Saturday, December 11, 2010

It Happens Every Winter

The Boston Red Sox and very well-to-do outfielder Carl Crawford will participate in one of baseball's most well-established and baffling traditions this morning -- the "he's here, let's get acquainted" press conference when a ballclub lands a player with a big trade or free agent signing. As seasonal traditions go, even eggnog makes more sense.

In theory, press conferences are opportunities for an individual or organization to make news, that is, to make public information or an interpretation of information about themselves that we didn't already know. To take a sports example, when John Henry and partners bought the Liverpool soccer team, the press conference or conferences they held in England DID make news. Nobody over there knew who they were.

But what does Carl Crawford have to tell us? More importantly,what on earth do we, the public as represented by the Fourth Estate, have to ask him?

Crawford's not what you'd call a horsehide man of mystery in these parts. He's been in the big leagues for seven years, all of them with a team in the same division as the Red Sox. He's played about 60-70 games at Fenway, and darn near a season's worth of games against Boston overall. We are familiar with his work. For anyone who isn't, there's, where Crawford's statistics should make for pleasant reading for Sox fans.

As for the Crawford the person, I'm going to go out on a limb here and forecast he's going to say he's always loved playing in Boston, thinks it's a great baseball town and is very happy to be a Red Sox. These words might be sincere, but what else could Crawford say? For the kind of dough, he's getting, Crawford should be happy if the Sox were going to play home games on the surface of Neptune.

Take out those ritual obsequies, and the Crawford presser doesn't have much left. Why did you pick the Red Sox? It'd be impolitic to answer "Look at all that money" and dishonest to say anything else. So Crawford will offer meaningless platitudes.

Keith Foulke was kind of a grump, but I will always cherish his memory. When he signed with the Sox as a free agent before the 2004, he was the first and only professional athlete of my experience to say "it was the money" when asked why he'd joined the team. Sorry, my former colleagues. Don't count on Crawford offering a similar bolt of candor.

In the end, the "here he is" free agent press conference boils down to a simple photo op. Big Name Player holds up new team's uniform shirt while wearing new team's cap. I fail to see why this triumph of photojournalism requires so many people to get out of bed early of a Saturday morning, or why in fact Crawford had to leave Florida to pose.

It's Christmastime. People are busy. Luckily, we also have digital photography. Why didn't the Sox ship the uniform shirt and cap to Crawford's home, get the area AP photographer on the horn, and take the silly picture. If they'd done it yesterday, the front pages of the sports section of tomorrow's Globe and Herald would already be laid out.

It'd be a win-win-win-win situation -- for Crawford, the Sox, the media, and especially, for media customers.


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