Carl Crawford should be hearing from AARP any minute now. Or so you’d think, based on how the Tampa Bay Rays have been portrayed as a bunch of fun-loving, snot-nosed toddlers having the time of their lives against the tottering bullies, a.k.a the Boston Red Sox.
Compared with the Rays most prominent young stars — Evan Longoria, B.J. Upton, Akinori Iwamura and James Shields — Crawford seems as if he might be able to qualify for Medicare.
He’s 27 years old and has been in the majors for seven seasons. Yet until Tuesday night — when he went 5-for-5 in Tampa’s 13-4 spanking of the Red Sox in Game 4 that gave the Rays a 3-1 series edge — he hadn’t played a prominent role in the Rays highlight reel, and was largely unknown outside of Rays World.
But as Tampa stands at the brink of reaching the World Series for the first time in franchise history, he just may embody the true growth and spirt of this fledgling frachise more than his na-na-na-na-naaa-na teammates.
That’s because he’s been there. When many of his youthful teammates were swinging away in the minors or overseas he was having a devil of a time with a franchise many didn’t even consider part of The Show. A second-round draft pick by the then-Devil Rays in the 1999 draft, Crawford is the longest tenured player on the team.
Which may explain why when he was interviewed on national television following Tuesday’s romp, the native Houstonian could only say, I don’t have any words.
There are no words when you were stuck in a dark storm for years before the sun began to shine.
No words when you toiled in relative obscurity (even as you led the league in stolen bases twice (2003, 2004) and was twice recognized as an All-Star (2004, 2007).
No words when just a year from being baseball’s worst you’re on the brink of reaching the World Series, so close you don’t even want to utter the words: World Series.
And Crawford was almost unable to enjoy this journey. In August, he suffered a hand injury (subluxation of his right middle finger tendon) while trying to check his swing. That month he underwent an operation and for weeks wasn’t sure whether he’d be able to perform in the postseason. “I definitely thought it was the end of the season,” he told the Boston Globe.
If that’s what he thought, his efforts didn’t reveal it. Sensing this team’s historic opportunity, Crawford set up shop in the team’s weight room and ran sprints like it was spring training.
On Sept 26, he was activated by Rays manager Joe Maddon.
Should the Rays reach the Series, and certainly should they win it, perhaps Crawford will finally find the words to describe what he feels. He might even say World Series.