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The long fall of All-Star MVP Carl Crawford

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The 2009 Major League Baseball All-Star Game was a landmark event for the Tampa Bay Rays. When the game began on July 14, no fewer than 12 men sitting in the American League dugout were wearing Rays’ uniforms.

Five of those were players while the other seven included Manager Joe Maddon and his entire six-man coaching staff. Maddon was the manager – the first and only from Tampa Bay – because the Rays were defending American League Champions.

None of the five players were starters and were chosen as reserves. Evan Longoria was chosen, but did not play due to injury. Carlos Pena was an injury replacement, but did not play.

Jason Bartlett and Ben Zobrist both went hitless in their one at bat. Though he only managed one single in three at-bats, left fielder Carl Crawford had a night to remember.

With the American League trailing 3-2, Crawford led off the fifth with a single. Minnesota’s Joe Mauer would double in the tying run later in the inning.

As the game moved to the bottom of the seventh inning, Colorado’s Brad Hawpe launched what appeared to be a tie-breaking home run for the National League. Instead, Crawford made a leaping catch over the wall, preserving the tie. Maddon’s American League team went on to win, 4-3

For beginning the fifth inning rally that tied the game and preserving that tie with his catch, Crawford was named the game’s most valuable player. No Tampa Bay Ray before or since has earned such an honor.

Crawford finished 2009 with solid numbers, but put up even bigger ones in 2010. He made his fourth and final all-star team; he won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award; he was seventh in American League MVP voting.

Then he signed the big contract on December 8, 2010 to go to the hated Boston Red Sox. Crawford did not know it at the time, but the party was already over.

After underperforming in Boston for parts of two seasons, the Red Sox somehow suckered the Los Angeles Dodgers into taking Crawford and his huge contract. Things only got worse for him.

On June 13, 2016 the Dodgers finally released the 34-year-old, often injured Crawford. One month after his release and despite the fact Los Angeles is responsible for the $35 million remaining on his contract, he remains unsigned.

Some speculation centering on bringing Crawford back to Tampa Bay has quietly begun. In effect, the Dodgers would be paying him to play somewhere else. With the way the Rays are going, it sure couldn’t hurt.

No matter what happens, Crawford gave the Rays a lot to cheer about during his stay in Tampa Bay. As the All-Star Game approaches, his MVP-winning performance should be remembered.

While the 2009 game provided many firsts for Tampa Bay, the state of Florida has never hosted an All-Star Game. That will be rectified next year when the Miami Marlins and Marlins Park will showcase the best the game has to offer.

 

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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