With a relatively young ball club, you need a veteran presence to stabilize the team and keep things together.
To an extent, this would be the responsibility of the manager. Oakland A's skipper Bob Melvin has done a nice job of keeping a young team debilitated with injuries stay right in the thick of things in the American League.
What the A's need is a leadership presence on the field. Veteran outfielder Coco Crisp was supposed to be that guy.
Although there was some question about Crisp's return to Oakland in 2012 during the offseason, ultimately A's general manager Billy Beane decided to offer him a two-year deal at $14 million.
"I think having a good player is the most important thing, I think a veteran doesn't help you if he isn't any good," said Beane regarding the re-signing of Crisp.
There, it was settled—the A's had their veteran player in place and he would run the outfield from his normal position in center field.
Not so fast.
Enter Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes and the fact that Beane said he would play center field, and the waters got a little rough in A's-Town. Crisp was not thrilled with the idea of giving up his center-field spot to a rookie.
Remember the the demigod quip he made while talking with San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser? "I’m going to make all the plays. If someone feels there’s someone better than me, it’s hard for me to believe. Unless he’s a demigod come down from the heavens, no one is going to outshine me in center field," said Crisp.
He also told USA Today that he wouldn't have signed with Oakland if he had known he was going to be the team's left fielder.
Crisp ultimately made it clear that even though he would prefer to play center field like the A's said he would, he would play where the team wanted him to play.
Crisp had a bout with an illness that started in April, which caused him to miss several games and ultimately landed him on the disabled list in May.
It's possible that Crisp being sick may have contributed to his rough start in 2012. He batted .226 in the month of April. By the end of May he was hitting just .173. He did miss 17 games in May with the illness, and in the 10 games he did play he hit .132.
In June he started to climb out of the hole a bit. Crisp managed to hit .264 for the month and his season average rose to .219 by the time the month came to an end.
The young month of July has been good to Crisp so far. His .357 average (.412 OBP) and timely hits have helped the A's win four in a row.
Crisp came up huge in the last two games of the series against the Boston Red Sox. On Tuesday night he hit a leadoff home run and sealed an A's victory with a walk-off sacrifice fly to give the A's the 3-2 victory.
On Wednesday, Crisp led off the bottom of the seventh with a triple and Jemile Weeks followed with a single to left, allowing Crisp to score what would be the winning run.
Things Have Changed
Since Cespedes went on the disabled list in May, Crisp became the team's primary center fielder. When Cespedes returned, Melvin stayed with Crisp.
Maybe the switch back to his normal position has had something to do with Crisp's resurgence as of late. It's possible it's mental and he just feels more comfortable in his normal position.
They're not overwhelming, but Crisp's numbers are better when he is playing center field. In 60 at-bats while playing left field, he batted .217 with an OBP of .277. With 137 at-bats while playing center field, his average is .241 with a .300 OBP.
Crisp has been batting leadoff lately in an attempt by Melvin to change things up for the struggling Weeks. This switch has seemed to help as well. In 96 at-bats from the two-hole, Crisp is hitting .198 with a .245 OBP. As the leadoff man he is hitting .289 with an OBP of .362 in 83 at-bats.
Whatever the reason, Crisp seems to be right.
He is now playing like the veteran leader the A's brought him back to be.