FORT MYERS, Fla. — A year too late, Carl Crawford has arrived. But better late than never.
There's a different man in that No. 13 uniform this spring. Crawford is hustling, confident and determined, everything he was not last season. Who's to say what that will mean statistically, but he's not going to shrink from the stage this time
"I'm ready to re-do this thing," Crawford said the day he reported.
Pardon the amateur psychology, but Crawford never seemed to understand the Red Sox last year. The passion of the fans seemed to shock him, as did the vitriol the Red Sox face on the road.
There are three beat writers who cover the Rays. The 10 who cover the Sox home and away were another challenge. The tone of some of the coverage was something he had not dealt with.
He and Terry Francona did not prove to be a good match, either. Crawford was upset that Francona bumped him down in the lineup after two games and it only got worse from there. That his new manager lacked faith in him was something Crawford never seemed to come to grips with, particularly after playing for Joe Maddon.
Crawford is going to bounce back in a big way. He's too good not to. He also will not stay quiet when things go bad, like he did last year. That's something he regrets.
As to other thoughts . . .
• Jon Lester is another player who seems to be a changed man. Gone is the hotshot rookie who followed Josh Beckett around and had little to say. He's married, a father and seems legitimately chagrined at his actions last year. Lester is interacting more with the media, too. That's a sign of a player who wants to be heard and wants to influence the team.
• The Red Sox originally hired Bob McClure as a scout and minor league instructor well before Valentine was hired as manager. Betcha Ben Cherington had it in the back of his mind that McClure would be the pitching coach all along. And he looks to be a good choice.
McClure is a sharp guy and does not remotely give off the substitute teacher vibe that Smiling Curt Young did.
• Ryan Lavarnway may not make the Opening Day roster. But he is on the verge of doing some special things. He carries himself like a player who knows where he's going.
• Anybody else surprised that 11 MLB teams still provide beer to their players? Or that any professional team would?
I don't know about you, but my employer doesn't have free beer. And how can a team on one hand ask a player to be in optimal physical shape yet stock a cooler full of beer?
• Jacoby Ellsbury said Sunday the statistic he was most pleased with last season were the 105 RBIs. That doesn't sound like somebody who wants to bat leadoff. But if not Ellsbury, who does?
• Speaking of lineups, repeat after me: It just doesn't matter. The Red Sox have Ellsbury, Crawford, Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis. That's six All-Stars. Somebody who has never watched a game could pick those names out of a hat and construct a lineup that would score 850 runs.
Studies have shown that lineups are generally overrated. You want your best players to get the most at-bats. But beyond that, it's a waste of time to plot.
Over the course of 162 games, the Red Sox will use 100+ lineups because of injuries, the schedule, the opposing pitcher, etc. How Bobby V lines 'em up on Opening Day is inconsequential.
• There is universal respect for Nick Punto among the players. He may not be a starter, but he's going to have a significant role on this team.
• Would love to see Jose Iglesias hit this spring and give Cherington and Valentine a lot to think about.
• John Henry spoke so softly the other day I was sure we were all going to have to wear puffy shirts.
• Jenny Dell, who took over for Heidi Watney at NESN, went to UMass and survived living in Southwest. So she has that going for her.
• Ryan Sweeney looks like somebody who should be hitting 15-20 homers a year. But he has 14 in 1,515 career at-bats.
• Cody Ross is Nick Swisher Lite. They have the same personality, the same unexpected pop and the same "I came here to win" approach. Like Punto, he's another guy who will help set a good tone.
• Vicente Padilla is kind of scary. If he makes the team, Valentine may need security when he goes to the mound.
• Dan Butler, one of the catchers in camp, is a great story. He was a backup at Arizona who came to the Cape Cod League in 2009 after not being drafted and was released by Yarmouth-Dennis after a handful of games. Brewster picked him up and that's when the Red Sox spotted him and gave him a shot for $10,000.
Now he's in Major League spring training.
• Valentine has posed for more pictures than Kate Upton since he arrived at Fenway South. If you've attended a workout and haven't talked to Bobby, you aren't trying.
• Nobody ever talks about Theo Epstein around camp. Nobody. It's kind of strange in a way. The ownership also doesn't seem too thrilled that he quit just when the going got tough.
• The new complex is so big that spring training coordinator Tim Bogar ordered up a fleet of golf carts to take players from one side to another. Otherwise the schedule was going to be thrown off.
• The players get a snack break during workouts and are served mini granola bars and apple sauce. It's like watching a bunch of oversized day campers.
• Daniel Bard is a mortal lock for a spot in the rotation, that's how sold everybody seems to be. But the No. 5 starter remains a mystery. Alfredo Aceves really wants it, but can they get away with two converted relievers in the same rotation?
• Finally, thanks to the folks at camp who have stopped to say hello this last week. It's been great to meet so many people who read the blog.
One non-baseball point: Has anybody here seen "The Artist?" It cleaned up at the Oscars last night and I literally do not know anybody who has seen it.
A cultured fellow I am not given that my job is to talk to people about playing baseball. But I usually have some idea about the movies of the day.