Monday, February 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays fans, do you miss Carl Crawford?

When Carl Crawford left the Rays as a free agent after the 2010 season, Rays fans were distraught about losing the best player in franchise history. He was off to the Red Sox and certainly was going to take AL East championships with him. But when he steps up to the plate tonight against the Rays on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, are you really going to regret that he's no longer in Tampa Bay. Does anyone really miss him?

I'm not talking about the man himself. Crawford is a good guy and his easy­going personality is welcome in any clubhouse and missed in the Rays'. I'm talking about the player.

Crawford, now with the Dodgers after a disappointing stint with the Red Sox, came into the weekend with respectable numbers. Despite injuries that had limited him to 76 games, the leftfielder was batting .295 with five home runs and 19 RBIs and 11 stolen bases.

If you were to average that over 162 games, that would be a .295 average with 11 homers, 41 RBIs and 23 steals. Not bad, but nowhere near what he did with Tampa Bay.

During his time with the Rays (2002-10), his 162-game average was 14 homers, 78 RBIs and 54 steals.

Did injuries sidetrack his career? Yes, partly. But you can't help but believe it was the big stage of Boston and the pressure of signing a seven-year, $142 million contract. Crawford told Tampa Bay Times staff writer Marc Topkin that he never realized how good he had it in Tampa Bay.

And it's something, and a little sad, how it has worked out.

Now it's Crawford who misses Tampa Bay. Not the other way around.

Most lucrative decision

In one of the more shocking moves in recent sports television memory, Fox outbid everyone to secure broadcasting rights to golf's U.S. Open for the next 12 years. NBC has been carrying the Open for 19 years, and ESPN for 32. Fox stole the rights by offering the U.S. Golf Association $100 million a year — more than twice the current deal.

NBC golf analyst Johnny Miller (below) ripped the deal, saying Fox can't just "fall out of a tree" and do the U.S. Open.

Fox became a major network, in part, because of its ability to acquire and then succeed in broadcasting major sports, especially the NFL. But Miller might have a point about golf. Fox certainly has the wherewithal to cover golf from the technical standpoint, and they might even try a few new things to shake up golf coverage. Remember, this is the network that created the Fox Box scoreboard in the corner of the screen for football and baseball, as well as hockey's glowing puck.

So, look for innovation. But you have to wonder who the network will get to call the event.

Fox will have a hard time prying commentators such as Miller or CBS's Nick Faldo (below) away from their current networks simply because Fox is carrying just this one golf event. Well, for now, anyway. Perhaps Fox's long-term goal is to acquire more golf events. But for now, who is going to leave a full schedule for one weekend of work? Fox will have to start from scratch, likely with those who have little or no television experience. Although, one name that has surfaced as a good fit is Golf Channel's Brandel Chamblee.

Oh, one more thing. Shame on the USGA for announcing this deal on the eve of the PGA Championship.

That's not classy.

Worst decision

Imagine if Heat star LeBron James loved basketball so much that he spent his off days playing pickup games at a local playground or a YMCA. Think the Heat would be cool with that?

Well, that's kind of like Tony Stewart spending his off time racing cars on local tracks. That's exactly what Stewart was doing last week when he crashed his car in Iowa and broke his leg.

Stewart is single with no kids, and it happens to be that his hobby is the same as his profession. It's hard to fault him for spending his free time doing something that isn't maliciously harmful to anyone. Let's be honest, he could have found a lot worse things to do on a Monday night. And Stewart is his own team owner, so that makes him his own boss.

Still, I'm guessing that sponsors Mobil 1 and Bass Pro Shops aren't thrilled that Stewart has pretty much taken himself out of the Sprint Cup's Chase for the Championship simply to race a car in piddly little races against drivers who aren't nearly as talented as the ones he faces on weekends.

Media notes

College GameDay is expanding to three hours on ESPN this season. The show will air from 9 to noon on Saturdays. The season debut of the show — Aug. 31 from Clemson where the Tigers host Georgia — will be a four-hour show.

I guess Dwight Howard is a money-maker for TV. His new team, the Rockets, already are down for 26 national TV appearances this season. Last season, when the schedule first came out, the Rockets were down for two nationally televised games.

• Fox officially announced its broadcasting pairings for the upcoming NFL season. As expected, former Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber will be paired with veteran Dick Stockton. Meantime, former Bucs safety John Lynch, who worked with Stockton last season, will team up with newcomer Kevin Burkhardt. The top team remains Joe Buck with Troy Aikman.

• Last week's Pro Football Hall of Fame Game between the Cowboys and Dolphins on NBC drew 10.5 million viewers. Last week's MLB Game of the Week on Fox (regional games) drew 2.4 million viewers.

Three things that popped into my head

1. So many complain that college athletes should be paid. Silly me, I was under the impression that getting a college education, including books, room-and-board was worth something.

2. The MVP of all the Major League Baseball suspensions and Biogenesis and Alex Rodriguez stuff? Without a doubt, ESPN's T.J. Quinn. His reporting, analysis and commentary were spot-on, and he showed why he is one of the best journalists out there. He's a credit to his profession, and his work was simply outstanding.

3. Yes, I think youth sports are great, but I'll still be boycotting the Little League World Series on television this week. For every winning team and hero, there is a losing team and a goat who is only 12 years old, for goodness sakes. To me, it's exploitation of kids for the pleasure of adults. And I'm sure I'll get emails and phone calls because I do every year. And you know what? You're not going to change my mind on this one, no matter how many times you recklessly and falsely accuse me of never playing sports or being a word I can't print here.

tom jones' two cents

   
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