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Crawford more than a speedster
By MARC TOPKIN
Published October 2, 2006
CLEVELAND - Carl Crawford didn't leave the bench during the final two games, but he still showed up in several spots on the final American League leader board.
Crawford won his third American League stolen base title with 58 (one shy of his career high) and led the league in triples for third straight season with 16.
But he said his .348 average with runners in scoring position, sixth best in the league, and 10 outfield assists, matching the eighth most, were just as important. He was also sixth with 59 multi-hit games, tied for fourth with nine sacrifice bunts and was ninth hardest to double up.
"I'm most proud of the runners in scoring position; I didn't know that. And the outfield assists," Crawford said. "But most of all I was happy to get 50 stolen bases again because a lot of people thought I wasn't going to do that again. So I just wanted to show everybody that (2005, when he had 46) was just a little off year as far as stolen bases and I'm capable of stealing 50 again.
"I'm happy with all of them. I just want to try and improve on all of them each year. That's the main thing."
Reliever Shawn Camp finished second in the AL with 75 appearances and Casey Fossum fourth with 12 hit batters.
THINKING MAN'S GAME: Joe Maddon said he would leave evaluations of his first season as manager to others, but - despite the disappointing record - he had a blast.
"The most fun part about it, on a personal level, was just the mind expansion about getting into the managing side of it," he said. "Having been a bench coach for those many years you do this particular job, which requires a lot but requires a lot to a limit. As a manager, there are no limits and you're tested on a daily basis in all your capacities that you've been trained to do. So to me, the great part about this job is that I think I've been kind of resurrected mentally. I've had like a renaissance mentally where I've been challenged again on so many different planes, and I really like it for that reason."
HEY NORTON: The Rays were hoping Greg Norton would get two hits to raise his average to .300. Instead he went 1-for-3 and finished at .296, but he did hit his career-best 17th home run and, after spending part of 2004 and all of 2005 in the minors, felt he re-established himself as a big-leaguer.
"I got some confidence back after being in Detroit (in 2004) and kind of questioning myself if I could still hit in the big leagues," he said. "Going into this offseason I feel pretty good about it."
Norton is the most prominent among the Rays' three potential free agents (also infielder Tomas Perez and reliever Brian Meadows, on whom the Rays have an option), and there appears to be mutual interest in having him come back.
HIT AND RUN: The Rays set a team record with 190 home runs (28 more than the Hit Show squad of 2000) and became the 10th team in big-league history to hit 190 or more homers and steal at least 130 bases.
HAMMEL TIME: Jason Hammel made his ninth major-league start Sunday, allowing six runs over 51/3 innings, and still doesn't have his first win despite showing flashes of good form. "It's definitely frustrating," he said. "I have given it what I can, and it can only go up from here."
PLAYOFF BOUND: While Jae Seo and Dioner Navarro are in line for shares of the Dodgers' playoff bonuses, Ruddy Lugo has a more personal rooting interest: older brother Julio. "I talked to him (Saturday) night after they clinched," Ruddy said. "He was partying. But he said I should get a flight and come to the (playoff) games."
BUSY BEN: Most of the Rays are planning to take a week or two to relax and rest before starting workouts. Shortstop Ben Zobrist has Tuesday.
Zobrist flew home with the team Sunday night, plans to spend today driving with wife Julianna to their offseason home in Nashville, then leaves Wednesday for the Arizona Fall League.
HI GEORGE: It took Cleveland PR chief Bob DiBiasio nearly five years, but on Sunday he finally presented Rays first-base coach George Hendrick with his watch and trophy for being named in 2001 to the roster of 100 greatest Indians.
MISCELLANY: One benefit to the worst record: The Rays will have the No. 1 pick in the draft for the third time. ... The 2007 season opener is April 2 at Yankee Stadium. ... The Rays were swept for the 10th time, the eighth since the All-Star break. ... They are 4-5 in season finales. ... Maddon used 144 different lineups in 162 games. ... Sunday's game took 2 hours and 8 minutes and featured 13 one-pitch at-bats. ... Maddon's mom, Beanie; sister, Carmine, and brother-in-law Ed made the drive out from Hazleton, Pa., for the final games.