Boston Red Sox: Don't Treat Carl Crawford Like a $142 Million Piece of Glass

James Stewart-Meudt@@JSMeudtCorrespondent IIApril 4, 2011

SARASOTA, FL - MARCH 05:  Outfielder Carl Crawford #13 of the Boston Red Sox warms up just before the start of the Grapefruit League Spring Training Game against the Baltimore Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium on March 5, 2011 in Sarasota, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
J. Meric/Getty Images

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the amazing $142 million No. 7 hitter!

After starting his first season in a Boston uniform in an 0-for-7 slump, Red Sox manager Terry Francona dropped Carl Crawford to the No. 7 spot in the lineup on Sunday. He went 2-for-4 with an RBI.

Guess he should spend the rest of the season batting seventh.

You’ve got to be kidding me. Yes, the Red Sox are the World Series favorites and it’s hard to avoid panic when you start the season 0-2 and get outscored 21-10. But panic is for the fans, not the manager.

Moving Crawford to the seventh spot in the batting order reeks of desperation. And there should be no desperation after two games of a 162 game marathon.

For his career, Crawford has just 11 at-bats batting seventh. He is a .250 hitter in that spot. Batting third, where Francona intends to bat Crawford for most of the season? He hits .291. Odds are that Crawford is going to hit, whether it appears so after the first few games or not.

There should be no such thing as a $142 million player batting seventh in the lineup. Never. Francona is one of the best managers in baseball, if not the best. What he did last season with a team of AAA players was incredible.

But what he’s doing this season is equally incredible—for all the wrong reasons.

It’s not because of Crawford that the Red Sox have started the season 0-3 and were thoroughly trounced by the Texas Rangers. At the start of this season, the Red Sox lineup was not the question.

Having added Crawford and slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, and with a healthy Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia coming back, the Red Sox have assembled, arguably, the best everyday lineup in baseball.

The questions were confined solely to their starting rotation. And so far, those questions seem justified.

In their season opener in Arlington on Friday, Jon Lester went 5 1/3 innings, giving up five runs, all earned, on six hits. The Rangers tagged him for three home runs.

Crawford didn’t do his team any favors in that game, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, all of his at-bats coming with RISP.

But he didn’t put his team in a 5-0 hole either.

Daniel Bard gave up four earned runs in just two thirds of an inning. Again, not Crawford.

In the final two games of the series, Clay Buchholz and John Lackey combined to allow 12 earned runs on 15 hits, six of them home runs, in just 10 innings.

Crawford finished the series 2-for-11 with one RBI and no extra base hits. The blame lies all over the place. With the hitters, with the pitchers, with the whole team. But dropping Crawford to seventh in the batting order is a slap in the face.

You don’t pay someone $142 million over seven years and give him just seven at-bats before you decide you don’t like what you see and take him out of his customary spot.

Crawford is a career .311 hitter with runners in scoring position.

The whole team played poorly in every aspect of the game. Yet despite their struggles, every player except Crawford is right where they started the season.

You can break down the science of creating a batting order a thousand different ways. There are schools of thought all over the place. But one thing is unanimously agreed upon—you bat your best hitters higher up. Crawford falls under that category. Batting him so low is literally costing him at-bats, and that’s not what you do to your best hitters. You want to put the bat in their hands, not take it away.

It’s four games, four bad games. Of the past 80 playoff teams, only three have started the season 0-3.

But the blame for their start can be spread to the entire team, not just Crawford. If he suddenly goes on a 5-for-15 tear, is Francona going to move him back up? And if he then goes back into a slump, is he going to move him back down?

The Red Sox have now set a precedence that will govern their decisions on how to handle Crawford for the rest of the season and he’s too good of a player to be treated like he’s made of glass.


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