Character Issues with Carl Crawford?

Among the possible free agents in next year’s class that fans have their eye on is left fielder Carl Crawford, but unlike somebody like Cliff Lee, fans are not unanimous in their support for Crawford.

Many say that he won’t leave Tampa so why bother worrying, some fear that 2008 was an indication that he won’t be worth the money, and most fear that as a speedster his game will have a significant drop-off as he ages. All arguments have their merit, but one that I haven’t heard much concerns his possible character issues.

From Steve Lombardi of Was Watching:

Two things about Carl Crawford: One, he’s very “street.” Think Mickey Rivers meets Rickey Henderson – not that there’s anything wrong with that.

[snip]

I’m just saying…if it were me, I’d be careful about giving him a very long term deal once he hits the free agent market. I’d be very concerned about going more than 5 years on an offer. But, that’s just me…

I’ve never really heard much about Crawford having issues with his attitude so I was wondering what “street” meant? Lombardi clarified what he meant in the comments:

Just to clarify the “street” comment…

Further, have you seen the huge tattoo on the side of his neck? Somehow, I don’t think you’ll see Mariano Rivera or Andy Pettitte running out and getting one of those too.

If you’ve ever heard Crawford interviewed, you probably understand this…

His communication skills are very far from polished. He’s not Jeter, Granderson, A-Rod or Teixiera like in terms of the way he presents himself verbally.

Is this "street"?

Lombardi goes on to claim he didn’t mean the “street” comment as a negative quoting himself saying, ‘not that there’s anything wrong with that.’ But it clearly was one of the two reasons he gave for the Yankees “to be careful about signing him.” If he doesn’t view it as a negative, he wouldn’t use it as a reason not to sign him.

But let’s get back to “street”. In the context he used the term he meant it to be that he doesn’t speak well and has a neck tattoo. Two things about this, Tampa is a relatively small media market and Crawford certainly isn’t an outspoken person, so these two facts probably played a part in Lombardi labeling him a “far from polished” speaker. As far as that tattoos are concerned, I haven’t heard a single person complain about the tattoos of AJ Burnett, Joba Chamberlain, Brian Bruney, and Jason Giambi. But Crawford has a small tat of the astrological sign for Leo and that’s a problem? Alyssa Milano has a neck tattoo, is she “street”?

His entire argument reeked of something our own Brian Burkhart brought up a couple of weeks ago – subtle racism in baseball. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to accuse Lombardi of racism, that’s not for me to decide. My main point is to stomp out any idea that character could be a concern when it comes to the Yankees signing Crawford.

Is this "street"?

The idea that they shouldn’t sign Crawford because of a neck tattoo is ridiculous and one that I hope Lombardi or anyone refrains from bringing it up again. It’s silly, especially when we’ve accepted it in so many other players – Burnett has a rather large tattoo on his hand and so far that hasn’t been a problem, it might be ugly and possibly even in bad taste, but I doubt it has effected anyone’s perception of him. We shouldn’t let a neck tat effect our perception of Crawford.

As for his inability to be an articulate speaker, I’m not sure where that comes from. Again, it could be due to Crawford’s bashfulness and the small market of Tampa, but why should anything that he says keep the Yankees away from him. He’s never said anything close to the phrases we’ve heard from the likes of guys like Gary Sheffield. Besides, actions speak louder than words.

But again, I’m not too familiar with Crawford off the baseball field, so I enlisted the help of Devon Rogers of the Rays blog, Rise of the Rays for some background on him:

From all I have seen he is a very positive person. When I am hanging around by the field before the games, he is always joking around with the players, batboys and security staff. He is very well liked by the players and he is one of the fan favorites. His work ethic is one of the best I have seen. They recently did an entire Baseball Tonight episode on his offseason workouts, and they were pretty hard core. He also works hard in BP and plays hard no matter what. He said the other day in the newspaper here that he knows no other level than as hard as he can play.

Crawford works with Boys & Girls Club and usually runs a baseball clinic at the Trop with CC Sabathia during a Yankees series because Crawford and Sabathia are great friends.

I would not believe any of the bad things you hear about Crawford because he is a great player and a great person. Any team who gets him will be very lucky, I’m just still holding out hope that it will be us.

