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Rays’ Crawford not getting respect

It’s early July and there are two familiar trends at Tropicana Field. The Devil Rays are in last place, and for the eighth time in the team’s nine-season history, only one Ray was selected to play in the All-Star Game.

Left fielder Carl Crawford, who represented the Rays last year in the All-Star Game, should be making his second appearance – but isn’t.

Due to the selection process for the game, Crawford will not be joining Rays ace Scott Kazmir, who will be playing in his first All-Star Game.

Should fans be surprised that the Rays are in their usual last-place position in the American League East? Not really. A better season than usual can still be expected. The Rays are on pace to win 72 games, which would be the most in club history.

Should Rays fans be surprised that Carl Crawford isn’t making the trip to Pittsburgh to play with the game’s best players on July 11? Cheated is a better word.

Two games after Scott Kazmir shut out the Red Sox to show fans why he deserves to be on the All-Star team, Crawford showed fans why he also should have been selected. Just four innings into Wednesday’s 5-2 win over Boston, Crawford already had three stolen bases, one being at home plate

But then again, he’s been showing fans all season that he belongs there.

Crawford’s .325 batting average is eighth in the AL and is better than two of the outfielders who made the starting lineup (Vladimir Guerrero, .298, and Manny Ramirez, .307). Crawford also has 102 hits to Guerrero’s 95 and Ramirez’s 83. Ramirez isn’t playing because of a knee injury, but his replacement won’t be Crawford.

Comparing Crawford’s numbers to the three outfielders who made the starting lineup may be asking too much considering the number of outfielders in the AL hitting over .300, but he is near or at the top in several statistical categories and deserves to be there.

Crawford is first in the AL in triples (seven), first in steals (32) and eighth in hits. Even more impressive, Crawford is the first player since 2003 to record 10 home runs, 50 runs scored and 25 stolen bases before the All-Star break.

Maybe it can’t be expected for Crawford – or any Rays player – to be a starter in the All-Star game; after all, fans vote for the majority of the players who make the team. When you’re on a team that finishes at the bottom of the league year after year, you aren’t going to earn the votes of fans around the country.

But what about a roster spot as a reserve? Not only does Crawford have better numbers than some of the starters, his batting average is also better than three of the five reserve outfielders on the AL team.

Now that the winning league of the All-Star Game receives home-field advantage in the World Series, Major League Baseball should reconsider its selection process for the game.

Sure, it’s fun for the fans to vote and pick their favorite players and it’s a good marketing move by MLB, but what’s more important: having someone’s favorite player on the team, or having the best players on the field?

With Ozzie Guillen managing the AL team and having the opportunity to select a handful of reserves, you would think he would want a player like Crawford on his team – just in case the White Sox make it back to the World Series.