Fenway Park suited for Crawford, Adrian
Newcomers learning nuances of Red Sox's historic ballpark
BOSTON -- Now that they've settled in to their new home office, it should soon become clear what kind of impact Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford can make at Fenway Park, which has some of the most unique dimensions in the Major Leagues.
The configuration of the ballpark, and how it plays for the two stars, is important when you consider Crawford will call Fenway home for the next seven seasons and Gonzalez is close to signing a seven-year extension.
Gonzalez could join a legion of left-handed hitters over the years who were adept at using a smooth opposite-field stroke to bang the Green Monster like a drum. Over the years, that group has included the likes of Fred Lynn, Wade Boggs and Mo Vaughn.
As far back as two years ago, when the Red Sox first started trying to find ways to land Gonzalez, there was buzz about what type of hitter he could become if he played 81 games a year at Fenway.
"Everyone sees the same thing," said general manager Theo Epstein. "It's not like a special projection. Everyone in baseball, when they think of Adrian Gonzalez and Fenway Park, they think it's a real good fit. There's a chance for some nice things to happen offensively. He's got that type of swing that lends itself to using the ball or going over it."
The proof wasn't there for anyone to see in Saturday's 9-4 loss to the Yankees, when the first baseman went 0-for-4, but it should be evident soon enough.
"I mean, it feels good knowing you can let the ball get deep," said Gonzalez. "That's what I like to do. I think it will be good as the season goes."
Crawford, with that dynamic speed and line-drive approach at the plate, is the type of player that would thrive in any park. The one thing he might lose at Fenway is a few home runs a season to right field. Straightaway right is a 380-foot blast. Crawford hit two drives to right on Saturday that were caught just in front of the track.
But whatever Crawford loses in power, he will make up for with his ability to hit the ball into Fenway's quirky gaps, which can lead to plenty of doubles and triples. He also has the option of curling one around Pesky's Pole in right, which is a mere 302 feet away.
One thing that will be fascinating to watch with Crawford at Fenway is his defense. The playing area in left is short, with the Green Monster an inviting 310 feet from home plate.
What that means is that getting a hit to left in front of Crawford will be among the toughest tasks in baseball.
As for the balls that get hit behind him, Crawford will need to perfect the art of playing the Monster, something that shouldn't take him much time.
Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, who played that wall better than anyone during his career, recently gave Crawford some advice on playing left at Fenway.
"Well, it's completely different now than what it was when you had the tin and the rivets and the cement and all that," Yastrzemski said. "The bounces are true now. As long as the center fielder and the left fielder are in sync, if someone is going after the ball, the other guy has to make sure he has to back up in case he does hit the wall so they don't get that extra base on him."
Despite playing plenty of games at Fenway as a visitor, Crawford acknowledged it will take a while for the caroms off the Monster to become second nature.
"I was a little shaky with a few balls off the wall," Crawford said after Friday's home opener. "I just have to stick with it. I know there's going to be a lot of tricks and turns out there but you've just got to try to stick with the ball at all times."
Whether it is Gonzalez hammering a ball of the Monster or Crawford deftly making a catch in front of it, both players appear poised to create plenty of Fenway highlights over the next several seasons.