09/30/09 12:30 AM ET
Crawford sets Rays' steals record
Speedster nabs No. 60, breaking his club mark
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
So what the speedy left fielder did on Tuesday night didn't prove anything other than what Rays fans already know very well: Crawford is an absolute thief.
With a steal of second base in the first inning against the Orioles' Jeremy Guthrie, Crawford recorded his 60th steal to not only set a new career high, but also surpass his own previous franchise record of 59, set in 2004. In fact, it was the sixth time he's set the season record for steals by a Rays player.
But after Tampa Bay's 3-1 win, Crawford said No. 60 wasn't really a mark he aimed for this season. He just likes to run as much as possible.
"I never have a goal or nothing," he said. "I just try to steal as many as I can and try to help the team out. I never really have a set number that I'm trying to get to."
The 28-year-old came into the game third in the Major Leagues in steals behind the Red Sox's Jacoby Ellsbury (66) and the Astros' Michael Bourn (60), and he was 0-for-2 since picking up No. 59 on Sept. 18
With Tuesday's swipe, Crawford, who reached first base after working a one-out walk, became the third American League player this decade to reach the 60-steal plateau and the fifth player since 1989 to record 60 RBIs and 60 steals in a season. The only others in that class are Rickey Henderson (1990), Marquis Grissom ('92), Kenny Lofton ('96) and Jose Reyes (2006).
Leg issues may have forced Crawford's stolen-base total to plummet to 25 last season, but he feels being banged up actually made him a better base-stealer.
"Being hurt last year and having to play the whole season and try to steal bases with a bad ankle, it kind of makes you pick out the little things on how to get better," Crawford said.
"Just being able to watch last year from the bench helped a lot for me."
Through eight seasons, Crawford has compiled 362 steals -- an average of just over 45 a year -- which easily makes him the franchise leader in that department. The second-place player is B.J. Upton, who's swiped 242 fewer bags.
"He's an unbelievable ballplayer," Upton said. "He's done it year-in and year-out. I think, obviously, he should be an MVP candidate every year. He's a great ballplayer, and he's going to continue to get better."
Crawford, who finished Tuesday 0-for-3 with a run scored in Tampa Bay's third consecutive win, is batting .307 with 14 home runs, 67 RBIs and a career-high 51 walks this season.
Rays manager Joe Maddon believes it's the best he's seen from Crawford.
"He's really grown -- even the drawing of the walks," the skipper said. "I love the fact that he's working a better at-bat also. He's more cognizant of accepting his walks and [has] just an overall better game -- heightened awareness of the game. He wants to be a better baseball player. He's working to be a better baseball player, and I think he's grown nicely."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.