The Rustiness of Carl Crawford
By Scott Andes
Nobody needs the all-star break right now more than Carl Crawford, the poor guy. When Carl Crawford started the 2013 season healthy and reporting on time to play opening day, the Dodgers were surprisingly pleased. The club had been unsure if he would be able to be ready to play in time as he was still recovering from Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow. Who cares we all thought though? Crawford doesn’t have to throw that often from left field anyways right? At least that’s what the Dodgers and their fans tried to convince themselves as spring training started. the Dodgers were very hopeful that the former all-star would be able to regain the form that made him one of the more dangerous table setters in the American League for many years. Crawford was a four time all-star during his nine seasons in Tampa Bay. He had five seasons where he hit .300 or better, and seven seasons of 40 or more stolen bases.
Crawford averaged 190 hits for nearly nine seasons, and hit ten or more home runs seven times. Crawford seemed to have a deadly combination of speed, power and defense. Crawford could do it all, until he no longer physically able. The Dodgers were excited to be getting the Crawford that was considered one of the best outfielders in the league, and was one of the most dangerous players on the base paths. This guy averaged 150 games per year with Tampa Bay. A flurry of injuries have derailed his once solid career. After two fruitless seasons in Boston, the Dodgers acquired the outfielder through the August 25 blockbuster trade that also sent Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto to the Dodgers.
Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford (right) is congratulated by Ricky Nolasco after scoring in the fifth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field.-Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Crawford started out strong this season, showing brief flashes of the strong player he once was before he was besieged with injuries. Crawford began the season batting .301 (28 for 91) with four home runs. He then continued with a solid May, batting .278 (25 for 90), but his OPS fell from .905 in April, to .701. Crawford had ten multi-hit games in the first month of the season, and six in May. On June 1 Crawford was batting .293 and we were starting to wonder why Boston was so eager to dump him.
Then we began to see why when Crawford started to show the first signs of early rustiness. He battled a sore or tight back for most of the first six weeks of the season, but seemed to be able to play through it. He was sporadically rested by Don Mattingly, but then was hit with the full force of his rustiness once he strained his hamstring in early June and was once again, placed back on the disabled list.
This is what Crawford’s season has been like so far. It is this play here.
Crawford came to the Dodgers with a history of injury problems stemming from his previous two years in Boston. A nagging wrist injury hampered him most of the 2012 season, and then he had to undergo Tommy John surgery on his throwing arm in August. A rare procedure for a position player, but the recovery time is much shorter than for a pitcher. Because of the surgery, Crawford didn’t play at all for the Dodgers in 2012. Now I know why Boston wanted to be rid of his albatross like contract. His seven year 142 million dollar contract or what’s left on it may plague the Dodgers for years to come, much like some of the other past ridiculous contracts handed out to injury prone players.
There are different levels to Crawford’s rustiness. Those levels fluctuate throughout the season, reducing him to what he is, which is a part time player. The rustiness and brittle body do not allow for Crawford to do the following activities…..hitting, throwing, running the bases, fielding, playing Baseball, standing, walking, operating heavy machinery, and breathing. Sometimes Just Crawford existing can place him on the disabled list. Let’s check out Carl Crawford’s stages of rustiness in 2013.
Level 1– The healthy Crawford. April 1-30 .308 (28 for 90) ten multi-hit games, five home runs. .905 OPS
This is the healthy Crawford. He does have short sporadic bursts of health where he actually plays in Baseball games. It’s surprising and refreshing seeing something we’re not accustomed to which is Crawford playing in games. This month he batted .308, with five home runs, and a .905 OPS. The healthy Crawford can flat out play. It’s a shame he can’t stay and play for longer.
Level 2– The rustiness begins. May 1-31 .278 (25 for 90) 1 HR .701 OPS.
The second level begins the rustiness. We start to see wear and tear beginning to show, as Crawford’s power diminished to almost nothing in the month of May. We can clearly see the rustiness forming as Crawford battled a sore back and hamstring problems. However despite the drop in power and on base skills, Crawford is still pretty effective. Hitting .278 is certainly nothing to scoff at. Then on May 30 he made this sliding catch in Anaheim which accelerated the rustiness even further.
Gif courtesy of Dodgersnation.com
Level 3– The rust takes over. Only played in one game from June 1-30
This is the level where the rust finally engulfs Crawford, sending him to his home which is the disabled list. Crawford was placed on the 15-day DL n June 2 because of a strained hamstring. This is the level where we don’t see Crawford at all. He’s just out, gone with injury. We almost forget about him, he is gone for so long.
Level 4– The rust subsides slightly. July 5-14 (2 for 26)
This is the level where the rust subsides a little bit, and Crawford and the Dodgers proclaim him to be healthy. Of course we know better, and sure enough, his back tightened up again, and he had to sit on the bench for days waiting for his back rust to clear up. He sat in limbo for days before finally returning on July 5. Since then he has been awful, going just 2 for 26 since his return.
Get healthy and stay healthy Crawford! Dammit!-Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Because of the injuries, Crawford’s biggest weapon which is his speed, has been diminished. The outfielder is just 9 for 12 in stolen bases this year. Crawford has stolen 441 bases in his career. After averaging at least 145-150 games per year with Tampa Bay, Crawford played in just 130 games for Boston in 2011, and 31 the following season. The 31 year old has played in just 59 games this season for the Dodgers. If he played in every game the rest of the season that means he would still only play in 122 games. That seems far-fetched considering his level of rust and injury prone body. The 59 games were all that his brittle rickety and fragile body could handle.
If you would like to reach Carl, you can forward all letters and emails to his home on the Dodger bench. Please address all correspondence to Carl Crawford, care of the disabled list. Injury riddled city, sore back and blown hamstring city, disabled list county, CA, 90028. I joke of course, but the sad part about it is its true.
I once proposed the idea of freezing him inside a cryogenic chamber to try and stop the rust process from building. The Dodgers may have to do that in order to get some kind of return on their investment. It appears more and more likely that Crawford is nothing more than a talented but injury riddled part time player, that is no longer capable of staying healthy for an entire season. I certainly hope that Crawford can somehow get healthy, stay healthy and regain to his top form from his Tampa Bay years. The Dodgers were really banking on Crawford to be the lead-off guy they sorely have lacked in recent years. Underneath the brittle body and the cortisone shots, and DL stints, that great player may still be in there buried somewhere.
Will the Dodgers ever see a return of the healthy Carl Crawford? As of now, all signs are pointing to no.