Coco Crisp Breaks Down The Oakland Athletics' Offseason Moves

S LCorrespondent IFebruary 3, 2011

Coco Crisp Breaks Down The Oakland Athletics' Offseason Moves

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    The Oakland Athletics have been making a lot of moves this offseason and center fielder Coco Crisp has taken notice. The nine-year veteran is optimistic about the team's chances of winning the American League West title in 2011.

    "If we can keep everybody healthy this year, if it’s in the cards that it plays out that way," Crisp said, "we definitely have a better shot than we did last year to win the division."

    Crisp is ready to hit the field and the get the season underway. He recently started working out at the Athletes' Performance Institute in Carson, Calif., and already has his sights on Spring Training.

    "I'm just trying to get back into baseball shape," he said. "I'm ready to get Spring Training going already."

    With hopes of a strong 2011 season from the Athletics this year, I asked Crisp about his thoughts on the team's current state and his preparation for the upcoming season.

On What He Has Been Working On During The Offseason

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    Crisp took some time during the offseason to relax and hang out with his family, especially his kids. Being able to just relax and travel after the season ended was important for Crisp. 

    But when it was time to get back to work, Crisp had an idea of what he wanted to improve on in his game.

    "For me, I always have to continue to work on my speed—that’s my game," said Crisp. "I can’t just focus on one thing because I’m more of an all-around style player'.”

    There was one thing that Crisp was hoping that he could add to his arsenal: a power stroke.

    "To get a little stronger, a little bit more power in my game would be nice," he said.

    The veteran said that he wanted to improve every aspect of his game but if he had to choose one thing to improve on, it would be a bigger swing. Crisp only had eight homers last season.

On Being Reunited With The Good-Looking David DeJesus

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    When the A's made the trade for outfielder David DeJesus this offseason, Crisp said that Oakland would have the best-looking outfield in the league. Both Crisp and DeJesus played together in Kansas City during the 2009 season.

    "David is a handsome man," Crisp told the San Francisco Chronicle. "You put him out there with [Ryan] Sweeney, me, Conor [Jackson]—that should get some ladies to the stadium."

    When I asked him to tell me more about that statement, Crisp jokingly admitted that he was just having fun.

    "Playing alongside him in Kansas City, you always hear the fans behind you in the outfield," recalled Crisp. "Over in his section, he has all the ladies out over there. In center field in Kansas City there’s really nobody there so I didn’t get much. Most of them are on DeJesus’ side. Just like in Oakland, they’re on (Ryan) Sweeney’s side."

    DeJesus brings not only his looks to the A's outfield, but a very good bat. Since his major league debut in 2003, the outfielder has a career .289 batting average and an on-base percentage of .360. The A's are hoping that his ability to get on base will help jump-start the offense in 2011.

On the Crowded Oakland A's Outfield

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    The Oakland A's will be deep in the outfield position all season long. Along with Crisp, the team also have Ryan Sweeney, Josh Willingham, Chris Carter, Conor Jackson and David DeJesus. Designated hitter Hideki Matsui and utility player Adam Rosales also bring outfield experience to the team this season.

    With the plethora of outfielders, it will be tough for manager Bob Geren to figure out his lineup every day. Crisp sees some positives in such a deep bench.

    "There’s so many different options," he said. "David DeJesus can play center field. Sweeney can play center field. I can play center field."

    Crisp said it will be hard to replace center fielder Rajai Davis, who was traded to the Blue Jays, but that opens up opportunities for the offense on their approach for each game, especially with the option of Willingham playing right field.

    "The only difference in right field is if you want power [Willingham] or you want consistency of the .300 batting average [Sweeney]," Crisp added. "I don’t know how it’s going to play.

    "The good and bad thing about having options is that you have options. It’s hard to make a decision, especially when your options are really good with players that can contribute and help the team win. It’s not always a bad thing for the organization."

    The options should give the A's an opportunity to shuffle around the lineup and see which set of outfielders work best for the team. And with the team's history of injuries, adding depth to the outfield could go a long way.

