Results tagged ‘ Carl Crawford ’
He is one of those people who could fade into the background at a party and become part of the wallpaper. He has always seemed to be point-on when it comes to staying out of trouble and not projecting a highly-paid bad boy. He has always been a role model, but maybe the rest of the Nation is just getting a glimpse of this great person we have known since 2002.
Has it really been 8 MLB season sine he graced the Trop’s turf with his uncontrollable chaos running style, but smooth as silk stroke and acceleration towards any base. Have we really seen the last of him on Thursday afternoon, or will there possibility be a return engagement in 2011? How much have we gotten accustomed to his sudden speed and grace flowing in the outfield making hard plays looking routine that even a one game rest for his weary bones makes the Tampa Bay Rays look like an entirely different team.
The solid image of him just standing in the Batter’s Circle before a plat appearance just portrays speed and grace with every pore of his body. How fitting that in possibly his last season to grace a Rays uniform he was selected by the local media as the Rays 2010 Most Valuable Player. Ever since that first jog out into the outfield in Toronto he has slowly and silently become the glue that holds this team together.
Even when the Rays were victimized by opposing pitching, you knew he would get a critical hit or make a play that stood out as a beam of light towards the stands. He is the kind of guy you could give your son his name based on him as a person as well as a ballplayer. He is the kind of guy you would hang out with if he was not making millions on the ballfield, and possibly play with on a Adult Softball team.
He has become that iconic Rays player you hope is not just once in a lifetime. His way of playing the game has never been questioned or seen as rebellious.
He has played the game to his own tune, and that melody rings loud and true to the man beneath the uniform. No matter if he is thrilling us with plays or being a spoken voice of his comrades, his voice is one of the most respected voices ever in that Rays clubhouse. And he earned that honor by doing it the right way. Defending his teammates in every instance, being a silent but deadly team leader in that Rays clubhouse. A voice respected, admire and seen as a true inner voice to the distress or extreme joy within those walls. He has been the voice of the Rays without even knowing it.
And I was one of those 35,000+ chanting his name in Tropicana Field in the eighth inning on Thursday night. Immediately upon hearing the cheer and chanting start I rose to me feet and celebrated in mass the career that will transcend time in my mind. To celebrate a man and a player that might be the first to wear the Rays colors into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Applauding a man who will always be solid in my mind as the model of the perfect Rays player.
You might have noticed I have not put his name once into this post. Not once have I uttered his nicknames or even tried to write his name. Because it pains me to do so. His possible departure aches me within with a pain that I do not want to acknowledge until that last moment. For his name will always make me smile, always make me remember Rays moments, but mostly it will remind me of what a great human being, father and key component to any organization. He will that bright sunburst until he hangs his cleats up for the last time.
He started as a keystone to this revival of this franchise. Was here with the strife and pain of getting better and winning those close ones. He celebrated titles and possible advancements that we only dreamed of for this club. He was the guy we all wish we could trade places with for one day. I got to end this now because there is a problem with my eyes.
Once in a lifetime you meet someone or see someone who can transcend the norm and become one with the ongoing heartbeat and rhythm of baseball. May fahter used to tell me tales of Stan Musial and Mickey Mantle and their times in St. Petersburg. But I have my own icon of what I think is the perfect baseball player, for me, his name is Carl Crawford, and Imiss him already and he is not even gone.
You could feel the moment beginning to pulsate within the Teflon roof of Tropicana Field. It was the top of the ninth inning with Tampa Bay Rays closer Rafael Soriano heading to the hill. With the sound of the sledgehammer hitting pure steel, your heartbeat synched solely with that one loud clang for several moments before someone shook you and you were forced back into this realm of reality.
Rays starter David Price had done his job for eight solid innings, and now the Rays All Time saves leader was not out there to collect another save, but to be one with a moment that will be in Rays fan’s minds for a long, long time. Soriano did not have to be inserted into the game with a 5-0 score and no chance of a save opportunity, but somehow, it just seemed right that the guy who anchored the backend of the Rays success this year should get a front row seat to the celebration carnage.
And even before Home Plate Umpire Joe West got a chance to throw a vocal note to the final pitch thrown by Soriano past Baltimore Orioles hitter Adam Jones, the Rays dugout and Bullpen were half way to the pitcher’s mound. Celebration was in full force in St. Petersburg that night with veterans like Carlos Pena and Carl Crawford taking special moments to collect all the sights and sounds of this cherished event.
