In the 1990’s, Albert Belle, Brian Giles and David Justice made left-field a position of strength for the Cleveland Indians. In stark contrast, since the start of the 2000 season, left-field has become the place where ballplayers go to die. Only three players since 2000 have played in 100+ games in left in a single season, and none more than 133. Left has seen transplanted infielders, aging outfielders and horrific platoons turn it into the laughingstock of the Tribe line-up. There was one exception.
The All-Aught Indians Left Fielder is Covelli Loyce Crisp. You might know him as Coco.
Coco Crisp was acquired by the Cleveland Indians as another one of those Mark Shapiro specials in 2002, when he sent Steve Finley to the St. Louis Cardinals for Luis Garcia and a player to be named later. That player turned into Crisp, who was immediately sent to Akron for an extremely brief stay. Milton Bradley immediately went on the DL, and Crisp was called up to the big club. Crisp made an immediate impact, with six hits in his first three games. He batted .260 with 9 doubles, 2 triples, one homer, 4 stolen bases and 9 RBI in 32 games. He only played two games in left in his first stint, as his natural position was center.
Crisp started the 2003 season off in Buffalo, and the Tribe recalled him in June 11 with Crisp dominating International League pitching. Crisp continued his hot hitting with the Indians, rolling out a 13-game hitting streak in July, a month that saw him hit .351 with 6 doubles, 6 RBI and 14 runs in 26 games. He finished the season slumping, but ended with a .266 average, three homers, 27 RBI, 55 runs, 15 doubles, 6 triples and 15 stolen bases. He started more games in center, but 38 games in left field.
In 2004, Crisp made the club out of Spring Training, and became the starting center fielder about halfway through the season. With Grady Sizemore ready to make his presence known in the big club, it was only a matter of time until Crisp would have to move. He still played 37 games in left. Offensively, Crisp had a break out season, batting .297 with 15 homers and 71 RBI. He scored 78 runs and 24 doubles, while stealing 20 bases. Crisp had a torrid August and September that saw him bat .337 and .336 respectively, and batted .345 from July 25th on.
Crisp became the starting left-fielder in 2005, and this was the season that won him the award as the decades best left fielder. He set personal highs, batting .300 with 42 doubles, 16 homers and 86 runs in 145 games. He added 69 RBI and 15 stolen bases. His line of .300/.346/.465 put him on the straight-line to the elite. He was named A.L. Player of the Week for the week of September 6-12 after hitting .571 with 3 homers and 7 RBI.
The Indians, in all their wisdom, moved Crisp to the Red Sox after the 2005 season because his real position was centerfield. Of course, you couldn’t have two centerfielders/lead-off hitters on the same club, even if one did have his best season in left field. Instead, the Indians deal Crisp and acquired Jason Michaels.
Painful, I know.
In Crisp, the Indians had their best left-fielder in the 2000’s. No, he wasn’t a natural left-fielder, but he was the best they had to offer since Justice left the team. What might Crisp have done with the Indians past the 2005 season? Who knows. Either way, he left Cleveland as a rising star, and their best left fielder of the decade.
The Two Thousand, Aught Left Fielders: Richie Sexson, Wil Cordero, David Justice, Jolbert Cabrera, Russell Branyan, Dave Roberts, Bill Selby, Ricky Ledee, Alex Ramirez, Jacob Cruz, Marty Cordova, Karim Garcia, Ellis Burks, Chris Magruder, Lee Stevens, Coco Crisp, Ben Broussard, Matt Lawton, Todd Dunwoody, Chad Allen, Bruce Aven, Brady Anderson, Jody Gerut, Ryan Ludwick, Shane Spencer, Alex Escobar, Lou Merloni, Jose Hernandez, Jason Dubois, Jason Michaels, Todd Hollandsworth, Ricky Gutierrez, Joe Inglett, Shin-Soo Choo, David Dellucci, Ben Francisco, Kenny Lofton, Franklin Gutierrez, Jason Tyner, Trevor Crowe, Matt LaPorta, Ryan Garko, Mark DeRosa, Chris Gimenez, Jamey Carroll, Michael Brantley,