The Yankees have recently been trending toward players who are positive influences in the clubhouse like CC Sabathia and Curtis Granderson. It sounds like Crawford will be closer to these guys than the Gary Sheffield or Kevin Brown types.

As far as Crawford’s possible character issues, I don’t think there are any. What do you think?

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20 Responses to Character Issues with Carl Crawford?

  1. Kevin Ocala, Fl says:

    Leo? From what I can see from the photo it looks more like a sperm cell shaped into the letter "Omega" . There are an awful lot of "speed" guys that had long carreers for the very reason that if your fast to begin with you are (barring a very bad injury) still faster at 36 than many players are at 26. Sign him up.

  2. Yeah, that's definitely the sign for Leo. He's done interviews mentioning it.

  3. I disagree totally with Lombardi about Crawford. Just think of the tattoo alone. AJ Burnett has tats. Does that make him "street," too? Lol!

  4. theboogiedown says:

    Just mention the elephant in the room boys, racism. No point in wiggling all around whilst fighting for more words on the page. It's everywhere, no need to elaborate, it will disssipate further as history rolls on. The quotes from Lombardi are born in a generational mentality that will slowly go away…but at the same time he is communicating a reality, which is marketablility, a must have for big money players in NYC. So he's wrong and he's not. He would not be doing his job if he didn't make note of those characteristics, however ugly that reality might be.

  5. Is Crawford really less marketable though? Just because he isn't the most talkative person or he speaks with an accent doesn't make him so. Also, haven't tattoos, even dumb ones, hasn't hurt any Yankees whatsoever in the past. Why would it be different for Crawford?

  6. Steve Lombardi should be embarrassed by his facile, superficial, unsubstantiated nonsense in his post–to which I too left a response. What bilge.

    On tattoos, Giambi had tattoos and wasn't exactly Adlai Stevenson with his rhetoric. Swish does too. Hockey players, practically all white, have tattoos and aren't always well-spoken, littering their interviews with pointless "ya-know's" and "uh's." Does anyone advocate not signing them because of these?

    Lombardo embarrassed himself with that worthless screed loaded with cultural and racial presumptions.

  7. Kevin Ocala, Fl says:

    I commented on this article as written in "bronxbaseballdaily.com" when I first read it a few hours ago. However, I read "waswatching.com" everyday and I had the nagging feeling that parts of the Lombardi's blog wasn't as I rememered. So, being a curious person I went back and read the blog (yes, I know it's possible that Lombardi hit the edit key after the fact) and what I found, below, doesn't quite jibe with what I've found on his blog:

    "Two things about Carl Crawford: One, he’s very “street.” Think Mickey Rivers meets Rickey Henderson – not that there’s anything wrong with that. Two, I dunno why…but…I just have this feeling that he’s one of those players who will be out of the game by the time he’s 35 years old. Granted, that’s not until 2017. And, I could be totally wrong on this…and he’ll be a Tim Raines type who plays into his late 30’s.

    I’m just saying…if it were me, I’d be careful about giving him a very long term deal once he hits the free agent market. I’d be very concerned about going more than 5 years on an offer. But, that’s just me…"

    Where did the comments about lack of verbal articulation come from? The "tattoo issue"? The "character issues"? And where in the article is any subtle hints of racism raised? Again I may have read his column before retraction, but….. Gents, I think that this needs to be clarified.

  8. Mark says:

    From Joe Jackson to Mickey Rivers to, well, I dunno, somebody current, there's been great ball players who weren't all that smart and couldn't speak all that well.
    I'm just making the observation about Crawford in case that type of thing is important to you, as a Yankees fan – in case you feel like all Yankees should be Madison Avenue types who walk and talk like commerical spokespeople, etc.
    That's not Carl Crawford.
    But, again, doesn't make him a bad person or a bad ballplayer.
    Just means he's got more of a "street" image than a college or boardroom image.
    And, if you're like me, and like "real" people, as they are, then it should be a non-issue for you."

    To be fair to him he does say it's a nonissue for him but Carl Crawford may just not be what fans expect. Nonetheless I for one can't see any point in the artie and would agree, the generational racism does seem to have reared it's ugly head.

