Boston Red Sox left fielder Carl Crawford has kept a diary all season for ESPNBoston.com. In this final installment, he talks about how a Tampa Bay Rays comeback would devastate him, what Boston needs to do to get to the playoffs and how he handles hecklers. He also relays a message for the fans of Boston (as told to Louise K. Cornetta).
I know these games against the Rays have been important this weekend. Saturday's game was a little frustrating. You come up to the plate at the end and you definitely want to do something and come up big. You obviously want to come up big in a clutch situation, especially when the game is against my former team, which I really want to beat. We were definitely a little disappointed not to get the win that day. Also in that game, I had the run where I wasn't sure whether to slide or not at home. I figured I could get in standing up, but it was kind of close. I definitely want Marco Scutaro next time to let me know if it’s going to be that close, and I told him that. He said he was telling me to slide but I didn't see him.
Having played for Tampa for so long they definitely know how to pitch to me a little bit. It's then up to me to make the adjustments. I've had a full season of seeing how they want to pitch to me, how they want to get me out. I think over the years, you'll see me get better hitting their pitching because I've had to think about and figure out what they're trying to do with me.
Now that I am in a Red Sox uniform, I definitely hear the boos when I go back to Tampa, like our recent trip we made there. When I was in left field, I definitely heard heckling there. It was a bunch of haters in left field, pretty much. Hey, it's cool. I understand. The thing is, they've got to realize they've got to deal with me for another six years. I struggled this year and I'll give them this year. But I am definitely, definitely going to remember all that has happened. When I'm trying to work out and get better in the offseason, those haters will be on my mind. Just know they have another six years to deal with me.
As far as my game is going, I'm just trying to grind it out the rest of the season. I've felt a little bit better, but it just doesn't feel the same as I normally feel. I'm trying to do everything I can to do something positive whenever I get a chance to. The best moment I've had on the field over the past month was my grand slam against the Rangers at the beginning of September when the game had been tied. It feels really good, especially when you do it here in Boston in front of the home crowd. Hitting a grand slam is always a fun thing, and to do it at an important time, it definitely felt really good.
Something else that was good was seeing Tim Wakefield finally get his 200th career win last week. We had been trying for so long to get the win for him. Everybody was just happy that he finally got the 200th win. He had been working so hard to get to that one. We were all happy for him. It was just like ... FINALLY! It says something about perseverance. He stayed in there and kept trying. We knew he would get it at some point, but we just wanted to speed up the process.
In that game as well, we had Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury become the first Red Sox teammates with 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in a season. That's really impressive, especially when you consider all the great players that have played here. That's a nice tribute to the guys they are and all the hard work they put in. Hopefully we can add another player to that list one day ... not mentioning any names but he plays in front of the Monster. I will tell you, I won't let the everlasting memory of that Wakefield game be the home run I had taken away from me when Adam Loewen of the Blue Jays caught the ball before it could go into the bullpen area. I couldn't believe it; Loewen, a former pitcher no less, but it's cool. We're just going to call it the 2011 season, that's what I've been doing.
Friday's win with Josh Beckett on the mound was something else that was nice to see. We had him back on the hill and we won. Most of our guys who had been banged up were back. It's been tough with Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis and [David] Ortiz all missing games, that's the heart of our lineup. Those are the guys that have been producing for us all year. We definitely need them at this time. It's a little hard without them, but you still have to find a way to win when they are not in the lineup. But we definitely want them in the lineup.
It was good to see Daniel Bard get back on track too in this game. He had a few bad outings and that happens. We knew he was going to be all right and be the dominant pitcher he's always been. So it was good to have Bard back to the pitcher we know him to be and Beckett back out there. Having good pitching is really important, especially this late in the season. We want to get those guys back going because they are definitely a big part of everything that we do. You can't win without good pitching. With the win on Friday night, everybody's spirits were high, feeling good. We were hoping that game would change the misfortune we've been having.
Unfortunately, we did not get on the roll we were hoping for after Friday's victory. Ortiz said recently he thought we should panic. I try not to panic at all. But as you're coming to the end of the regular season, you definitely get a little worried. You definitely have to worry a little bit. We have a team like the Rays who wants our spot. At this time of year, they're a real dangerous team because they're young and they're playing with the house's money. It's like if they lose, they'll say they weren't supposed to win. If they win, then they say “Look what we did.” They get to play real relaxed that way. Either way it goes, it's a win for them, that definitely makes a team dangerous, especially when you have young and talented players like that.
Why can't we be consistent? I don't know. This time of year it gets hard and guys are banged up. All kind of little things are happening. I wish I had the answer to that. Maybe we'll win seven in a row. Be good to get that rolling when we go to Yankee Stadium.
I'm with everyone who says those games are pretty long, but what can you do really? There's nothing you really can do. You play the games and the pitcher is focusing and trying to make their pitch. So they take their time a little bit more. Then the hitter is taking his time and not swinging at everything. Normally the umpires call a lot of balls and strikes. But when we play the Yankees, they try to focus a little harder too and don't call a lot of stuff. All that is a combination that makes the game longer. I don't see that there is anything they can do. It's going to always be like that.
You want to know what this team has to do over the final week and a half of the season? One word: win. I hope that we can turn it up a notch. I hope that we can go ahead and finish strong and win these next games we have coming up. I hope we get into the playoffs and go off to the World Series like we planned on doing. Winning the World Series will definitely be my happy ending to the season. At this point right now, we just want to get into the playoffs, whether that is as the wild card or division winner. You like to win the division because you like to be able to win that, but at this point, we know it's going to be a little tough to do that. So we'll take the wild card and go from there.
I'm sure you know I went to the World Series with Tampa in 2008. I got to learn through that what postseason baseball is like. I learned it's really intense. Everybody's focused on every pitch and every little moment that happens. You try not to make mistakes. The crowd is into it and you're into it and your heart is racing. There's just a lot of intense moments going on. I like my routine before a game, but you adjust to it being different in the postseason. You try and give the media what they need and knock that stuff out of the way early. That way, you can get to what you need to do and stay focused on your routine.
If Tampa makes a miracle comeback and takes the wild card from us, I will be devastated. I definitely wouldn't want to lose to those guys and watch them get into the playoffs while we go home. That would just be devastating to me. Now as far as teams we might meet, both the Rangers and Tigers are two pretty good teams. They've both got a little pitching and can hit the ball. Either them or the Angels would be a tough matchup for us. Believe me, I'm not trying to get ahead of myself, but if it got to a Red Sox-Yankees ALCS I think that would be really fun. Just because of all the history and how special it was when it did happen in the past. I think just to have those two cities meet up again in that position of seeing who goes to the World Series, that's what everybody would like to see.
I have to mention since it's that time of year, yes, I am in a fantasy football league. I'm in one against my teammates. It's me and my brother, Cory, as co-owners of our team. I did pretty good to start off. I hope to keep that rolling. My first pick I drafted was LeSean McCoy, the running back for the Eagles. I feel very good about my team.
I want to end the diary saying something to the fans of Boston. I just want to say I'm sorry for the year I've had. You guys have been really supportive and I appreciate that. Hopefully when we get into these playoffs, I can be the real Carl Crawford that I know I am. We'll see.