Doubtful, but WEEI.com (which has been revamped and is actually pretty great now) held a contest this month in which they were searching for “the next great sports blogger.” They’re looking for someone to write once a week (so is it really a blog, then?), and since they’re offering $5,000 to do it, I figured it was worth throwing something out there.
I sort of went old-school with it and wrote a limited (approx. 500-word entry requirement) old-fashioned newspaper column, rather than a ZOMG Julio lugo sucksszszzz blog post, of which I figured EEI would receive roughly 18 billion (and they did — check out some of the samples they have listed on the contest page). But it was worth the hour I spent doing it. It’s about Coco Crisp and Theo Epstein and probably isn’t focused enough to be effective for what I was going for. But I’ve posted it here after the jump, simply because if I bothered to write it, I may as well help pad Pax’s blogging efforts by posting it here. They announce finalists October 13; I’ll let you know if there’s any news to report.
You thought he was gone.
After Jacoby Ellsbury’s wunderkind performance down the stretch in 2007, Coco Crisp was hardly considered part of the roster. We saw a Manny Ramirez-Jacoby Ellsbury-JD Drew outfield: all guys under contract for the foreseeable future, with no way for Crisp to fit in.
So, most of the offseason we considered when and where – not if – Crisp would be dealt. Could the Sox pry Gerald Laird or Jarrod Saltalamacchia from Texas to be Jason Varitek’s successor? Maybe Colorado would send over Brian Fuentes to help the bullpen. The White Sox hadn’t had a viable centerfielder since Aaron Rowand – perhaps they’d make an offer.
The possibilities seemed many, but no one bit, and Theo Epstein found himself stuck with Coco. Sure, Theo’s PR crew said they had planned it this way, but we couldn’t believe that to be the case.
But we were wrong.
If we’ve seen anything from Theo’s time in Boston, it’s that he always attempts to maximize value, and Coco must provide value to small- or mid-market teams looking to add a professional-level player, even one who had struggled the way Crisp has in Boston. He’s an athletic, 28-year old, switch-hitting, all-world defensive centerfielder, robbed of a Gold Glove in 2007, and on a team-friendly $3.8 million contract with reasonable future team options.
Theo found a new valuable measure in constructing a team that others hadn’t focused on. Not defense. Not bullpen. Not power or speed; no singular attribute.
He built team depth.
In another year, Theo would have pulled such a move, adding an interchangeable reliever or prospect. He did it the last time we had a glut of options at a position by trading starter Bronson Arroyo for slugging prospect Wily Mo Pena. Without the value there, and perhaps with that moving haunting him, Theo stood pat.
It looked like a poor non-move at the beginning of the season, when Crisp sulked on the bench and displayed his usual I’ll-swing-at-anything batting strategy during his at bats. His value hadn’t changed by the trade deadline, and of course the Sox’ focus turned to moving Ramirez. It wasn’t until after the deadline that Crisp showed the player we thought the Sox had acquired when they traded then-top-prospect Andy Marte for him in the effort to replace Johnny Damon.
Crisp hit .305 in August, then .375 in 64 September at bats. He was more patient at the plate, registering 15 walks during the last two months, nearly half of his 35 on the season, in about a third of his season plate appearances. And his defense remained stellar, taking the massive pressure Ellsbury faced off of him in center.
For Epstein, this represents another coup. By not caving on the thought that the Sox had an overabundance at one position, Epstein found he had the roster depth to avoid the slumps, injuries, and, for lack of a better term, Mannyness that affected a seemingly crowded outfield. Terry Francona had options to sit players down the stretch, be patient with Drew’s lingering injuries, and adjust the batting order as he saw fit, with only Tek appearing as a liability in the lineup.
His year-ending numbers don’t wow you — .283, 7 homers, 41 RBI, .751 OPS — but Crisp’s production down the stretch beefed up the breadth of the lineup and depth of the roster to help them hold onto the wild card and get their foot in the door toward another championship.