BALTIMORE, MD: Carl Crawford #13 of the Boston Red Sox walks in the dugout with first base coach Ron Johnson #50 after a 4-3 loss against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
It will take a while for scholars to deconstruct Wednesday night's game. Until the dust settles, let's look at the most obvious metaphor of the bunch.
This is useful to know because one day, you might find yourself at some sort of function or cocktail party, and baseball might come up. When the time is right, you can interrupt and say:
You know, Carl Crawford's nickname is "The Perfect Storm."
Then you can raise your hands up, drop the microphone you were holding, turn around and just walk away, arms still aloft. Also, you'll need to carry around a microphone. It'll be worth it.
People generally like the Rays for being a plucky collective of young talent. People generally resent the Red Sox for spending money on whomever they want. Crawford was on the Rays. He left for the Red Sox, who paid him far more money than the Rays could. And when the Red Sox and Rays were fighting for a playoff spot, the Red Sox lost when Crawford couldn't catch a sinking line drive.
When you slow the video down, you can see that he had a lot to deal with ...
... and that's why he had difficulties moving in a few feet to catch the ball. It wasn't an easy play, to be sure, but it's one Crawford gets to 95 percent of the time. And it sure looks like a play he should make. We're not the ones reacting to the crack of the bat, watching the line drive sink at a million miles per hour. But we can look at where he started and see where he ended up and think, "Gee, those two points aren't that far from each other."
And if Robert Andino had hit the ball somewhere else -- if he had dribbled a ground ball through the hole, gone to the opposite field, lined it down the line -- no one would be talking about Crawford right now. It would be Papelbon, Papelbon, Pabelbon, and after a few hours, you might get an exchange of "Boy, Carl Crawford sure didn't hit this year./Yep." He would have been a part of the discussion in the off-season about what didn't go right in 2011.
But he wasn't so lucky. He had a line drive hit at him. If it were hit an inch higher, if Andino exerts .001% more force when he swings, if Paplebon's grip is one millimeter over, if Lavarnway calls for any other pitch, we're not talking about Crawford at this exact moment. But the Red Sox missed out on the playoffs when that exact pitch produced that exact swing, which hit it to the exact spot where Carl Crawford could get a glove on the ball without securing it. This put the team that couldn't afford Crawford into the playoffs at the expense of the team that could.
The perfect storm.
It's too perfect. Too heavy-handed. It's like a movie of The Extra 2% with an ending that was changed by studio execs after a test screening. With one swing of the bat, fair or not, Carl Crawford became a symbol, a metaphor. He became a thing, like Bill Buckner or Bucky Dent -- a painful 400-page diary entry packed tightly and irrevocably into a first and last name.
The off-season will wash away some of the pain, and the odds are that Carl Crawford is still an excellent player who just had a miserable season. He was obviously distraught, but he didn't shy away from the media on Wednesday night. He'll have chances for redemption. About six years worth, give or take. With another postseason run, he could be remembered for something completely different.
But for now, he's The Perfect Storm. He's an example of how baseball makes perfect sense, even when you know deep down how often it doesn't make sense at all.