To state the obvious, Red Sox Nation has not been all that impressed or understanding with their $142 million outfielder, Carl Crawford.
Since he first donned the Red Sox uniform in December of 2010, Crawford has had a sea of controversy come his way in regards to his ability, mental stability and personality.
Most of the critiquing of Crawford arose during his first season with the Red Sox in which he had a .255 batting average, 18 stolen bases and a .694 OPS. Crawford struggled in adjusting to the bright lights of Boston and also battled injuries throughout the season.
Ownership also did not hesitate to join the Crawford bashing, as Red Sox owner John Henry revealed on 98.5 radio that he had "opposed" the signing to begin with. Henry said, "[The Red Sox] had plenty of left-handed hitting. I don’t have to go into why. I’ll just tell you that at the time, I opposed the deal.”
Quickly afterwards, Henry admitted to regretting those comments, when he told WEEI that, "I should have never made those comments. It was an off-the-cuff remark I shouldn't have made so when I see him, I'm going to apologize to him for it."
Things did not get easier for Crawford, as he was coming off of wrist surgery last spring and had problems with his elbow, ensuring that he would begin the season on the disabled list. Constant criticism of the signing from the fans and media alike became more apparent as the days went by.
Some began to question whether or not he was able to mentally handle working under the stress of the Boston culture. Many wondered if he'd ever return form phyiscally and become the Carl Crawford of old.
However, when asked if he regretted coming to Boston, Crawford told the Boston Herald in July that, "If I had a good season, those thoughts don’t creep up. But I’m a person, once I make a decision, that’s it. And at the end of the day, if I had to do it all over again, I think I’d make the same decision.”
During a rehab assignment, Crawford also had to deal with a Massachusetts cop yelling a racial slur directed towards him during a game. Needless to say, it was more unnecessary publicity in the way of Carl's return.
However, since returning to the Red Sox lineup in July, Crawford has hit .283 with 19 RBIs and 20 runs in 27 games played. For a player that is still playing through an injury that will need surgery in the offseason, those are very Carl Crawford-like numbers. Crawford has even produced under a ridiculous and short-lived "four day program," along with being placed in the bottom of the lineup.
Crawford's short tenure with Boston, while inauspicious, illustrates his drive and determination to contribute to his ball club. While his first season was abysmal, it is understandable that he needed a year to adjust (not to mention he had wrist issues throughout the season).
Even dealing with controversy and zero confidence from ownership this season, Crawford is putting up solid numbers with an injury that will need Tommy John surgery. If he can play relatively well with injury, then why wouldn't he excel when he's injury free?
Will Carl Crawford ever live up to the money he is due? More than likely he won't. But that does not justify all of the controversy, mocking and negativity that has plagued him since he came to Boston.
Is the doubt in Carl Crawford justified?
Crawford has proven to be a team player and a silent leader in the clubhouse. While Dustin Pedroia, Josh Beckett and John Lackey continue to disrespect their manager and make fools of themselves, Carl Crawford has sat back and done what he has been told.
Simply put, he's a guy I want on this roster for years to come. Now that he is adjusted to this set, Crawford is an asset when healthy. He has several more years left in a Red Sox uniform with minimal expectations. The lack of confidence in Crawford will continue to be a source of motivation and he will exceed those lowered expectations.
While his career in Boston hasn't been all that smooth, he has already overcome a number obstacles from a very passionate and sometimes brutal fanbase and organization. He won't put up Ted Williams-like numbers, but there is a very high chance he returns to form for the remainder of his contract.
Crawford is out to prove doubters wrong and sometimes that's all the motivation an elite athlete needs.