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Crawford is Rays' best All-Star bet
By MARC TOPKIN
Published June 26, 2005
ST. PETERSBURG - All things considered, Carl Crawford should be the Devil Rays representative when the AL All-Star team is announced next Sunday.
Crawford is playing his usual Gold Glove-caliber defense, has come out of a May hitting slump to nudge his average to the .280-range, leads the majors with 43 RBIs from the leadoff spot (through Friday) and shares the team lead with 44 overall, is tied for first in the AL in triples (seven) and is tied for third in steals (20), and has played every day.
Toby Hall and Jorge Cantu are both worthy of consideration, but Crawford deserves it more.
Crawford made his first All-Star appearance last season when he was elected a reserve in balloting by players, coaches and managers. Since Rays players rarely even show up in the fan voting (which is used to determine the starters), Crawford's best hope is to again be reelected by his peers, though his numbers are down and the Rays haven't gotten as much attention as last season when they won 12 in a row.
If Crawford isn't elected, the selection of the Rays' rep could get very interesting. With the game in an AL city, Detroit, the DHs are on the ballots, which means AL/Boston manager Terry Francona and MLB officials get to fill only five slots on the 31-man roster; a 32nd player is added later.
Of the five, four have to be pitchers. So among whichever teams don't have a player elected and must be represented, only one position player can be chosen. For example, it could come down to Crawford vs. Kansas City's Mike Sweeney, with a pitcher being chosen from the other team.
A similar situation in 2003 led to Lance Carter's unexpected selection, and it would be even more surprising if a Rays pitcher ( Scott Kazmir at 3-5? Danys Baez with six blown saves?) was chosen this year. In Crawford's favor is that the game - in theory - matters and his speed and defense could make him a valuable contributor off the bench.
RAYS RUMBLINGS: It wasn't long after Dave Miley was fired by the Reds that Lou Piniella's name surfaced as a possible replacement in Cincinnati. And the longer the Yankees struggle, the more talk there will be of him in New York. ... Total payroll for the 10-man starting lineup that beat the Yankees Thursday was under $9-million; 11 Yankees make more. ... One reason some players weren't happy to see Dewon Brazelton brought back is that they were upset to see hard-working Lee Gardner go. ... TV analyst Joe Magrane said on Friday's telecast that Brazelton "quit" on his teammates when he left in May. ... Rays GM Chuck LaMar says he'd expect any team that trades for Aubrey Huff to sign him to a contract extension. ... Nine players drafted after Rays' top pick Wade Townsend have signed for more than the $1.5-million he got. ... ESPN's Steve Phillips said in a Web chat: "I can't imagine Piniella will fulfill the next year and a half of his contract." ... SI.com's list of the 20 players most likely to be traded includes Baez (Mets, Braves, Red Sox) and Huff (Braves, Cards, Yanks, Cubs). ... Jason Hammel (6-2, 2.90, 58 Ks in 62 innings and a .228 opponents average at Double-A Montgomery) could be the next pitcher to move quickly through the system.
FIGURE THIS: The Rays' 7-3 record against the Yankees this season has raised more than a few eyebrows: the Rays (through Friday) are 19-45 and the Yankees 34-29 against everyone else.
"It looks like Tampa has our number this year," shortstop Derek Jeter said.
AND THIS: Brazelton seemed uncomfortable and somewhat put out in talking to the media upon his return Friday, refusing to provide any details about his unexplained absence. There were some interesting things, however, he did say, including this:
"I don't make the rules here. They tell me to go to Double A, I go to Double A. They tell me to go to Triple A, I go to Triple A. They tell me to come here, I come here. My job is just to pitch and try to do the best I can where I'm at."
Interesting because his problems started when the Rays told him in mid May to go to Triple A and he refused.