With a scheduled Team meeting at the pitcher’s mound, the entire team collected and embraced, high-fives all around brought the evening to its ultimate climax, but there was a second act yet to be played out upon the turf of Tropicana Field. As the Rays employees were herded into their own special corral just to the west of Home Plate to be a part of the celebration, the first bottle of champagne was open by Rays First Base Coach George Hendricks who then made sure Rays Manager Joe Maddon, who was being interviewed in full view of the entire stadium at the time, got the first taste of the bubbly.
Sweet nectar of the God’s streamed down Maddon’s fresh new Rays playoff cap and upon his Carolina Blue plaid lettered T-shirt to commemorate the moment. Just as quickly, players began to filter out of the Rays clubhouse holding their own bottles of Domaine ste Michelle champagne looking to celebrate and salute a moment 161 games in the making. B J Upton and Crawford were the first to rise to the top of the Rays dugout and spray the home crowd while others looked for family members or friends to celebrate this historic Rays moment.
Then slowly, but surely, the team made its triumphant march down the First Base sidelines with bottles in hand spraying the crowd and offering a few swigs to those special fans and friends assembled to bring a final end to the first primary goal of this Rays team. I took my usual photo space down by the Rays Bullpen secondary clubhouse entrance and began to shoot the impending celebration stampede heading my way. I had to put down my camera as player after player came by and let me have a small slice of that moment with them.
Willy Aybar immediately doused me with champagne right after I congratulated Upton and Grant Balfour and then I saw the biggest smile on the faces of both Evan Longoria and David Price who earlier that day were going through some personal damage control after some unusual comments by the pair.
I yelled at Longoria that “this was the first of five celebrations” and he looked at me and said” I truly believe that.” Price then shook my hand and I told him I was proud of his actions today and every day he has been here.
Suddenly, the players sea seemed to part for a moment and one of my oldest baseball friends on the team presented me with a ¾ full bottle of champagne and quickly he disappeared in the exuberant posse. I quickly took a long and deep swig of that nectar and immediately passed it to a friend who took her own dose of delightful bubbly and I thrust the bottle to the air. A few players saw this and also cheered and pointed to me as I took in this second celebration, and immediately remembered just how far this team had come in 2010.
How only one National Media guru had predicted the Rays to be in the post season at all, and a shot at getting the divine prize of another American League East title was still sitting on the mantle waiting for the Rays to claim it for themselves. That celebration will have to wait until Kansas City, but tonight we were toasting to the success and the finalization of putting the Red Sox out of our rearview mirrors knowing that the New York Yankees were the only foe in our sights of another A L East crown.
And there was something soothing about this second time. Something that did not have me nervous or pacing like in 2008. Maybe it is the pure fact we have been here before. That we have scaled the mountain in recent times and could again hike it with the ultimate result this time…winning it all. Tonight was the symbolic starting point to that journey. A celebratory exclamation point to the 2010 season, but the Rays still have some walking to do along this dark path.
Tomorrow might be the last home game, but the team still has one more goal in mind, one giant moment yet to savor and enjoy…One more celebration before the season ends. But that is for us to ponder tomorrow, tonight is the time to celebrate, enjoy and totally let the pressures of the last few weeks pour down your body like the droplets of champagne.
Now is the time to show the emotions and the feelings that have been bottled up waiting for this glorious moment. I think it is time for me to finish this bottle of champagne and then look to the heavens knowing this is the first of five celebrations.
When I was young, my Father used to tell me there would be these moments in my life where everything seems clear and clarity will be at its zenith for a time. Last night, in the mass chaos of extra innings, mutual outstanding pitching performances and the hustle and bustle of players clamering on their teammates like 10-year olds celebrating a Little League title, the moon, stars and heaven seemed to align perfectly to enlighten myself and the 26,906 other witnesses to one of the most fabulous baseball games in 2010.
What all of us saw before us last night was a barn-burner pitcher’s guessing game to their last pitches between two of the most dominating southpaws in the American League. Both trying to get destiny to give them a wink in deciding who would get a “bump up” in the American League Cy Young race. We saw the wily veteran presence of New York Yankee starter C.C. Sabathia going not only for a knockout blow in the Cy Young race, but trying to hit the 20 win plateau for the first time in his career.
