I was at a Dick's Sporting Goods this weekend, killing time and enjoying air conditioning. In doing so, I was looking through the 50%-off-the-lowest-price clearance rack in the Boston sports section, where they generally keep leftover Papelbon jerseys, or Shaq Celtics t-shirts.
As I was thumbing through the options, I came across two dozen Carl Crawford jerseys, both home and away. Cost? $35. Discounted down to $70, and then cut in half, the jerseys were so much of a bother to Dick's -- and so hopeless of a sell -- that they're trying to unload them cheaper than you'd find used ones on eBay.
This blew my mind. Carl Crawford is a perennial All-Star, under contract for five more years, and in his prime. In jersey-buying parliance, this is a no-brainer. A Crawford jersey lasts you five years, and if he has a great career for the Sox you could squeeze a few more out of it without looking ridiculous.
So why the discount? Because Carl Crawford, one and a half years into a seven-year Red Sox career, is the most enigmatic Boston player in recent memory.
Manny Ramirez was often described as enigmatic, when really he was just an odd combination of immature, entitled, and talented. Josh Beckett isn't an enigma -- he's stubborn and doesn't much care for people asking him questions. John Lackey is just mostly bad and extremely overpaid.
But Carl -- what do we make of Carl?
I've heard a lot of frustration about Carl from radio callers (and show hosts) in his time in Boston, and I understand it. He was awful last year, pressing the whole time and probably a little banged up here and there. This year is not his fault at all -- he got hurt while training, and then got hurt again while rehabbing.
It's easy to get frustrated about injuries, but we need to cut Carl some slack leading into his return tonight. Injuries can happen to anyone. Until someone shows a repeated inability to stay on the field -- especially to injuries that most people come back from more easily than that person -- they deserve the benefit of the doubt when hurt. Carl's been durable (and excellent) for his entire career.
I've gone all these paragraphs and not mentioned the real reason: his mammoth contract.
Now, obviously $142 million is a lot of dough. He makes more than Manny Ramirez, the greatest Red Sox player of my lifetime, ever did (I'm too lazy to adjust for inflation, but I'm willing to bet he still beats it). He makes more than anyone else on the team, and last year he tied Darnell McDonald in WAR, with 0.2. He was a disappointment.
But really, that's no reason to get angry at him and bemoan his return. Or suggest Daniel Nava should start over him. Or that we should trade him somewhere for nothing, while paying his contract. I heard one caller (and yes, I'm aware that radio callers are by and large insane) whose plan was to pay half his remaining value to unload him, meaning we would have paid him roughly $80 million (he made less last year) for one terrible year and half an injured year. Sounds like good management.
Look, I was disappointed too. (I never wanted him in the first place, but that's besides the point.) But we need to set aside the contract, set aside the injuries, and hope that he can come back and be the impact player the Red Sox think he can be. Let him hit second, get comfortable, and wreak havoc on the bases. If he struggles for a second straight year, then I'll understand some of the negativity coming out, because it'll start to look like a lost cause.
You don't have to buy a jersey, but don't go booing a guy many thought was a future Hall of Famer just because he got paid and got hurt.