In an interview on WEEI radio this morning, Red Sox starting pitcher Clay Buchholz said he thinks Carl Crawford is the key to turning around the ballclub’s slow start: “Whenever he starts getting on base and running around and causing havoc on the base paths, I think that’s going to be our ‘one thing’ and (it’s) just going to feed down to everybody else.”
WEEI is Boston’s primary sports-talk radio station, one of the top stations of that ilk in the country. For the last week or so, callers to the station have been in panic mode. The joke around The Hub is that the Boston Police Department needs to place officers on all of the bridges — to prevent fans from jumping in the wake of the Red Sox 2-9 start. Some callers are angry and others are frustrated. Almost all of the station’s listeners have posited theories for the slow start — from the departure of pitching coach John Farrell (who was hired by the Toronto Blue Jays as their manager this winter) to the effects of big-money contracts on the newly enriched players.
Some angry callers have decried the transactions of the front office, complaining that Theo Epstein & Company should have retained Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez while eschewing the additions of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez.
Are you kidding me?
Let’s not go overboard here, folks. The signing of Crawford was both addition and ‘addition-by-subtraction” — both from the standpoint that he was taken away from Tampa Bay and kept away from the NY Yankees. The acquisition of Adrian Gonzalez was a stroke of genius, especially in consideration of the price the club paid (a pitching prospect who struggled terribly in double-A, a first base prospect who was made redundant by Gonzalez, and a low-minors outfield prospect). In my opinion, these moves were strokes of genius … and fans should not over-react because Crawford and Gonzalez are not off to torrid starts.
It is indisputable that Crawford has been awful thus far. He is pressing — presumably because he wanted to get off to a fast start to justify the big contract he landed this winter. He is not getting on base, so he has not had the opportunity to fully utilize his best offensive skill — his speed — to steal bases, run the bases and score runs. Many fans in Red Sox Nation are speculating the team’s multimillion-dollar investment might not pay off … some have gone so far as to suggest the move to a big-market team has negatively affected the left fielder.
First, while slumps get magnified at the beginning of the year, they can — and do — happen to every player in every season, and they can happen any time during the season. No player is immune, and no player goes an entire season without suffering through at least one of them (assuming they are healthy and play the whole year). No one likes slumps, but they are an unavoidable fact of life in baseball.
Second, like Jon Lester, Crawford has shown a penchant for struggling out of the gate — his batting average in two of the last three years was less than .200 after the first 10 games. Did anyone in Tampa suggest that the melancholy of playing in front of a half-empty stadium on Florida’s Gulf Coast was the reason for his slow start(s)? No … because knowledgeable fans understand that slumps happen.
Third, anyone who has watched recent Red Sox games knows that CC has put some g-o-o-d swings on the ball as of late. He easily could have had three hits against the Yankees on Sunday night, instead of the 0-for-5 he was saddled with. He had a couple of hits on Monday night before he went hitless against LHP David Price on Tuesday night. News flash: he’s not the first left-handed hitter to struggle against David Price. He remains a quality player — both at the plate and in the field — and hasn’t suddenly forgot how to hit and run and field and throw.
He will hit. And when he starts to hit, he will run. And when he runs, he will score. Good players, even great players, struggle initially when they move to a new team — whether it is the weight of expectations, the stress of the new city/club/teammates or living in a hotel room or being away from family. It happens.
Alex Rodriguez was hitting .196 after the game on April 20, 2004 — his first season with the NY Yankees. He went on to hit .286, with 36 HR and 106 RBIs.
Mark Teixeira‘s batting average was as low as .191 on May 12, 2009 — his first season with the Evil Empire. He went on to hit .292 with a career-high 39 home runs that season.
And in both instances, fans in New York lamented those free-agent signings as those players struggled out of the box.
As a Red Sox fan, I generally think of Boston fans as being much further along the evolutionary path than Yankees fans. When Yanks fans were hammering A-Rod and Tex when they struggled initially, their behavior reinforced my opinion about their general lack of civility and baseball acumen.
Red Sox fans, we are better than that! Take a “chill pill.” Relax. The season is just starting. At year’s end, CC will probably be hitting .300+ with 40+ SB.
Clay Buchholz knows it’s just a matter of time … you should, too.