    "The options are good enough where it hopefully pushes us into the playoffs," Crisp said. "That’s always a good thing, especially for the team."

On Giving Advice To The Younger Players on The Team

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    Crisp made his Major League debut in 2002 and won the World Series with the Boston Red Sox in 2007. With a relatively young Oakland A's team, this gives Crisp an opportunity to give advice to a team that is seeking a playoff appearance.

    The veteran Crisp mentioned a few things that he knows he can contribute to the young team.

    "It can be from the simplest things like keeping the clubhouse loose," Crisp said. "Joking around and keeping it fun."

    Even though baseball is also a business, Crisp said he understood that the team still needed to enjoy the game on top of everything. 

    "You’ve got to have fun in order to play your best," said Crisp."That stems into the chemistry of the team and building the chemistry and how we’re going to step onto the field as one unit."

    Outfielder Chris Carter is one player that the team is hoping to see a breakout season from. In 24 games last season, Carter showed promise with his bat and could be a huge force for the offense this upcoming season.

    Crisp added that with a young talent like Carter, he hopes to help him work on his mechanics and mannerisms throughout the year. There is a lot of hope that Carter could help give a boost to the Oakland offense.

On His Personal Goals For the Season

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    "Everybody would like to hit above .300, hit at least 20 home runs and steal at least 50 bases," Crisp said. "I don’t think that’s a necessary thing to do. A realistic goal is to stay within yourself and personal grit. A goal out there is to go out there and give it 100-percent every night. That is a realistic goal that you can control."

    Crisp has never been known to put up big numbers at the plate, but he still believes that he can make an impact every day at the ballpark. Trying to do too much could can be both physically and mentally draining.

    "If you’re going out there giving it your all, and you end up hitting .220, and if that’s all you had, then you can still sleep at night knowing that I tried my best helping out the team," Crisp explained. "That’s just my goal: to go out there and try to give it 100-percent of what I got every night."

    If Crisp can remain healthy throughout the entire 2011 campaign, his 100-percent effort could make a huge different for the A's. Defensively, his speed in center field will probably be his biggest contribution to the team throughout the year.

On The Goals For The Team in 2011

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    Crisp likes to keep his goals simple and to the point. So when I asked him about his goals for the team, Crisp simply said he wanted the A's to win the division.

    "Going into the season, that’s everybody’s goal is to win the division," Crisp replied. "Going into Spring Training, we’ve got some great acquisitions this year. Our pitching staff is phenomenal and we even made it better with some of our pickups that we’ve had."

    Crisp praised the team's pitching staff, adding that the entire team "piggy-backed" the pitchers all the way towards the finish line last season. With a healthy team, there won't be as much pressure on the pitchers this year.

    "I think our team is better than it was last year already," he said. "And we haven’t even stepped onto the field in Spring Training.

    "To win the division, in our mind, should be our goal. It’s my goal to help us try to win the division. The thing about last year, we had a strong finish because a lot of guys were coming back. It was almost our full core that we started out in the beginning. Everybody was getting their rhythm going again."

    Crisp missed time with a finger injury right before the season started last year and the entire A's team suffered injuries all season long. A healthy A's team could definitely make a strong run for the division title. 

    "If we can keep everybody healthy this year, if it’s in our cards to play out that way, we definitely have a better shot than we did last year to win the division," he said.

Are the Athletics The Best Team in The AL West?

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    When I asked Crisp if the A's were the best team in the West, he didn't want to jump to conclusions so soon. But he did say he hopes the team ends up being the best in the division.

    "I hope we’re the best team in the West," Crisp said. "It comes down to the players that you put on the field and their ability."

    Crisp has kept an eye on what the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels have done during the offseason and doesn't figure that either teams won't be in the race for the division title down the stretch.

    "We have a strong division," said Crisp. "I think that we can definitely compete with any team in our division right now. I don’t want to say we’re the best team in our division. I think that we could win the division."

    The A's last won the division crown in 2006 and with the current team filled with so much talent, Oakland could very well make a strong push for the division title.

