Despite choosing to leave Oakland for Cleveland, Coco Crisp still beloved by A’s fans
It’s going to be hard for Oakland Athletics’ fan to say goodbye to Coco Crisp. His trade to the Cleveland Indians was finalized Wednesday, just in time to make sure that Crisp would be eligible for the Indians’ postseason roster.
A fan-favorite, Crisp was also the longest tenured member of the A’s. Crisp played seven seasons with the Athletics, which is considered a VERY long time in Oakland, a place where the filthy-rich ownership refuses to put money into the team’s payroll to keep players long-term. Therefore the majority of players are traded for prospects just prior to becoming free agents.
Seven years is also half Crisp’s career and until recently he stood apart from other players because he always talked about how he wanted to stay in Oakland. It’s something that you don’t hear a lot of from the players. The stadium is old, the payroll is low and the A’s are either really good or really bad. They’re either a shoe-in for the postseason or last in the American League West.
Still when his contract was up after the 2013 season, Crisp signed a two-year contract extension with the team. The contract included a $13 million vesting option for a third year based on his number of games played in 2015-16. When he signed that extension he had this to say,
“This is the place I wanted to be. This is home for me. So I’m happy with coming back more than just this year.
He went on to list the many reasons he liked Oakland, first and foremost was manager Bob Melvin,
“He’s a fantastic coach, a good person, and he keeps the clubhouse light,” Crisp said. “The characters in the clubhouse are a big part of this for me, too. I have fun with all the guys. The location is nice for me, and the fans have had my back since the beginning. The heritage of the A’s, and with Rickey Henderson, getting to hang around my favorite player, that’s been great. The comfort of being here is nice, me knowing the city and this division.”
That was two years ago and up until about a month ago that remained Crisp’s attitude. However, after steadily being in the lineup day in and day out for the first few months of the season, Crisp’s playing time kept getting reduced. It is a tactic used by teams like the A’s to keep Crisp’s option from vesting.
The owners didn’t want to give Crisp, who averaged a .264/.327/.417 batting line, compiled 49 home runs and 204 RBIs, along with 141 stolen bases, in 462 games from 2010 to 2013, his $13 million for the 2017 season.
It’s true that baseball is a business and Crisp’s numbers had declined due to a chronic neck injury he suffered in 2014 after crashing hard into the centerfield wall. He missed big parts of both 2014 and 2015 due to that and other minor injuries. The neck injury the big one. It can only be corrected by what has been described as career-ending surgery and Crisp still wants to play.
He had also only spent one game this season out with neck pain. Any other games he wasn’t in the lineup for, were not any fault of his. He’d been healthy and while his numbers were slightly below average this season, he’d been the epitome of loyalty and leadership throughout his tenure with Oakland.
The fans loved him (and still do), his teammates and coaches loved him and he had this happy-go-lucky spirited way about him that made him fun to watch and to be around. In 2012, arguably the best season of Crisp’s career, he invented the “Bernie Lean” a dance inspired by the movie Weekend at Bernie’s 2. It became a phenomenon with the fans, inspiring local artists to write songs about it, songs that Crisp would use as his walk-up song when he came to the plate.
The fans would dance – and even though it’s been four years, they still do the “Bernie Lean” in Oakland. There is even a Coco Crisp Bernie Lean Bobblehead. That was just one of the many inspirational and fun things that Crisp brought with him to Oakland.
Unfortunately, as a result of the team’s ownership basically screwing him over by not allowing him to play, Crisp waived his 10/5 rights (a player gets 10/5 rights if they have been in the league 10 years and spent at least five with the same team, the rights allow the player to veto any trade and remain with their current ballclub) and allowed himself to be traded to Cleveland.
It’s sad and unfortunate that the A’s owners would put down a mere $13 million – not a lot of money by baseball standards especially considering that a qualifying offer is just over $16 million for a one-year deal – to keep a player as loyal and as fun as Crisp is.
At least fans can take solace in the fact that Crisp will be going to his orginal team for hopefully the remainder of his career and not only that, he will likely have another shot at the postseason this year whereas the A’s are way out of contention.
Crisp spent the first four seasons of his career in Cleveland while later spending time with the Boston Red Sox and the Kansas City Royals before landing in Oakland. At least he knows he likes Cleveland which was likely another factor in his decision to waive his 10/5 rights.
While some fanbases might be upset that a player had the right to stay but chose otherwise, A’s fans are not that way. They understand the cruel way the owners treat the players because they treat the fans similarly as well. A’s fans are used to seeing their players unvoluntarily and unwantingly traded.
And even though Crisp chose to leave Oakland, the fanbase still loves him, will always love him and remember his days with the A’s very fondly. I would know because I am one of them and I am going to miss seeing Coco with all his spirit and all the effort he put into the club both in the clubhouse and on the field day after day for almost seven full seasons.
However, while he will be missed, that is just part life as an A’s fan this decade. One day it will pass and things will change for the franchise. I just hope it is soon and I know we all wish Coco the very best in Cleveland. I, for one, hope that they take the whole damn thing and win the World Series!
Go Indians! Go Coco! And as always (no matter what) Go A’s!