Ben Crockett's Strange Summer of '01

by Dave B. in

Recently, while reading the "transactions" column in a local newspaper, a familiar name got my attention.  I noticed that Ben Crockett has been promoted to the position of Assistant Director for Player Development by the Boston Red Sox.  The name brought back memories of someone who had an outstanding two-year Cape League career. In 1998, Crockett was named as the Player of the Year by both the Boston Globe and Boston Herald for his role in leading Masconomet HS to three Cape Ann League championships.  A number of colleges came calling, but when Harvard showed interest, it was a pretty easy decision for Crockett to combine a solid baseball opportunity with a Harvard education.

Crockett had early success with Harvard, sharing the Ivy League Rookie of the Year award with Princeton's Chris Young.  Young would go on to star with the Chatham Athletics in 2000 and is now pitching for the San Diego Padres.  After Crockett's sophomore year with the Crimson, he signed on to play for the Wareham Gatemen.  In 2000, while appearing in 9 games for the Gatemen, Crockett posted a record of 5-1 with a 2.95 ERA.  Over 61 innings, Crockett allowed only 53 hits and 13 walks while striking out 66.  The 66 K's placed Crockett third in the league.  Despite being the losing pitcher in the decisive second game of the Western Division playoffs to the Hyannis Mets, Crockett's performance was good enough for him to be named co-winner of the BFC Whitehouse Outstanding Pitcher Award.   It also earned Crockett a spot on the end-of-season All Star team.

Crockett returned to the Gatemen in 2001 and he produced one of the strangest seasons one can imagine.  How strange?  How about a record of 1-6 with a 1.67 ERA?  I can't fathom how it is possible to lose 6 of 7 decisions with an ERA that low.  One place to start looking when trying to decipher those numbers is to realize that Crockett's 1.67 ERA was not good enough to place him in the league's top ten in that category.  A lot of pitchers had a very solid season in the Cape League that year.

Crockett was second in the league with 3 complete games and his 59.1 innings pitched placed him fifth in that category.  Crockett's most eye-popping numbers from the summer of '01 were his 74 strikeouts to go with only 9 walks allowed.  Imagine, a K/BB ratio of better than 8/1.

Taking a look at the games Crockett was involved in confirms the obvious.  Crockett did not receive much in the way of offensive support:

June 15:    Cotuit 3 - Wareham 2.  Crockett takes the loss despite pitching 7 innings, allowing just 5 hits and 3 unearned runs while walking none and striking out 13. June 21:    Bourne 2 - Wareham 1.  After pitching 9 innings, giving up 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 14, he does not factor in the decision when the Braves pushed across a run in the tenth inning. June 28:    Wareham 3 - Yarmouth-Dennis 0.  In Crockett's only regular-season win, he pitched 8 innings and struck out 11 while giving up 5 hits and one walk.  July 4:    Bourne 2 - Wareham 1.  8 IP, 5 H, 2 runs (one earned), 1 BB, 8 K.  Picks up the loss.  July 10:    Cotuit 7 - Wareham 3.  Crockett's only bad outing.  Lasted just 4.1 innings and gave up 8 hits and 5 runs (all earned).  ERA rises from 0.56 to 1.73.  July 16:    Harwich 2 - Wareham 1.  Reverts to form by tossing 8 innings and giving up just 5 hits and 2 runs.  Walks only one while striking out 12.  Record drops to 1-4. July 23:    Chatham 2 - Wareham 1.  Picks up fifth loss despite pitching 6 innings and giving up just 2 runs (one earned).  Allows only 3 hits, walks one and strikes out 8. July 30:    Cotuit 2 - Wareham 1.  Picks up sixth loss, third to the Kettleers.  Gives up both runs (one earned) while allowing 5 hits and one walk to go with 6 strikeouts. August 5:    Bourne 5 - Wareham 2.  With the Gatemen having already clinched a playoff berth, Crockett is the fourth of six Wareham pitchers as they rest the staff for the postseason.  He pitches one inning and gives up one unearned run.

When the playoffs started, Crockett didn't miss a beat, but his personal luck chasing elusive wins changed for the better.  He started the first game of the divisional playoffs when the Gatemen hosted Bourne and Crockett lead the way, pitching a masterful 7.2 innings of shutout ball as Wareham won 3-0.  He allowed only 2 hits and one walk, while striking out 9.

Wareham would go on to defeat the Braves in two straight games and move on to face Chatham for the championship.  In a series that would go to a deciding third game, Crockett was the obvious choice to take the mound for Wareham.  Having piled up a combined 67 innings between the regular season and the playoff game with Bourne, Crockett still had enough left to go 5 innings.  He left the game with a 3-1 lead after allowing the Athletics only 3 hits.  He walked just two batters and added 7 more strikeouts to his total.  Crockett did not factor in the decision as Chatham scored two runs in the eighth to tie the game.  Wareham pushed across the winning run in the bottom of the ninth in one of the Cape League's most memorable championship games.

After Crockett's Cape League experience, he was drafted by Boston after his junior year at Harvard, but he passed on the Red Sox offer to complete his education.  A year later, the Colorado Rockies picked Crockett with the 81st overall pick in the third round.  Crockett played in the Rockies organization from 2002-2005.  In 2006, he played for the Somerset Patriots, based in Bridgewater, NJ.  Luck did not shine on Crockett when he was with the Patriots either as he was released after producing a respectable 3.51 ERA and leading the team with 113 strikeouts. 

In 2007, Crockett was hired by the Red Sox as an intern in their Baseball Operations Department.  Later that year, he was promoted to Advance Scouting Coordinator.  As is often the case with people in baseball, Crockett took a very circuitous path to the majors.  He may not have pitched on the Fenway mound in a major league uniform, but he now has an opportunity to impact the Red Sox for years to come as the Assistant Director for Player Development.

Meanwhile, I'm still left to ponder how a pitcher can post all of those outstanding numbers and be saddled with a 1-6 record to show for it.  Even the lack of offensive support has a strange twist regarding how it impacted Crockett's won-loss record.  The 2001 Wareham team was no slouch offensively.  Gatemen players Eric Reed, Matt Murton and Keith Butler took the top three spots in the league among individual batting average leaders.  As a team, Wareham lead the league with a .261 average and their 183 runs scored was also tops in the league.  For some reason, their bats went into a deep slumber when Crockett took the mound.

Despite accounting for one third of Wareham's losses, Crockett posted outstanding numbers in every other category, earned a spot on the West Division All Star team, won the John Claffey Award as the Top New England Prospect, and was a key member in the Gatemen drive to the league championship.   Yes, the summer of 2001 was a very strange one for Ben Crockett.