LOS ANGELES — I am standing in the swanky, though not overly spacious, Dodgers clubhouse. It is just after 3:30 p.m. Friday and the room has just been opened to the media. No sign of Josh Beckett. No sign of Adrian Gonzalez. No sign of Carl Crawford.
I am not discouraged. I have emptied bigger rooms than this.
Suddenly, Crawford is at his locker. A radio guy is with him and it looks like they might be planning an interview for later. I walk toward Carl. He sees me and bolts for the door that leads to the “no media” area with the food room and trainer’s room. Carl is muttering something as he disappears into the safe haven. From my distance, all I made out is, “[expletive] talk to the [expletive] Boston media . . . ’’
It’s not like we weren’t warned. Back on Wednesday in San Francisco, Boston reporters asked Red Sox PR people to approach Dodgers PR people to see if Crawford and Gonzalez would be made available before the first game in Los Angeles. Early Friday afternoon, we got word that Carl and the Cooler (Gonzalez in the last three seasons has been part of historic folds by the Padres, Red Sox, and Dodgers, hence, “the Cooler”) would not be speaking with us.
“You can try,’’ a Dodgers PR guy told me. “But that’s what they’re telling us. Adrian was pretty firm about it.’’
My brief interaction with Carl seemed to confirm the notion, but when you work for John Henry, it’s always better to find out firsthand.
After the Dodgers stretched in left field, I spotted Gonzalez chatting briefly with NESN reporter Jenny Dell. Gonzo even gave her a big bear hug. No interview, though.
“No media, just playing baseball,’’ Gonzalez told Jenny.
The odds of any athlete talking to me after not having time for Jenny Dell are about one hundred million-to-one. You’d have a better chance guessing the exact number of snowflakes in Colorado.
Still, I approached Gonzalez in the Dodgers dugout and asked him if he would be submitting to interviews Friday.
“No,’’ was all he said.
That was it. No interview. Not even a hug. He might have been speaking Spanish for all I know.
I was able to get a couple of thousands words out of the affable Nick Punto. You may have forgotten, but Punto was the mystery guest in the $261 million trade that shocked baseball one year ago Sunday. He tweeted the infamous photo of himself, Gonzo, and Beckett on the private jet, getting out of Boston.
“I have an issue with Peter Gammons,’’ Punto said, jokingly. “He did a 30-minute segment [on the trade] today and didn’t mention my name once. Tell him I’m looking for him.’’
Does he think Carl and Adrian are happy now?
“They’re definitely happy,’’ said Punto. “Not to say that they wouldn’t be happy in Boston — who wouldn’t be happy in Boston? It’s an unbelievable place to play . . . I loved it there. I loved the accountability factor. You go to the grocery store and you’re getting hitting advice. You go to the barber shop and you’re getting hitting advice. That part’s awesome.’’
Carl and the Cooler didn’t think so. Crawford in Boston was never the player he was in Tampa. The saying around Fenway was, “When he played against us, we hated him. When he played for us . . . we hated him.’’
Despite failing after signing a $142 million contract, Crawford was rarely critiqued in Boston. But he has reinvented his time in the Hub, characterizing the Boston baseball experience as “toxic,’’ and telling the LA Times, “I knew with the struggles I was having, it would never get better for me. It puts you in a kind of a depression stage. You just don’t see a way out.’’
Crawford said that in spring training this year, right before Gonzalez dropped this whopper in USA Today: “Chemistry is something you need among the ballplayers, but also with the owners, the coaches, and the front office. In Boston, we had great chemistry among the players — we were together — but that was only among the players. It wasn’t there with the rest. That’s why the team didn’t win. It needs to be an organization-wide thing.’’
The Dodgers were mocked when the trade went down. Nobody is mocking them now. They’ve won 46 of their last 56 after Friday’s 2-0 win, and Gonzalez and Crawford are having good years.
“Carl’s attitude has been fantastic from Day 1,” said Dodgers president Stan Kasten. “I don’t know what the history is. Since we got him, he’s been a joy to have in the clubhouse and around the team. Adrian, of course, has been the same.
“He’s been the consummate professional wherever he’s been. If you were designing the perfect player for this fan base and this community and team and this franchise at this time it would be Adrian Gonzalez. And they are both leaders.’’
Wow. Carl and the Cooler as we’ve never seen them.
So why the cold shoulder to guys from Boston? We are fun and easy.
“You guys aren’t fun and easy,’’ said Punto. “But I loved it.’’
“Boston’s not for everybody,’’ said former Sox manager Kevin Kennedy, now a Los Angeles media guy. “Some people can’t handle it.’’
People like Carl and the Cooler.