By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Former Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford might be right about the intensity of the Boston media, but it was up to him to handle it with grace and dignity. He did not.
The Red Sox shipped Crawford to Los Angeles in 2012 as part of a massive trade that also sent Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, and Nick Punto to the Dodgers, freeing up $250 million in salary over the remainder of their contracts. Crawford spent the start of the following season talking and talking and talking about his time in Boston, calling it “toxic” and partially blaming the intense local media for his struggles, saying “They love it when you’re miserable.”
The Red Sox, who rode a group of cost-effective veteran signings to a World Series championship that season, had the last laugh in this scenario. Now, the 34-year-old Crawford finds himself without a team and no one to blame but himself.
The Dodgers have 10 days to trade, waive, or release Crawford after designating him for assignment, eating the remaining $34.6 million on his contract. Crawford earned over $72 million playing for the Dodgers from 2013-2016, batting .278 with just 18 home runs and 48 stolen bases in 320 games over that span. He batted .185 with six RBI and no homers or steals in 30 games for the Dodgers in 2016 before Sunday’s DFA, a tacit acknowledgment that taking on Crawford with his massive contract was a mistake.
Crawford, acknowledging that his own personality may not have been the best fit in Boston, lamented his dealings with the frequently critical Boston media, saying that neither he nor the team “did their homework” in regards to Crawford’s incompatibility with the intensity and urgency of Boston as a sports market.
“Burying people in the media, they think that makes a person play better,” Crawford said in 2013. “That media was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced in my life.”
Now that I’m gleefully burying Crawford as we speak, perhaps Crawford has a point. But few things irk me as a sports writer more than sports figures blaming the media for their problems. For all the hundreds of players who have survived in Boston handling the scrutiny and pressure – or, at least, kept their personal issues to themselves – there is one Crawford who simply couldn’t survive.
There’s no doubt that we Boston media folk can be overly cynical at times. We can nitpick. We can attack negative angles when there is an abundance of positives. But in Crawford’s case, the criticism was justified; he simply didn’t perform, certainly not nearly up to the expectations of his $20 million-plus salary. It was up to Crawford to ignore the noise, but he couldn’t help but let the scrutiny eat away at him.
You may wonder why I still care about Crawford, nearly four years after the big trade. It’s because his departure was a big part of the move that set the stage for the Red Sox’s magical World Series-winning season in 2013. The mild-mannered but ultimately harmless Adrian Gonzalez was a necessary sacrifice to clear the toxic Beckett and Crawford out of the Red Sox clubhouse and get them off the books financially.
The Red Sox now have a similarly huge contract and, seemingly, a similarly fragile psyche on their hands with ace David Price, who will have the chance to opt out of his seven-year, $210 million contract after year three. That particular clause indicates that the Red Sox may have learned their lesson with long-term commitments to players who may not have what it takes to handle the pressure of the media and fans to pay immediate dividends in Boston.
However, Price has handled the media just fine so far. He’s been accountable and weathered the storm after a rocky start with a 2.62 ERA in his past six starts. He blamed no one but himself for the problems he had over the first six weeks of the season. It remains to be seen how Price’s tenure shakes out in Boston, but so far he’s handling the scrutiny as well as one might expect.
The Red Sox forced themselves to sign Price after mishandling contract talks with Jon Lester, but were certainly more inclined to make such a big signing after purging Crawford’s salary, along with those of Beckett and Gonzalez, nearly four years ago. A toxic environment cleaned itself up and the team got a World Series out of it.
Most importantly, the 2013 Red Sox had a team full of guys who handled the pressure of the market with panache – they rid themselves of Crawford’s self-admitted psychological weaknesses. Now that Crawford is left to search for a new team as his major league career continues to decline, it would be a bad look for him to play the media card in laid-back Los Angeles. It would be the only thing more cringeworthy than Crawford’s season-and-a-half with the Red Sox.
Speaking of that, it was in April of 2013 that Crawford said on his time in Boston: “Every time I think about it, I cringe.”
So do we, Carl. So do we.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.