The price isn't right

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The price isn't right

By Michael Felger

Carl Crawford's problem is simple, and it has nothing to do with this weekend and it's not even his fault.

He's not a 20 million player.

As we all know from J.D. Drew's tenure in Boston, players at that pay grade are defined by their salary. Be honest. What's the first thing you think of when you think of the Sox right fielder? For some, it's that big postseason home run in 2007. But for most, it's his contract.

14 million a year for that? What's the fascination with J.D. Drew?

Thankfully for the Red Sox, Drew has either been oblivious to that noose around his neck, or he just doesn't care. Whatever it is, it hasn't affected his play on the field. It's never gotten to him as far as we can tell.

Sox fans can only hope Crawford has similarly strong earplugs. On Sunday, the eighth-highest-paid player in baseball was dropped to seventh in the lineup, where he played well, going 2-for-4 with the Sox' only RBI. In the three-game series with the Rangers, he went 2-for-11 with five strikeouts.

But, again, take this weekend out of it.

There are 11 players who have signed contracts worth an average annual value of 20 million or more in the history of baseball. The list includes Hall of Famers, would-be Hall of Famers, Cy Young winners, MVPs . . . and Crawford. The list also has the strong whiff of steroids, but leave that out for now. Let's assess this list strictly on the numbers:

1. Roger Clemens (28 million, 2007; 22 million, 2006)
One of the greatest pitchers in the history of the game. Seven Cy Young awards, the most ever.

2. Alex Rodriguez (27.5 million, 2008-17; 25.2 million, 2001-10).
One of the greatest right-handed hitters in baseball history. On pace to become MLB's all-time home run champ.

3. Ryan Howard (25 million, 2012-16)
Howard's HRRBI totals from 2006-09: 58149, 47136, 48146, 45141.

4. Cliff Lee (24 million, 2011-15).
Arguably the best left-handed pitcher in baseball. Has taken two teams to the World Series. Career postseason mark of 7-2 with a 2.13 ERA.

5. Joe Mauer (23 million, 2011-18).
Only catcher in major-league history to win three batting titles. League MVP in 2009.

6. CC Sabathia (23 million, 2008-13)
Four-time All-Star, 2007 Cy Young winner. Most consistent and durable left-handed pitcher in the game over the past decade.

7. Johan Santana (22.9 million, 2008-13)
Four-time All-Star, two-time Cy Young winner.

8. Manny Ramirez (22.5 million, 2009-10; 20 million, 2001-08).
Twelve-time All-Star. 555 career home runs. Best right-handed hitter in baseball for a decade (1996-2006).

9. Mark Teixeira (22.5 million, 2009-16)
Averaged 37 homers and 121 RBI over his first nine years in the majors.

10. Roy Halladay (20 million, 2011-13)
Arguably the best right-handed pitcher in baseball over the past decade. Seven-time All-Star, two-time Cy Young winner.

11. Crawford (20.3 million, 2011-2017)
Only 20 million hitter without a 20-homer season. Along with Mauer, who had 96 two years ago, only one on the list without a 100-RBI season (Crawford's career high is 90). Career OPS of .780. The next-lowest player on the list, Mauer at .887, beats him by over 100 points. The others? ARod .959, Howard .944, Ramirez .997, Teixeira .914.

Simply put, there has never been a 20 million player like Crawford.

Put another way, he doesn't belong on the list.

Red Sox president Larry Lucchino seemed to acknowledge as much when we had him on the radio the other day. I asked him what, in their eyes, made Crawford a 20 million player. His answer could be summed up thusly:

The Angels.

The debate fans had in spring training -- which of the Sox' big acquisitions will have a harder time acclimating to Boston, Crawford or Adrian Gonzalez? -- seems pretty silly now.

Gonzalez shouldn't have a problem because he's so damn good. It has nothing to do with attitude, experience in the A.L. East or anything like that. It has everything to do with ability. Gonzalez is a stud. A special hitter. He'll be fine.

