of the back-up second baseman of the team's
Class A affiliate in Salem, Virginia.
The media? Uh, we already know that it's tougher than tough. They don't
want to be your friend, but do want to know why you swung at that nasty
3-2 slider in the dirt in the fifth inning with the bases loaded. They are
merciless. After the game, players coming back from their shower will
find a bigger hoard of media than that of a presidential news conference.
Edgar Renteria found out what Boston was all about the hard way.
He signed a 4-year, $40 million dollar contract in 2005. I covered his
initial press conference with the Red Sox and did a one-on-one interview
with him after it. His eyes were bugged out, just like the guy who got
his boat rammed by the big yacht in "Caddyshack". You know, the
holy &^$#! look. Renteria was sweating and his hands were shaking.
I was like, "this dude, ain't going to make it here." And he didn't. Renteria,
once a slick-fielding shortstop made 30 errors in his first season. The
Red Sox had seen enough. They paid the Atlanta Braves about
75 percent of his contract to take him. Please, just take him.
The worst thing that could've happened to Crawford happened. He
got off to a horrendous start. He not only can't hit, but he's having
trouble fielding.The fans are already on him, and he's getting criticized
for the first time in his life in most sports-crazed town in the country.
Crawford's make-up is going to be seriously challenged. There's nothing
worse for a hitter to look up on the board and see your average
hovering near the price of a bottle of water. I know all about that,
I got off to a 2-for-21 start in my second year in the minors, and I
felt like my season was already over.
The mental battle is a tough one and Crawford will have to pull
it together just to finish with a respectable year. He didn't even have
to be the man with the Red Sox. After all they already had established
stars like Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, and Adrian Gonzalez, who is
also having trouble adjusting from life in sunny San Diego where everyone
is laid back, to Boston, where everyone is type-A. But when you're
"the man" with a $141 million dollar contract, there his no place to hide.
On Friday night in Anaheim, some fans sitting near Red Sox dugout
were throwing crumpled up dollar bills at Crawford while he was in
the on-deck circle. Ouch. Good luck, Carl.