Coco Crisp's Message To Oakland A's Fans

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    I asked Crisp if he had a message he wanted to send out to the fans. Having seen what the front office has done during the winter, Crisp wanted to send the message of optimism to the Oakland faithful.

    "I think from the front office, the attention they’ve given this offseason, should show that they feel that we have the core that can win a World Series," Crisp said.

    Crisp said that with the attention the A's got with the Dallas Braden-Alex Rodriguez feud, Braden's perfect game and the team's run towards the division title in September, the fans have continued to show their support for the team.

    "It’s a matter of time before we get them back on that bandwagon if we start off hot, playing good," added Crisp. "I think they want to come out. We just have to play and get them out."

Off-Topic: Recalling The Bird Incident

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    During a game in mid-June while playing for the Royals, Crisp was involved in one of the strangest plays in baseball history.

    A base hit by Indians outfielder Shin-Soo Choo goes right up the middle towards Crisp, but the ball hits off a bird on the grass. The ball gets away from Crisp and the Indians win the game.

    "That right there was weird because I didn’t know what to do," Crisp recalled. "I think I called a 20-second timeout like it was basketball. I saw the birds there before the pitch being made and with the ball up the middle and a guy on second base, I knew what I was going to do. I was going to go in hard and throw him out.

    "When the ball bounced, it bounced up and hit one of them and it kicked the ball to my left. I had it all lined up and all of a sudden, it’s kind of hard to tell with all the commotion with the birds and the ball being white like the birds. I know I didn’t misplay that. What’s going on? Do we stop the play? I didn’t know what to do."

    Unfortunately, the birds were part of the play and the Royals would lose the game because of the feathered fans. 

    But was that the strangest moment in Crisp's big league career? Go to the next slide to find out.

How Coco Crisp Almost Got Ran Over By a Moose

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    The strangest moment for Crisp came when he was with the Red Sox. While on the road in Seattle, he had an incident with the Mariners' mascot Mariner Moose on a four-wheeler.

    "I was coming from the dugout unsuspecting that in a middle of a game, a moose would be riding on his four-wheeler," Crisp said. "You don’t think that."

    Crisp said that he was keeping his eyes focused on the pitcher, waiting for the bottom half of the inning to begin when he heard a loud noise.

    "All of a sudden, I heard a rev like 'VROOOOM'", said Crisp. "I heard it and jumped backwards as much as I could, just enough to get out of the way and he clipped me. I got ran over by a moose on a four-wheeler in a baseball game. That’s pretty out of the box right there." 

Pacquiao Vs. Mayweather: Who Wins?

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    Other than baseball, Crisp is also a huge boxing fan. I asked him about his thoughts on a potential Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather fight, Crisp gave his take on who would win.

    "I’m impartial to say Mayweather because I know him," said Crisp. "Like the old saying in sports, “Defense wins ballgames.” I know this isn’t necessarily a ballgame, but Mayweather’s defense is the best defense that I’ve ever seen out of any fighter."

    Crisp has watched numerous old school boxing matches from greats like Muhammad Ali, George Foreman and Joe Frazier. With so much knowledge on boxing, Crisp added more thoughts on the Pacquiao-Mayweather matchup.

    "Pacquiao has so many angles that he can hit from that I think this would be a dynamic fight because I don’t think Mayweather has fought anybody [like him]," he said. "He could fight the best fighter and get hit only 30 times in the whole fight. Pacquiao is coming at different angles but he has never maneuvered before. It will be a good fight. But because of the defense, I’m going to go with Mayweather."

Crisp Talks About His Favorite Celebrities to Follow on Twitter

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    There are only a handful of A's players on Twitter and Crisp is one of them. Crisp (@Coco_Crisp) says that every now and then he tweets about his whereabouts and what he's up to.

    "I mainly follow my friends," he said. "I like to do responses, I don’t tweet that much."

    Crisp said that he mainly likes to reply back to his friends who tweet him something. When asked about which famous people he likes to follow, Crisp named a few celebrities:

    P.Diddy (@IAMDIDDY)

    Shaquille O'Neal (@THE_REAL_SHAQ)

    Ashton Kutcher (@Aplusk)