n a team that has the spotlight splashed down on it at every turn, Coco Crisp managed to stay in the shadows for much of this season.
Every once in a while you would see him. On the road it would often times be at a table, in front of a computer playing the online game, “World of Warcraft” in the midst of the usual clubhouse chaos. Or occasionally the reminder of his presence would be made possible thanks to his insertion in the Red Sox’ lineup card.
Even the controversies that helped define Crisp throughout the season’s first few months -- trade requests, fight-induced suspension, and sparse playing time -- had been dismissed. He was going down a road he didn’t care for and most fans were beginning to not care about.
“The way we started off, I was the fourth outfielder and I think the conversation was a little misleading to me,” said Crisp of his early role with the team. “It is a game with a business behind it and you have to understand that and still try and have fun somehow. At times it’s hard, but you have to understand that and still try and have fun somehow.”
Crisp has now has found his fun, and with it he has been rediscovered, as well.
Crisp stood in front of his locker Monday night after the Red Sox’ 3-0 win over Tampa Bay one of the best centerfielders in baseball since baseball came back from the All-Star break.
The 29-year-old’s most recent reminder came in the form of a 3 for 3 performance against the Rays, extending a hitting streak to 10 games in which Crisp has gone 21 for 37 (.568). Since the break he has hit .351 with an on-base percentage of .422.
If you want to back to Aug. 15, he has the best batting average of any centerfielder in the game (.400), and is hitting .655 (16-26) through out the current month. Compare that with the learning curve Jacoby Ellsbury has endured since the All-Star Game, a stretch that has seen the rookie hit .231 with an on-base percentage of .281, and the reality jumps out.
Crisp is going about doing what was done to him a year ago – he snatching the starting center field job when it counts the most. It is a notion that almost seemed inconceivable amidst all of the chaos, and subsequent anonymity, just a few months before.
“I thought I was going to come in here with the starting outfield job and end up platooning and it grew because of the injuries here and there,” he said. “But my at-bats were fairly low coming into the All-Star break. It was just a little misleading.
“Throughout most of my career I’ve had to endure some things, so I think that prepared me for some of the things I endured during this stint over here. Life is a learning experience and I think this will help me outside of baseball, as well. I think it’s a good thing.”
The obstacles still haven’t gone anywhere for Crisp, who, after the Sox win, made it a point to say hello to his father, Loyce, who is in a Los Angeles-area hospital with an ailment his son chose to not to divulge. And then there is each time he might go hitless, while Ellsbury’s talents jump off the box score, pushing Crisp back into the shadows.
But Crisp has soaked in the uncomfortable realities that come with his lot in life on the Red Sox and learned to manage. He plays his game (“I’ll go up there away from baseball for about an hour, which helps me kind of relax my mind. It kind of gives me a mental break”), and listens to a son who has just started to speak.
They are little things, but their presence has helped Crisp hurdle a pretty big obstacle to find himself on track many believed he would ever find again.
“I’m still learning,” he said. “You take things that are positive and negative and try, figure out how to retain, and learn from it.”