  9. I posted a response to Lombardi's response at WW, pasted below:

    "Steve, you appear to miss the entire point of this in your “Clearing Up Crawford Comments” post. Rob’s initial post, which referred to a previous post at BBD about race and sports by Brian Burkhart, which referred to a Moshe Mandel post about race and sports at TYU, which cited a Nicholas Kristoff article in the New York Times, which cited the work of Yale psychologist John Dovidio, addressed what Dovidio termed “aversive racism.” This quite clearly delineated racist statements and actions from unconscious racism, in which one makes particular assessments based upon race by addressing other, more “discussable” aspects of a black person–in this case, one’s tattoo and speech as “street”–that one does not for whites. Whether or not you agree, that’s what you did, and can explain why it is that you revere Rickey Henderson and his play, yet also seem quote capable of making biased value judgments toward a black player with criteria not applied to white players.

    In fact, your response also smacks of the “some-of-my-best-friends-are-black” defense by citing Henderson–whether or not you realize that, either. I often prefer to refer to such characterizations as “racialist,” which removes the accusatory stigma that “racist” brings while at the same time pinpointing and emphasizing aspects of race present in a characterization and its interpretations. It explains your characterizations as implicitly about race, i.e. racial, whether or not you initially or subsequently saw them as such."

    That about sums up my take on Lombardi's comments, my exasperation from last night having waned.

    • Brian Burkhart says:

      I'm a little late to the party in commenting on this one, but you pretty much nailed it, Jason.

      The only thing I agree with in Lombardi's article is that the Yankees should be wary of giving Crawford more than 5 years. That has nothing to do with his "character issues" (which to be honest, I've never heard of) or him being too "street" (which is just absurd) or him not being marketable (in NY? really?) but rather that he's a good, not great offensive player playing a non-premium defensive position (albeit very well).

    • Very well said Jason. Thank you.

  10. smurfy says:

    Then I'm way late, Brian, but I'll add my two bits anyway. I agree that aversive racism is subversive to the team and to the game. This national asset is not the place for injustice.

    I just want to chip in with my idea of "character issue." Not the style of interview or tattoo, but team attitude and, larger, attitude toward the game. A player who thinks of it as a show destroys the game as real competition, a base for my own flights of fancy. One who puts his own interest above the team's need is a traitor to my cause.

    These guys don't have to be saints, nor even Audie Murphy types. Gimme Mark Teixeira, pumping his fist to congratulate that fine pickup and throw. Or some guy, some hayseed or some former gang member who leaps higher than he's ever known he could to get that ball.

  11. I think that Lombardi has no clue about Carl Crawford–has the guy even watched him play? Tats do NOT equal "too street"

    I wrote about your piece here :
    http://www.tampabayraysfan.com/2456/daily-mashupl

    Thanks for talking sense into this guy.

  12. She-Fan says:

    All I can add at this point is that when I was on the road following the Yankees for my book, I spent some time in Tampa with Matt Silverman, the Rays' president, and he was telling me what a terrific guy Crawford was – solid citizen, plugged into the community, etc. He handed me a souvenir, which was a hologram of Crawford stealing a base. They had made him the face of their franchise, and he sure sounded like Yankees material to me.

  13. smurfy, I'm with you. Give me a guy who goes all out for the team. Heck, Darryl Strawberry did that for the Yankees and was far from a saint, as he readily admitted to everyone including teammates such as Jeter, to whom he directly said, "Do as I say, not as I do."

    Good stuff as usual, Jane. Yet another example of why Lombardi was talking out of his hat. I have seen no reason to think that Crawford would not be terrific in pinstripes.

  14. stevefromct says:

    If a neck tattoo is "street", then Eric Hinske's tattooes, that cover much of his body above the waist, must be US Interstate 80…

  15. Funny Baseball says:

    He may think it's the sign for Leo, it may be if he doesn't move his head, but the second he does……SPERM!!!

  16. tiggs1 says:

    I think he'd look better in pinstripes than the "old english D". Can you imagine Yankee stadium as he leisurely jogs to the left field wall as the base runners circle the bases? He will be 30 years lold next year. That may be young for a Yankee, but in this non-steroid era, his best days are behind him. He will demand a long term contract. If cashman's smart, he'll have a lot of incentives loaded at the end of 6 years with club options. Can you say Juan Gonzalaz.