On the other side of the coin was this year’s wunderkid, Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price who not only got the nod of rival Yankees Manager Joe Girardi over one of his own pitchers for the start of the 81st All-Star Game, but has seen his own stock rising as quickly as the donuts as Price tries to keep the wins comings to (maybe) become the first Rays pitcher EVER to record 20 wins.
This incredible pitching match-up was only the 11th time in the last 10 years that two 17+ win starters squared off in a contest. It was the first time since 1985 that both pitchers had 17+ wins and went 8 scoreless innings each in the same contest. The last time was Sept 11,1985 when ex-Rays, the NY Mets pitcher Doc Gooden went up against St. Louis Cardinals hurler John Tudor, who ended up throwing a 10 inning shutout that night. Gooden threw 9 innings and was lifted for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the ninth inning. Met reliever Jesse Orosco gave up a solo shot to Cesar Cedeno for the lone Cardinal run.
As if you need to boosting the hype of this match-up any higher, was the fact that both Sabathia (19 wins) and Price (17 wins) were ranked 1 and 2 in the American League in victories at the time. This was also only the second time either had faced the other in a regular season MLB game. The first time was Sunday, Oct. 2, 2009 also at Tropicana Field, when Sabathia was trying to post his 20th win for 2009. Price and the Rays derailed that days chance at Sabathia 20th win mark with a 13-3 final that was highlighted by B J Upton’s cycle of his career.
Tonight’s match-up quickly materialized into a showdown between the uncharacteristic impatient Rays, who were trying to jump on Sabathia pitches early hoping for mistakes across the plate, and Price’s inability to get the Yankee hitters to take tasty swings just outside the zone. The tables oddly turned 180 degrees tonight as the Yankees seemed to be playing the Rays usual game plan of staying patient at the plate and looking for misguided morsels to hit, while the Rays, who struck out 14 times (Sabathia had 9 K’s) just seemed to be hoping for mistakes, but getting odd calls and mismatched pitches to start any type of rallying point.
This contest definitely fits into the category of an instant baseball classic moment as two young hurlers went about their craft chiseling and honing the strike zone all night long with Sabathia turning out a nice piece of furniture for his efforts, while Price fashioned his own great masterpiece himself in the process. But each pitchers path in this pitcher’s duel took different path, but each did not benefit with a chance for a win in the end.
Back and forth the game went as both teams made strides that bordered on the verge of breaking the game wide open, but their counterpart team’s defense simply made the obvious holes smaller and performed their own feats of magic to take this game long into the night. And that was surprising because the game seemed to be going at a record pace, but suddenly hit a bit of molasses patch and instantly went to a baby’s crawl.
More amazingly is the fact that if Rays leftfielder Carl Crawford had not gotten thrown out of the game by Home Plate Umpire Tom Hallion for arguing balls and strikes, this game could have conceivably gone on for even longer. When Crawford was ejected in the bottom of the ninth inning, Rays rookie infielder Reid Brignac went into the game and assumed Crawford’s third slot in the line-up.
Brignac worked the count to 3-2 before sending a screamer 383 feet into the Rightfield stands for the Walk-off winner. As the Rays assembled for the “team meeting” at Home Plate for Brignac, certain key facts instantly came out about the blast. Brignac became the first AL player to hit a walk-off homers in extra innings for a 1-0 score since former Rays hitter Aubrey Huff did it against the Rays on May 9, 2007. Brigs was also the first rookie to blast a solo shot to win a 1-0 game since the L A Dodger’s Russell Martin did it on August 13, 2006 against the San Diego Padres.
Most people would think the fact it marked the first time since June 13th that the Rays held onto sole possession of first place in the AL East would be the defining moment in this game. But there were many flashes of brilliance and moments of clarity in this contest. It showed the best two lefties in the AL right now matching pitch-for-pitch in a game with neither getting a chance to capitalize. It saw another Rays bench player come out of the dugout and perform an inspirational moment for all of us to remember deep into the Winter.
J Meric/Getty Images
Most of all this contest showed the true essence of the heart, soul and determination that neither of these teams are expecting the other to back down or go quietly into the night for the duration of the 2010 schedule. In the end, the team that their former owner, the late George Steinbrenner once told me that “the pesky Ray keeps his Yankees honest on the field” found a way to cement another solid performance in all of our hearts. If this keeps up, Tampa Bay will go through a boatload of Pepto by Wednesday night by followers of both teams.
