SweetSpot: David Huff
September, 2, 2013
By David Schoenfield | ESPN.com
When the Oakland A's acquired Chris Young in the offseason from the Arizona Diamondbacks, it appeared Coco Crisp would be the odd man out in the Oakland outfield, or at least see his playing substantially reduced. While it was billed as a "four guys for three positions" type of arrangement along with Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick, Young was viewed as the better defender in center field, and Cespedes and Reddick, Oakland's two best position players a year ago, weren't likely to sit too often.
It's not that Crisp was going to sit on the bench; after all, he put up a solid .259/.325/.418 line last year with 39 steals in 43 attempts. As a switch-hitter, he would help give Bob Melvin the platoon advantage no matter who would be pitching. But Crisp's crucial misplay against the Detroit Tigers in the American League Division Series cost the A's a victory, forcing a Game 5 confrontation against Justin Verlander that proved to be all Verlander, and Young's power potential would be intriguing to a club that relied on heavily on the home run in 2012.
Whatever the plan, it has worked out that Crisp has been the A's best outfielder, and their second-most valuable position player behind third baseman Josh Donaldson. With Cespedes, Reddick and Young all struggling at the plate, where would the A's be without Crisp? Not tied with the Rangers for the AL West lead. Just over a week ago, the A's looked like a team on the fall, at risk of losing its hold on the second wild card to the Indians or the Orioles or maybe the Yankees. Now they've won seven of eight and caught the Rangers in the standings for the first time since Aug. 9.
Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY SportsCoco Crisp has reason to celebrate, and so do the A's.
In the opener of a crucial three-game series in Oakland against the Texas Rangers, Crisp hit the go-ahead two-run homer in the fifth, hitting the left-field foul pole and upheld upon review, and the A's bullpen held on for the 4-2 victory. It was Crisp's career-high 17th home run, but maybe his power shouldn't be that big a surprise: He hit .281/.349/.511 in the second half last year with eight home runs. He has been hitting like this since last July.
Crisp was just one of Monday's surprise heroes -- players who usually fly under the radar but provide the contributions that push teams into the playoffs. Here are a few others:
It's not often that plans in March go smoothly all season. The A's outfield depth has paid off, maybe as Billy Beane intended, but sometimes alternate plans are needed -- like Ethier playing center field. I'm pretty sure that wasn't in Don Mattingly's playbook back in spring training. But playoff teams have stars and unsung heroes.