He's soon to join that 20 million club, too. And something tells me we won't be mentioning his contract nearly as much as Crawford's. If Gonzalez isn't one of the best hitters in the American League over the next five years, I'll be surprised.

Gonzalez as a big expenditure made sense to the Red Sox from both a business standpoint and a baseball standpoint. They had no corner power in their system and Gonzalez fit their profile perfectly in terms of age, skill set and approach.

Crawford is different. The Sox didn't need another left-handed bat. They don't value steals. They don't need defense in left field at Fenway. Crawford's on-base numbers aren't typically what they covet.

Let's face it. Crawford is here because the Sox tanked in the Nielsen ratings last year and have been steadily losing market share since their last title in 2007, and they paid him 20 million because he probably would have gone to the Angels if they hadn't. The Sox needed to get the buzz back, and the exciting Crawford should entertain the folks at park and on the tube with his speed and all-around ability. He's perfect for Tom Werner's TV show, even if he isn't ideal for Terry Francona's lineup or Theo Epstein's payroll.

Don't take this the wrong way. No one is saying Crawford sucks. He's a very good ballplayer, a four-time All-Star who will help the Red Sox win a lot of games over the balance of his contract. We should all be thrilled the Sox overspent to beat out the Yankees and improve the team. It's what they should do every year.

Don't be fooled by Crawford's start. He'll be a big factor here.

Just don't be fooled by his contract, either. He's not that kind of player. And remember that it's not his fault.

He just took what the Red Sox gave him.

E-mail Felger HERE and read the mailbag on Thursdays. Listen to Felger on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

Red Sox injury updates: Holt, Rodriguez returns still uncertain

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Red Sox injury updates: Holt, Rodriguez returns still uncertain

BOSTON -- The return dates for both Eduardo Rodriguez and Brock Holt remain uncertain.

Holt visited with concussion specialist Micky Collins in Pittsburgh the last two days and is returning to Boston Tuesday night.

The Red Sox placed him on the seven-day DL last week when he began experiencing symptoms associated with a mild concussion, following an incident on the last homestand when he went to dive for a ball at second and felt some whiplash in the neck.

"He went through a battery of tests in Pittsburgh,'' said John Farrell. "After a full workup with Micky there, we feel like there's a very detailed plan in place. He'll begin some general conditioning when he gets back. He's still dealing with some symptoms, minor as they might be, and in the coming days, baseball activity will start. [But] we're going to miss him for a little bit.''

Holt clearly won't be ready to return this week.

"He's going to need some time to get back to game speed for us,'' confirmed Farrell. "But we don't feel like this is a real long-term type of scenario.''

As for Rodriguez, the question of a return date to the major-league rotation remains something of an open question.

"He came out of last night's start in pretty good shape,'' reported Farrell of Rodriguez's seven-inning, one-run performance for Pawtucket on Tuesday. "He's set to throw his bullpen [Thursday] and right now tentatively set (to pitch) for Pawtucket on Sunday, but we obviously have the ability to adjust if needed or if we choose to do so.

"I don't know that we're there to say where it's definitively going to be next. Over the coming few days, we'll certainly map them out with Eduardo first and foremost. If it's (with the big-league club), it obviously won't be until early next week at the [earliest]. We're still working through some things on that.''

Wednesday's Red Sox-Rockies lineup: Ramirez back at first base

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Wednesday's Red Sox-Rockies lineup: Ramirez back at first base

BOSTON -- Hanley Ramirez had to come out of Tuesday night's game after getting hit in the foot with a pitch, but fears that he'd be sidelined for a while were unfounded.

Ramirez is back in the lineup tonight, at first base and batting fifth as always, as the Red Sox host the Rockies in the second game of a three-game series. In addition, Travis Shaw -- who was held out of Tuesday's starting lineup because of a minor hand injury but who came in as Ramirez's replacement after the HBP -- is back at third base, hitting seventh.