The Red Sox series did a few things for the Tampa Bay Rays. Not only did it create a scenario where the Red Sox would have to go 23-8 to even catch the Rays now, it also brought about some personal celebrations within the Rays clubhouse. Some of these moments show the longevity, commitment and great feats accomplished by a few of our favorite Rays. But it also silently rewarded a guy who has been viewed as a liability for the wrong reasons.
It was great to see James Shields win his third game in a row after getting demolished in Rogers Centre against the Blue Jays. Especially enlightening was the way Carl Crawford still seems so humble as his name is written next to some of the true icons of the game and still he has that “aw shucks” mannerism to him. But hidden behind all of this was the celebration of the big “10”. Former Rays DH Pat Burrell hit this lofty plateau on my birthday (ironically).
Most Rays Republic members have mixed emotions about Gabe Kapler being on this Rays squad. Some point to his ability to play the outfield with zest and gumption as a perfect model of the consummate professional baseball player. Others nag and argue about his diminishing skills at the plate and his usefulness to this Rays squad has passed him by. I am centered in both camps a bit knowing that 10 years of playing in this league can take a lot out of you, but Kapler is a player that remains “old school” in hustle and demeanor, and that never gets old. But even as the team brought in a chocolate cheesecake to commemorate the moment.
But a confectionary treat should also be brought in for Rays starter James Shields who got to the top of the Rays pitching mountain with his 56th career Rays victory in his 145th career start. It has been classic Shields over the last two weeks after his out of character homer fest in Toronto, and that bodes well for the Rays. Not only has Shields turns his game around, but he is also closing in on a dubious Rays seasonal record. Shields currently has 29 Home Runs allowed, which is tops in the American League, and that total is within 3 of the Rays club record of 32 Home Runs allowed by Tanyon Sturtze back in 2002.
Even with a 6-2 record now over his last 8 starts, Shields has also shown a bit of his advanced age (28) this year on the mound, but his 13-11 record is very misleading. He has thrown 10 strikeouts in 5 games this season, and also was on the other end of the Dallas Braden Perfect Game against the Rays. As the cocky veteran on the Rays staff this year, Shields has also established his legacy here in Tampa Bay by finally rising to the top. But another Rays has been on top for quite a while, and we might be seeing the twilight of his Rays adventure.
There is no denying that Carl Crawford is a humble and timid person off the field. The guy is soft-spoken and polite to the end. So when he hit his 100th Home Run last night to push himself past Fred McGriff and into the third spot in the Rays all time Home Run list, you knew he would not want a big thing made out if the event. And the same thing happened twice this year as Crawford jumped over the 400 stolen bases mark, or even hit his 100th triple. This same guy will probably be the first player to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame wearing a Rays cap ( hopefully an old 2002 model ) and you would think he was only selected as Employee of the Month at your local Publix.
But that is what you love about C C, that he is caught up in the numbers or the historical significance of it all right now. Crawford is definitely the type of guy who will reflect on it after his job is done maybe this off season on the accomplishments and events that have transpired over his Rays career with admiration, but the whole enchilada has not hit him yet. The iconic baseball names like Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Lou Brock, Frankie Frisch, Kenny Lofton, Paul Molitor and Tim Raines, who pushed beyond that 100 HR,100 triples and 400 stolen base mark like Crawford also had that humble gene close in their minds and heart.
People will remark soon about this team as winners. They will embrace them again as playoff contenders, but one of the greatest things to me about this Rays team is the way each player melts into the whole stew of doping it the “Rays Way”. You have a wily veteran (Kapler) who might be seeing the sunset of his professional career hit a high water mark of 10 years of MLB Service while watching the kids win nightly. You have a pitcher young in age, but older in his leadership ability and effort (Shields) while guiding this team again towards the path of remembrance.
And then you have the still swift feet of Crawford, who might soon find these same feet walking out of his Rays clubhouse for the last time after their playoff run. Each celebrating a different special moment this season, but all collectively staying true to the Rays mantra of “WIN- What’s Important Now”. Last night’s series victory over the Red Sox might be a special moment in the melting pot of the 2010 Rays, but within that cauldron of bubbling goodness is the feats of Kapler, Crawford and Shields each going in their own singular directions, but within the path of the Rays destiny.