September 29, 2011
It was almost as if the ending had been scripted. In fact, the entire night in baseball felt that way pretty much from beginning to end. But for Baltimore to rise up against Jonathan Papelbon(notes) in the ninth with back-to-back, two-out doubles by Chris Davis(notes) and Nolan Reimold(notes), which tied the game at three. And then for Robert Andino's(notes) sinking line drive to find Carl Crawford.
It just had to be Crawford. There was no other possible ending to this story.
[Related: Red Sox collapse rocks team's foundation]
And one can only imagine what was going through his mind as the ball traveled and continued falling. It was his chance for redemption. A chance to make a really special play that not only prolonged Boston's season, but gave him a temporary reprieve with Red Sox Nation after struggling in the season after bolting Tampa Bay to sign a $142 million contract with their AL East rivals.
But Crawford just couldn't get there. His sliding attempt resulted in a trap, and then the ball squirted a couple feet away. By the time he could gather himself and make his throw to the plate, Reimold was sliding home with the game-winner.
It wasn't an easy play by any stretch. Any outfielder (Matt Holliday(notes), anyone?) will tell you the toughest ball to judge is the line drive right at you. The lights, the sound, the read, the spin. It's not easy. Then you add in the situation, with the potential game-winning run moving on contact and heading towards home. The outfielder is human and the mind can only process so many things at once.
Thanks to what will now be a long winter, Crawford's effort and the result will be dissected, put back together, replayed, and then dissected again. How was his jump? What did he read? Should he have kept his feet, or pulled up to scoop and throw? Could he have sold out more to make the season-saving grab?
Said Crawford: "I thought I had a chance. It was right there."
Of course, it was only one play and there's more than enough blame to fill up the entire Red Sox clubhouse. After the September they had, it would be unfair and shortsighted to narrow it down to one moment that upended their season. But as we were reminded in the documentary covering the Steve Bartman incident, life can be unfair, the people living it are too often shortsighted, and sports fans always need a scapegoat.
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