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As Hurricane Irene approached the East Coast, Carl Crawford put pen to paper (or more likely hands to keyboard) and wrote a diary entry for ESPN. In Boston, like New York, the media, the fans and the cities themselves can be tough on athletes. With every Boston sports team winning at least one championship over the past ten years, the pressure may have only increased. Like a movie that does poorly at the box office opening weekend, an athlete who gets off to a slow start will feel the pressure from everyone around him in addition that he places on himself. That’s not to say the fans and media are necessarily in the wrong to expect a lot; these guys are the best at what they do and to elites in any field or industry are expected to bring their best every time. Just look at the reaction last week when Steve Jobs resigned from Apple.
Carl Crawford decided to address his struggles in a way most athletes do not: acknowledging them directly and breaking down each and every rumor. The outfielder says he’s healthy, free of personal issues and, at the moment, is not pressing. He may have pressed at the start of the season he admitted in the ESPN diary entry, but no longer.
In fact, Crawford himself is, not surprisingly, as puzzled as his fans:
“I really can’t just put my finger on one thing and say that’s the reason why. All I can say is for some reason, I’m having a bad year.”
The career .293/.333/.440 hitter signed with the Red Sox after his best Major League season, a year that saw him hit .307/.356/.495 with 46 stolen bases and a career-high 19 home runs. He wants everybody to know the player who has appeared in 105 games for the Red Sox is not the real Crawford. “I don’t believe that this is the person that I really am. I know I’ll figure it out at some point to get better“ he wrote in an attempt to highlight his own disappointment.
The player who, by signing with Boston, was to have taken the Tampa Bay Rays out of contention this year is still missing. Even the most consistent players players slump. Just look at Adam Dunn. He was a consistent forty home run guy, albeit with a low batting average. He took walks and racked up strikeouts while he tore the cover off the ball. This year he may break Rob Deer’s record for worst batting average in a single season since the start of the live-ball era. Players get unlucky: Crawford’s BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) sits at just .291, a far cry from the .342 figure he sported the previous two seasons. Down seasons happen all the time. The best players though are the ones who can recover. And if Crawford has any doubts about his talents, he needs to look no further than David Ortiz. In May of 2010 it looked like Ortiz was nearing the end of his playing days. A year later, Ortiz is once again part of a dominant middle of the order duo with newcomer Adrian Gonzalez and the two sluggers seem to feed off each other into monstrous hot streaks.
For the speedy left fielder, he knows his game. He knows his ability. He knows his teammates, specifically Dustin Pedroia, are there giving it all they have. And if even during a bad season for himself he can help the team win a World Series, he know that next year is a fresh start.