Happy Crawford says of Boston: 'They love it when you're miserable'

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Dodgers are telling Carl Crawford to be patient. He's saying that playing on opening day remains his goal.

"I want to be there bad," Crawford said Thursday morning, after a workday that was limited to 50 swings off a tee. "There are obvious reasons I want to be there."

Obvious reasons, like putting the worst two years of his career behind him. Obvious reasons, like finally feeling like he can put Boston -- and the Boston media -- behind him.

He knows now he never should have gone there, knows now that signing that $142 million, seven-year contract was a mistake. He knows it now, and he admits now he knew it almost immediately.

Boston and Carl Crawford were a bad mix.

"I think that's the truth," Crawford said. "It just wasn't the right place for me at the end of my day. I didn't do my homework. Maybe they didn't, either.

"At the end of the day, it just wasn't the place for me."

He takes responsibility for his poor on-field performance during his Red Sox career, which ended abruptly, first with the Tommy John surgery that is still slowing him this spring, then with the trade to the Dodgers that finally sent him to Southern California.

He should already have been there, should have been anywhere but Boston. But he took the money and went to Boston, into the hands of the media he now blames for making him miserable.

"That smile turned upside down quick," Crawford said. "I think they want to see that in Boston. They love it when you're miserable.

"Burying people in the media, they think that makes a person play better. That media was the worst thing I've ever experienced in my life."

He's smiling again now, smiling more like he did with the Rays, smiling even though his elbow hasn't yet fully cooperated. The Dodgers shut him down for a week and are slowly allowing him to resume activity, hopeful that if there's more pain, they'll better understand the cause of it.

"Carl likes to work, and we feel that's what got him in trouble," manager Don Mattingly said.

Mattingly said he has no problem with Crawford holding to the goal of playing on opening day. He also said the organization's bigger goal is to avoid setbacks that could result from pushing too fast too soon.

"If it's April 10, it's April 10," he said. "It's about going forward."

Crawford feels like he's already going forward, that he went forward the minute the Red Sox traded him.

"It's nice to have that feel, that free-spirit feel," he said. "I always had that [with the Rays]."

He never had it with the Red Sox.

"I feel like I've got a lot of baseball left," he said. "But over there, I felt like my career was almost over."

He didn't play well. A .296 career hitter in nine years with the Rays, he slumped to .255 in his first year in Boston. He averaged 45 steals a year with the Rays, but stole just 23 in 161 games over two seasons with the Red Sox.

"I get it, I didn't perform," he said. "I got the money. I didn't perform. I gave them every reason."

But Crawford felt the Boston media jumped on every reason he gave them to criticize him.

"I took so much of a beating in Boston, I don't think anything could bother me anymore," he said. "They can say what they want -- that I'm the worst free agent ever -- and it won't get to me. But it bothered me the whole time there.

"Look how they treat [John] Lackey. Adrian [Gonzalez] hit 30 home runs (actually 27), and they talked about him not hitting home runs."

Crawford felt like he stopped smiling after one game of his Boston career, and didn't start again until he left.

"You have to tell everybody how much you like it, when you really don't like it," he said.

He didn't like Boston. He didn't like the media. He never should have gone there, and they never should have signed him.

He's thrilled to have a new start. And he badly wants it to start on opening day.

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