Carl Crawford is at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, and he's the topic du jour for the Red Sox beat. Let's start at the beginning: with Crawford's wrist.
Tom Caron notes that Crawford says his wrist, "feels pretty good," although he's still not cleared to swing a bat. That wrist isn't the reason for his 2011 struggles -- or, at least, not the reason. As Crawford puts it, the culprit was his stance and swing, which were, "all out of whack" in 2011.
It's not surprising to hear him say that, as he never looked comfortable, even before the injuries. There were multiple podcasts here during the year where one of the topics of discussion was Crawford's swing, and how he would need a winter of video to correct what was wrong with him. That's just what he's spent his off-season doing, getting himself back to the stance that's worked for him in the past.
Crawford claimed his stance was too open; the same complaint that new manager Bobby Valentine had about it while still working as an ESPN analyst. Valentine and Crawford, by the way, were caught getting along with each other on camera. Constructive criticism at work!
Former Red Sox Manny Ramirez has signed a one-year deal with the Oakland Athletics for $500,000. He's going to miss 50 games due to his suspension from last year, but if he's still got it, the A's don't have a better hitter on the roster than Manny. That's a huge "if", of course, but the projection systems seem to think he's still got something to give.
Now, whether that comes with an extraordinary amount of baggage or not is another question, and it's not one PECOTA, ZiPS, or any of us are qualified to answer. The A's (and everyone else) probably aren't qualified, either, but they could sure use the offense, so here we are.
For the sake of those around him, I hope Manny actually has turned a corner and is contrite about his past. It's always been fun to watch him hit baseballs, but as time went on and his skills eroded, it became harder to put up with the other stuff. Returning for a year and at least attempting to make things right would be a fine last step in a career that ended due to his own mistakes.
Another former Sox is in the news, as Mike Cameron announced his retirement. Cameron's Red Sox tenure didn't go well, thanks to a stomach injury that ruined his 2010 and might have eroded the 37-year-old's skills for good. Before that, though, he was one of the more underrated players out there. Cameron had a great career spanning 17 seasons and seven teams. Despite being a ridiculous outfielder even in his later years, he won just two Gold Gloves. On the flip side, despite spending years and years in pitcher's parks, Cameron hit .249/.338/.444 -- combined with elite defense, that's quite the center fielder.
In fact, Cameron ranks #27 in wins above replacement from 1995-2011. His 46.7 rWAR puts him about a win above the (likely retiring) J.D. Drew, and about five wins better than another former Red Sox and Hall of Famer, Jim Rice.
Don't take that as a criticism of Rice or Cooperstown. It's meant to show you that, despite what we personally saw of Cameron in a Red Sox uniform, he had a fine career that merits your acknowledgment.
Speaking of the Hall of Fame, it seems that Red Sox nemesis Mariano Rivera is hinting that 2012 might be his final season. Rivera has been around too long -- and involved in too many moments in the Red Sox/Yankee rivalry -- for me to dislike him. I respect him and his tremendous abilities, and regardless of the uniform he's wearing, that cutter is flat-out ridiculous and a joy to watch in action. It'll be weird to watch a baseball world where he and his cutter aren't closing out games.
That being said, 365 days until Mariano Rivera doesn't report to spring training for the Yankees! (Maybe!) Now if only we could convince Evan Longoria to seek early retirement, too.