Carl Crawford may be starting to show signs of life in Texas, but before maybe the past few days, the guy had been absolutely slammed by fans and the media alike this year. His total disaster of a season in combination with the various injuries the Sox’s offense has dealt with in the past weeks has really highlighted his lack of production. But fans, as they usually do, have gone a bit overboard with their criticisms; talks of his contract being a disaster or the guy not being cut out for a big market are completely premature. We only need to look back a few years to see why this is.
When Carlos Beltran signed with the Mets, he too had never played for a large market. In fact, except for his brief stint with the Astros, Beltran had never even had any experience playing for a winner in KC, something Crawford had the opportunity to do with the Rays. Both players signed mega contracts to large market teams, and both were arguably coming off career years. Beltran hit 266 with 16 home runs his first year in New York, both totals that Crawford could easily replicate this year. While Beltran’s walk rate wasn’t as pathetic as Crawford’s (4.3 percent… somewhere Bill James is crying in a room full of computers and half empty red bull cans) the comparison still holds relatively well: A large free agent signing from a small market, struggling under the scrutiny of a large market their first year. Beltran followed up his ugly first season by accumulating a total WAR of 21 over the next 3 years, including his career best year in 06 where he hit 41 home runs with a slash line of 275/288/594. And while injuries have slowed him in recent years, Beltran has been one of the few six figure free agent signings to at least come close to living up to his contract. Obviously Crawford is a different player than Beltran, the power difference is quite large, but Crawford (at least the one we knew in Tampa) strikes out a lot less and has more considerably speed. Before writing Crawford off, remember that players this talented rarely just fade into oblivion at age 30, and that bad years are a part of baseball. Carlos Beltran serves as a perfect reminder of this.