Just last week in this space I proffered the notion that the A’s had locked down two of the three outfield jobs as Cactus League play had begun. I said Coco Crisp would be in center and Josh Reddick would be in right. Yet in a matter of mere days, Crisp is now a left fielder and Reddick is out as much as two months with an oblique strain. It’s yet another example of why we follow sports in the first place: we never know how it’s going to go. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, the General Manager does a switcheroo on you.
Crisp has now had the rug pulled out from underneath him twice by Billy Beane. Crisp signed an extension in 2012 to be the centerfielder, but was informed in Arizona that newly-acquired Yoenis Cespedes would be the centerfielder and Crisp would move to left field. That lasted very briefly when it became clear that Cespedes, while having a great arm, was terrible at reading the ball and could not cover the ground that Crisp could. Fast forward to a new extension and another shock announcement in Arizona that Coco would again be moving from center to left. Listen, he’s an employee and must do as he’s told, but a disgruntled Coco has never been a productive Coco.
The reason for the decision this time is not because of an emerging Cuban talent, but simply because the A’s believe a platoon of Craig Gentry and Sam Fuld will be better and “save” Coco from the perilous responsibility of playing a spot which would surely lead to his physical demise. Coco has proven to me he can cover a lot of ground, but I was attacked by a horde of nerds when I suggested such a thing. Advanced metrics use calculations such as DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) which have shown that Crisp was lacking in both categories last season.
In UZR the baseball field is divided into 78 zones, 64 of which are used in measuring defense. That’s the “ultimate?” Why not a hundred zones … or a thousand? That seems more ultimate. So while I’m being dragged kicking and screaming into the Math Age of baseball, I still think Coco is good, despite stratagems suggesting otherwise. And for the fans who simply cannot live with his noodle arm anymore, it’s the same arm which has been out there while the A’s have made three straight playoff appearances. It’s a fairly simple game. See ball, hit ball. Or so I thought. Yet now that Reddick is shelved, this gambit may be scuppered in the interim.
I wrote last week about the fragility of Reddick, but I still believed he’d make it through camp unscathed. Now that he’s tweaked his oblique, Bob Melvin will have to get more creative. Look for Rule 5 selection Mark Canha to get more playing time in left while Fuld and Gentry see duty in right. You might remember a beautiful assist from Fuld in right field at third base in the first week of last season, before Beane cut him. Gentry also has a nice arm, and great speed as well. The good news is that A’s can survive without Reddick for now. Let’s just hope the injury bug is done biting for time being. I’ll check the IBB metric next week (Injury Bug Biting).