Red Sox

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.

Tyler Thornburg wants a normal spring, but don't be surprised if it's bumpy

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Tyler Thornburg wants a normal spring, but don't be surprised if it's bumpy

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Don’t confuse the goal of a normal spring training with the likelihood one will follow.

Tyler Thornburg’s time with the Red Sox has been an ordeal. He’s optimistic he can have a regular spring training after undergoing surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome in June, a surgery that included the removal of a rib which is now on display at his parents’ house. 

He said Saturday, in fact, there’s a “very good chance” of a normal spring. But there’s also a chance his build up to regular-season form runs unevenly. And that would be OK.

“I started throwing Oct. 2, that’s when they kind of gave me the go-ahead to go tossing,” Thornburg said Saturday at Winter Weekend. “So I’ve been building up slowly since then, just trying to make sure we don’t have any setbacks or things like that, and ramp it up at a good pace. I’m throwing at 120-140 feet, so it’s about the pace I’d normally be on, granted I’d know 100 percent before where I was [under normal circumstances]. So things could be a little different."

Consider a few other things Thornburg said Saturday at Foxwoods.

“I don’t really think any of us really know how quick I’m going to bounce back necessarily as far as how quickly the recovery’s going to go in spring training after an outing,” Thornburg said. “But hopefully I mean it’s fantastic, and we can kind of just keep going.”

A bit of natural uncertainty. He missed an entire season, and the reason he missed an entire season is had a lot going on medically. 

What appeared to be a shoulder injury was far from your usual, say, rotator cuff matter. His was a nerve issue.

“Two of the neck muscles were incredibly hypertrophied, like overgrown, and they just started squeezing on the brachial plexus, where all the nerves run down,” Thornburg said. “I’d be sitting there watching a game and just a nerve thing would hit me and I’d almost get knocked over by it. As well as the first rib was getting pulled up and my hand would just turn red some days if I was just standing there, cutting off the blood circulation. Then all the scar tissue and buildup along the nerves they had to go and dissect all that off there.”

So the injury wasn’t simple, and now, the recovery process is really a whole body matter. 

"There’s a lot off things your arm has to get used to between using different muscles, as well as my arm was kind of working through a scenario where it was trying to overcompensate for this and [trying] to relieve that,” Thornburg said. “So just worked a different way. Now your body has to remember how to actually properly work again. It’s a lot of neuromuscular stuff.”

Thornburg noted the possibility too he could be ready to go to start the season but not really ready to go back to back yet. Would the Sox then carry him on the big league roster, or continue to build him up elsewhere? 

Velocity won’t be there right away for Thornburg, he said: “But I mean that’s what spring training is for for most guys anyway.”

There’s a lot of optimism, but naturally, there’s a lot to be seen. 

“The rehab process, it's been a massive rollercoaster,” Thornburg said. “It really has. But I mean, I've been trying to take it week to week which has been a lot easier. There's the good days and bad days, just different kinds.”

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Kimbrel's newborn daughter treated in Boston for heart condition

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Kimbrel's newborn daughter treated in Boston for heart condition

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Coming off a phenomenal season, Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel spent the offseason in Boston. Not to be closer to Fenway Park, but for proximity to something far more important: the city’s first-rate medical community.

Kimbrel’s daughter, Lydia Joy, was born in November with a heart issue.

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“It’s been a lot,” Kimbrel said Saturday at Red Sox Winter Weekend at Foxwoods. “My wife and I, we’ve kept it kind of private. But when she was born, she had some heart defects so we decided to stay in Boston and work with Children’s Hospital and just been going through that ordeal and it’s had its ups and downs but she’s doing great right now."

Focusing wasn't always easy in season, but Kimbrel said his daughter's condition has motivated him even more.

“They always say when you have a child, things change and they have," he said. "I’m definitely more focused towards her and her needs and our family needs. It’s just one day at a time and give everything I got. It’s real easy to look at her and understand everything I’m doing is for her and it makes it a lot easier.”

Kimbrel and his wife, Ashley, found out early in the 2017 season that they would be staying in Boston for the winter and were preparing.

“Everything has kind of gone as planned so far,” Kimbrel said. “She’ll have another surgery during spring training, so I’ll come back to Boston for a week and do that, but it’s been good. It’s definitely been tough, but one of the happiest, joyful times of our life.”

"Being in Boston, we feel blessed, because the doctors are the best in the world. Being able to work with them has been great.”

Kimbrel said his wife has stayed in touch with Travis Shaw’s wife. The Shaw family has had a similar experience, Kimbrel said.

“It seems like they’re doing pretty good,” Kimbrel said. “It’s been very encouraging to see.”

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