Almost all of us would have to say we had a pretty good year of employment if we earned $11 million. But while the monetary compensation has been outstanding for him, A’s outfielder Coco Crisp would tell you that 2015 has been an awful year. And it’s not out of the question now to wonder if maybe his career might be coming to an end. I don’t think that’s the case, but I do understand the doubt.
Crisp is not the world’s strongest man. If you’ve ever shaken his hand, you know that he is very thin and it’s not like shaking hands with Evander Holyfield. Crisp plays with abandon but unfortunately his body is just not built for that style of play. To say he’s fragile is a bit extreme. To say he’s injury prone is not. He has missed at least 25 games in each of the last eight seasons. Broken fingers, a torn labrum, conjunctivitis, elbow bone spurs, wrist issues, and various other maladies have haunted Crisp’s big league career. He even once barely avoided being run over by Mariner Moose’s ATV.
Coco became a member of the Green & Gold after signing a one-year deal in 2010. He fittingly began that season on the DL with a broken pinkie. But Crisp certainly had an important impact on an Oakland team which made the playoffs the last three years. It was said during those seasons that “as goes Coco, so go the A’s,” which was not entirely untrue. In the playoffs, A’s fans will remember the fly ball he buggered at his beltline, but also will recall his walk-off single vs. the Tigers at the Coliseum. He was a fan favorite, with a Chia Head giveaway and the man who had us all doing the Bernie Lean. Billy Beane has given Crisp two contract extensions, the latest of which guarantees him another $11 million in 2016.
But in spring training of this year, Bob Melvin had the unenviable task of informing Crisp for a second time that he was being moved from center to left field. A platoon of Sam Fuld and Craig Gentry were supposed to hold down that fort. Crisp had lost the starting center field job three times prior: to Grady Sizemore in Cleveland, to Jacoby Ellsbury in Boston, and briefly to Yoenis Cespedes in Oakland. But with modern metrics like UZR, a weak arm, and Crisp’s propensity to land himself on the DL, Beane decided that left field would be a better fit for Number 4. Yet more arm discomfort in the Cactus League led to a useless exhibition season for him, and he missed the start of the regular season again.
When Coco did finally make an appearance for the A’s this May, a collision with a wall meant more issues with a lingering neck ailment. He had just two hits in 45 at-bats before that injury, and Crisp went to visit a neck specialist in Dallas to see if he could play again in 2015. The good news was that he didn’t need surgery (which would have required fusing vertebrae and ending his career), but instead could just wait for the pain to subside via simple rest. But the neck irritation has caused Crisp to alter his batting stance, and as of today he has played in only 30 games with a .154 average. It was a welcome sight to see him score from first on a double yesterday in Arizona – a rare occurrence of something we used to see almost daily.
I don’t believe Crisp has much trade value because of his age (35), fat contract, and lack of durability. The A’s certainly will not eat 11 mil next year, so look for Coco to get one last chance to get some glory between the lines. Here’s hoping he can pull it off. 2015 was a rock bottom year for Coco Crisp. So yet again, in a weird way, as goes Coco, so go the A’s.