Here is a link to my Saturday column about Coco Crisp. The full column appears below:
OAKLAND — Coco Crisp wasn’t included in the printed list of attendees at Oakland A’s Media Day on Friday. Then he showed up.
Between the printing of the list and the actual event, he had signed a two-year extension worth more than $22 million, and that kind of green makes a man glad to wear the green and gold and to do something extra for the team. So, you bet he showed up at Media Day.
Let’s say off the top Crisp is worth the money. When the A’s signed him in 2011, I asked Billy Beane why he had spent on Crisp when the A’s were so “frugal,” or just plain cheap. Beane said because Crisp was available. Beane meant Crisp was one heck of a player and he’d be nuts to pass on him.
Who is Coco Crisp to the A’s?
He is a veteran on a constantly evolving team. He is among the best center fielders in baseball, even though he lacks a rocket arm. He has power. Amazingly, he hit 22 homers last season — his previous high was 16 nine years ago. He steals bases, although his 21 last season were low for him. His legs were hurting. They don’t hurt anymore. He is a perfect leadoff hitter. He is a better player than Giants center fielder Angel Pagan, a very good player.
A’s batting coach Chili Davis, who attended Media Day, said Crisp is the leader of the clubhouse, sets the tone, embodies the standard. Davis said Crisp has a perfect baseball temperament, does not fret after making a bad play. “He’s a lot cooler than I ever was,” Davis said.
Crisp wore sneakers to Media Day — it was a fashion statement — and an A’s jersey and he flashed a 22-million-dollar smile. He said he loves playing in Oakland because of manager Bob Melvin. Melvin was the first person he mentioned.
And he loves the A’s because he gets to hang with Rickey Henderson, his idol, and because of his teammates and because the A’s are two-time defending American League West champs. He also said owner Lew Wolff loaned him his private jet when one of his children was born. If Crisp asked me, I would have loaned him my private jet.
We’ve heard that Melvin thing before. Players want to play for him because he tells them what’s what and takes the guesswork out of things, even if what he tells them isn’t always good news.
We’ve also heard the team thing, how players like being on the A’s. And it’s true. They are so different from the Giants — this is not a knock on the Giants. It’s just that the Giants recently have won the World Series two times and there are star egos in that clubhouse — deservedly so. Players with star egos include Buster Posey, Matt Cain and Pagan.
No one on the A’s has that kind of ego, except maybe Yoenis Cespedes. I don’t know about him. I only hear him in translation — I certainly wish I had studied Spanish harder in school.
Someone asked Crisp about the A’s mentality. In the past they felt like underdogs, the questioner said, but now they are known and respected and people expect them to win.
Crisp smiled at the innocence of the question. He said the A’s don’t pay big contracts (except his and a few others), and the guys still feel like underdogs. He probably wasn’t fibbing. He meant the young guys on that team — Sonny Gray, Tommy Milone, even Josh Donaldson — are hungry like underdogs.
I can tell you this, the A’s collective hunger and their relative innocence — their clubhouse feels like a college locker room — make them a formidable big-league club. And even though they don’t pay like the Giants or draw like the Giants, they are as good as the Giants, maybe better.
Crisp said he loves making the dramatic catch — running fast with his glove extended, leaping, flying horizontal to the ground, going all out, catching the ball and skidding on the outfield grass, then getting up and staring at the infield, seeing the batter’s face, seeing the batter mouth “dagnabbit.”
Do you really believe big leaguers say a mere dagnabbit after getting robbed, the word an “oldcootism” from prospectors in the 19th century? More likely the batter would shout “@#$%&” or something along those lines. If the batter he robbed doesn’t mutter the alleged dagnabbit, Crisp enjoys seeing the guy drop his eyes or give Crisp a sign of respect that he made a great catch.
The post-catch gesture motivates Crisp, reinforces him, caused him to smile as he described it at Media Day.
His table was filled with media. He was the center of things and he is the players’ spokesman, although Melvin is the team’s spokesman. Their roles do not conflict. And afterward, when people were done with him, when reporters were talking to Jesse Chavez or Drew Pomeranz or pitching coach Curt Young, Crisp roamed the room like the events coordinator at a wedding or a Sweet 16 or a bar mitzvah, talking people up, laughing, sharing stories. Being there.
If he couldn’t play like he plays, no one would care about his social nature. But he’s the first A’s batter a pitcher faces, Crisp a switch hitter, Crisp dangerous from either side of the plate, Crisp erasing the back line of the batter’s box from the start, Crisp staring in at the pitcher, Crisp getting things going, Crisp a pain in the neck.
Over the years, he’s caused many pitchers to shout dagnabbit. Or whatever.
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