Out of luck

Johnny Damon? Johnny Bravo has had more hits than Coco Crisp as of late.

Perhaps we were all a bit overzealous in our assessment of the Red Sox center fielder when Boston landed him in a deal to replace the defected Damon in the winter of ’05-06, likening him to a blossoming player of the former Bearded One’s ilk. Now we understand the only similarity between the two players is that neither has an arm to force even a hint of hesitation rounding third base.

It’s safe to say that if it weren’t for some of the eye-popping plays Crisp has made the norm in the outfield this year, there would be considerably more angst over his seemingly lost approach at the plate, where things have gotten to be just dreadful.

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Crisp grounded into a pair of double plays last night in Oakland, where the Red Sox were shut out — shut out — by former mate Lenny DiNardo. That is not a typo. J.D. Drew sat out the game, and may sit out again tonight, which should sit well with those who haven’t the slightest what he’s doing here in the first place.
Say, how you enjoying this Boston outfield?
Upon the Indians trading Crisp to the Red Sox for Andy Marte and Kelly Shoppach, a third base and catching prospect the Red Sox could desperately use in their farm system right about now, here’s what one Cleveland blogger said about Crisp: “There isn’t anyone that wouldn’t fall in love with a player with such a great name like that (excluding Milton Bradley because nobody likes a nutcase). That is precisely the reason why so many Indians fans fell in love with this guy over his brief tenure in Cleveland (and that’s exactly what it was, short, but people seem to think he has spent 15 years here). I’m not here to say that he was a bad player, because he was a pretty good little player, but he was nothing more than an average outfielder with above-average speed and a below-average arm.”
That about says it, no?
Now batting just .233, slugging a dreadful .317, things have gotten to the stage that one has to wonder where the Red Sox go from here as far as their outfield is concerned. Drew may get a heap of criticism for his awful start to 2007, thanks in large part to his $14 million salary. But it does stand to at least some reason that without him in the lineup, the Sox are just 3-6 as opposed to 34-14 with him playing. Chalk that up to coincidence or irrational idealization, but the fact of the matter is, Drew isn’t going anywhere since Theo Epstein thought it wise to lock him up for the next 11 years, or however many more seasons of J.D. excitement there is left on tap.
As for Crisp, it remains to be seen who would want him, but at least with his more manageable salary ($3.5 million this season, $4.75 million in ’08, $5.75 million in ’09) he’d be easier to persuade someone to take. Who that is remains to be seen. But someone, right?
Third baseman Mike Lowell has as many home runs (11) as the entire Red Sox outfield, which is only making a total of $35.5 million this season, more than the entire payrolls of both the Devil Rays and Marlins. Of the three regulars, only Manny Ramirez is hitting with any semblance of consistency, and this too is only recently. After hitting just .242 through May 9, Ramirez has been on a tear, batting .327 for the month of May and a robust .421 this month.
Drew? Crisp? We’re still waiting.
Only San Francisco and San Diego have gotten less RBI production out of right field than the Red Sox, where Drew has chipped in with just 17 all season, despite hitting behind dudes named David Ortiz and Ramirez. After hitting .278 in April it’s been just as ugly for Drew, batting .171 for May and .167 in June thus far. Those struggles had been virtually ignored as the Sox tore up the first third of the season. But with the first slump upon the Sox, Drew is better off playing on the road these days, lest he start to hear the increasing wrath of a fan base that never quite understood the team’s infatuation with him in the first place.
Boston has gotten just a .294 on-base percentage from its center field slot, thanks mostly to Crisp’s flailing swing, which makes Dwayne Hosey’s look like Steve Balboni’s cut. And yes, we can blame the finger injury if you so desire, but please. It has been nearly a year. Pedro Martinez is throwing off a mound, and he only had rotator cuff surgery.
Luckily for Crisp, Jacoby Ellsbury has struggled in his adjustment to the Triple-A level, so whispers of his promotion are quiet at best. And while Brandon Moss and David Murphy have had fine seasons with the PawSox, they haven’t exactly shown enough compelling reasons to have the Red Sox believe either would be a decent replacement for Crisp.
The rub here is that if Drew were hitting like the player he was paid to be, the Sox could live with Crisp hitting .250 or so, as long as his speed made him a distraction on the base paths and his defense remained as stellar as it has been this season. But since they can’t move Drew, Crisp may have to eventually go somewhere, or at least to the bench. Wily Mo Pena isn’t going to play there every night, which may mean a deal going down for a veteran prior to the trading deadline.
But is Aaron Rowand really a solution? Will the Twins play with the thought of trading Torii Hunter if they don’t make a run soon? Or might Epstein call up old friend Josh Byrnes this weekend after seeing what former A’s nemesis and Jeanne Zelasko admirer Eric Byrnes can do in Arizona?
“Byrnes’ .899 OPS at the start of this week was just below Hunter’s .901 figure and well above the marks of Jones and Suzuki. At 30, he still appears to be trending upward, as evidenced by his improvement against right-handed pitching,” writes Fox’s Ken Rosenthal, who floats Byrnes’ name as possible trade bait since he’ll be a free agent after the season. That rental might seem to work well for the Red Sox, with Ellsbury possibly ready to take hold of Fenway in 2008.
Then again, it was just a few weeks ago that some people were poring through second base possibilities to replace rookie Dustin Pedroia, who was only Rookie of the Month for May. But with two-thirds of the costly outfield combining to hit just .229 with three home runs, as many runs batted in as Julio Lugo, and a paltry .318 OBP, something has to happen. Soon would be nice.