MLB outfielder Carl Crawford made critical comments about the Boston media in a recent interview with CBS Sports' Danny Knobler.
Might future free agents heed his warning and avoid signing with the team?
The 31-year-old, now a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, said that those who cover the Red Sox beat "love it when you're miserable." There's hyperbole in this quote, but New England news outlets certainly have a reputation for making life difficult for underachievers.
Hall of Famer Jim Rice was known for his resentment of the reporters. Amid one of his weakest seasons in 1987, Steve Fainaru of the Hartford Courant went too far with his questioning. Their conversation deteriorated into an altercation (via SI.com), and Fainaru left with a ripped shirt.
Fast forward a couple decades to July 2008, Manny Ramirez's final days in a Red Sox uniform. The superstar scratched himself from the lineup due to "a sore right knee." The next morning, he became the most talked-about athlete in America when Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe insisted that his symptoms weren't real.
Crawford made himself an easy target by agreeing to a seven-year, $142 million contract after the 2010 season. Expectations were high and he wilted under the pressure:
I took so much of a beating in Boston, I don't think anything could bother me anymore. They can say what they want—that I'm the worst free agent ever—and it won't get to me. But it bothered me the whole time there.
He lacked "that free-spirit feel" from the early years of his career, and the stats reflected that. Crawford batted just .137 through his first dozen games in 2011. Despite an eventual uptick in performance, his .260/.292/.419 triple-slash line with the club prior to being traded this past August was wholly disappointing.
Ultimately, Crawford's nightmarish experience simply reinforces the perception that we already had. Major league veterans who elect to take their talents to Beantown—or similarly, Chicago and New York—understand they will receive verbal thrashings if their production wanes.
Of course, free agents don't envision themselves slumping or suffering from serious injuries and becoming the focus of writers' malice.
They fearlessly pursue opportunities that guarantee high salaries and optimal playing time. That's how the Red Sox wooed Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes and Shane Victorino several months ago.
So as long as the organization has a lucrative television deal and passionate fanbase, it will be an attractive destination.
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