- Jonah Keri, Page 2
Carl Crawford became a top-of-the-order hitter in his first full big league season, at age 21. Batting almost exclusively in the top three spots, he developed into an All-Star and the best player in Tampa Bay Rays history. He banked the best season of his career in 2010, making his fourth All-Star team, winning the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards, finishing seventh in MVP voting, and propelling Tampa Bay to an achievement few ever thought possible: their second AL East title in three years. His success was so overwhelming, the Boston Red Sox gave Crawford a seven-year, $142 million contract, the second-richest deal in club history.
Then the Red Sox started the season 0-2. Terry Francona promptly dropped his left fielder to No. 7 in the Boston order -- the lowest Crawford had batted since 2003 -- against Rangers lefty Matt Harrison on Sunday.
But really, it was the other way around. For eight long years, Crawford's managers misused him. Boston's 0-2 start simply offered an excuse to make what might turn out to be one of Francona's smartest moves of 2011.
Because of Carl Crawford's career struggles against lefties, Jonah Keri of FanGraphs says the Red Sox should continue to put Crawford at the bottom of the order when a southpaw is on the hill.