Something that may have been lost in the snooze fest that was yesterday afternoon’s game between the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers was a quiet but persistent chant from those in attendance who stuck around for the ninth inning.
Car-l! Craw-ford! Car-l! Craw-ford! Car-l! Craw-ford! Car-l! Craw-ford!
It was a fitting tribute from a much maligned fan base for a player that has come to define baseball in Florida.
Crawford has spent the first nine years of his career in Tampa Bay, starring on some of the worst teams that baseball has ever seen. After signing a four year deal worth $15.25 million (plus two club options that were both picked up), ahead of the 2005 season, Crawford will now, finally, become a free agent at the end of this playoff run.
The tribute chant was apt because it’s as equally unlikely that the Tampa Bay Rays will play another game this season at Tropicana Field as it is that Crawford will re-sign in Florida considering the bank vaults that the Los Angeles Angels and Boston Red Sox are expected to open. But perhaps more amazing than the total dollar figure of his future contract is the fact that Carl Crawford is only 29 years old.
Coming into the league at the age of 20, Crawford was all too literally the only player of note on a lot of terrible teams in Tampa Bay. He has played most of his career in the spotlight of a team that rarely gets main stage billing.
But what will happen if Crawford ends up signing with a larger market team? Can he maintain success into his thirties?
There are several schools of thought on when the average player peaks. Bill James once suggested it was 27, but since, some have said it’s younger, others believe it to be older. Despite these differences, there’s no disputing that Crawford’s brilliance reached a new level this season, improving his WAR by 1.1 over last season which was at the time a career high of 5.7.
His frame and athleticism are different from the typical corner outfielder and should mean, according to FanGraphs, that he stands up to time better than most.
For further proof, Baseball Reference suggests that Crawford’s career numbers have been most similar by age to Roberto Clemente for the last three seasons. Clemente won the MVP award at the age of 31 and had three seasons with an OPS above . 950 after that year, his last coming at the age of 35.
That’s good company.