When Carl Crawford came to the plate in the top of the 5th last night, ESPN’s on-air crew undertook a discussion of Crawford’s future and I pleasantly surprised by the colloquy (mostly because I was bracing for the hackneyed argument that Crawford’s impending departure is somehow proof of the failings of our community).
The color commentator (it sounded a lot like Rick Sutcliffe but I can’t find anything online to confirm that — but I bet it was Sutcliffe because I like him) avoided any discussion of money or attendance. He even ducked the worn out cliches about the players of past generations that spent entire careers playing for one team in sepia tones.
Instead, he just said something like “it is a shame that a team like Tampa Bay doesn’t have $100MM to keep a guy like Crawford.” That is a fair point because it feels like that. That felt like a fresh perspective. Forget the cause of the departure. Baseball fans should care about the effect.
The more I thought about Sutcliffe’s perspective the more I agreed with it — even though I disagreed with his ultimate conclusion that Crawford’s departure was “a shame.” I really like watching Carl Crawford play baseball. He is one of the guys that remind us all that this game is first and foremost about fun. (He also gave my favorite quote of all time: “Ummm, [if I could be any superhero] I’d be Batman because he, uh, works at night.”) But, as much as I like Crawford, I like the Rays more. More directly, I am a Rays fan, not a Crawford fan. I like Crawford in because he plays for us, not the other way around.
A lot of popular players cycle through a clubhouse over time. Looking back at our club’s short history, fan favorites like Bubba Trammel, John Flaherty, Jonny Gomes, Eric Hinske, and Rocco Baldelli all departed for various reasons and each time some Rays fans I knew thought that the world would never be the same. But we all kept coming back.
Crawford is certainly the best of the group of fan favorites but I am not going to be sad when he leaves. Next spring will be just like every spring. We will all sit down and argue about how to turn the 35 or 40 guys in camp into the best 25-man roster. The only difference is, we will wonder for the first time in many years who will play leftfield.