Jackie Bradley Jr. has been moved up to sixth as John Farrell continues to search for ways to make sure Bradley isn't pitched around. Bradley will be attempting to extend his hitting streak to 29 tonight.

The lineups:

ROCKIES:
Charlie Blackmon CF
DJ LeMahieu 2B
Nolan Arenado 3B
Carlos Gonzalez RF
Mark Reynolds 1B
Gerardo Parra LF
Ryan Raburn DH
Tony Wolters C
Cristhian Adames SS
---
Chat Bettis P

RED SOX:
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Travis Shaw 3B
Ryan Hanigan C
Blake Swihart LF
---
Steven Wright P

McAdam: Just like old times for Red Sox at Fenway

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McAdam: Just like old times for Red Sox at Fenway

BOSTON -- The last two seasons, tourists weren't the only ones eager to visit Fenway Park. Opponents, too, couldn't wait to get to the old ballpark.

In 2015, the Red Sox barely finished above .500 at home (43-38). In 2014, their performance at Fenway was truly troubling -- 34-47, worse than they were away from home.

The days of juggling rotations to avoid unfavorable matchups against the Red Sox in Boston were a distant memory. It didn't much matter who pitched at Fenway. The Red Sox weren't much to worry about.

That's not the case in 2016, however. Overall, the Sox are 17-9 at home this season. Since April 24, they're 12-2.

And they're not just winning at home; they're bludgeoning other clubs into submission. Since the start of the season, the Red Sox are averaging 6.73 runs per game at Fenway Park . . . and over the last 18 games, they've pumped that average up to exactly eight runs per outing.

In 11 of their last 13 home games, they've scored at least six runs and pounded out 11 or more hits.

So it was, again, Tuesday that the Red Sox kicked off a three-game set with the Colorado Rockies with another eight-run performance.

A decade after the PED era crested, the Red Sox are putting up late 1990s/early 2000s offensive numbers at home.

"Our roster, our personnel has changed,'' said John Farrell after the 8-3 win over the Rockies in explaining the surge in Fenway offense. "We've added young, energetic, athletic guys that are able to go first-to-third, which is key in this ballpark because a man at second base in not always a guaranteed run on a base hit, particularly to the left side of the field.

"It's an all-field approach. That's the other thing. This has historically been a great doubles ballpark. Our hitting approach plays to that. The combination of those two things is the reason why.''

Indeed, the numbers bear all of that out. When it comes to their numbers at home, the Red Sox lead the league in runs scored, doubles, hits, total bases, batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and OPS.

They've scored 175 runs at home; that's 59 more than the next-best team (Texas) has scored in its home ballpark.

Why, the Red Sox even lead the league in home triples (seven), evidence of how much more athletic they've become.

Farrell's right to point out the improved athleticism. Once more on Tuesday night, Xander Bogaerts scored from first base on a double by David Ortiz, something Bogaerts has seemingly done several times a week at Fenway this season.

The ability to take an extra base or two extends big innings and puts further pressure on an opponent.

When slow-footed catcher Christian Vazquez is rifling a ball to the triangle and ending up on third with a triple -- as was the case Tuesday -- then you know that things have changed at Fenway.

Chili Davis, the Red Sox hitting instructor, has been preaching the importance of using the entire field, and hitters are listening. On Tuesday, Ortiz slapped a single through the shortstop hole against the shift in the first for a two-run single.

Then, two innings later, Ortiz pulled a ball into the right-field corner for two more runs.

It's like that night after night, game after game for the Red Sox. The hits and runs pile up, and the wins follow.

The Sox are advised to take full advantage now of a schedule that is decidedly home-friendly in the first half of the season. In August and September, they'll will play the vast majority of their games on the road.

For now, though, there are plenty of games lined up at Fenway . . . an opportunity to keep the offensive numbers surging and the opponents cowering.