Wednesday, November 16, 2011

December 31, 2006

You don't need Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones to tell you so to know that baseball (or sports in general) intertwines with your lives.  I remember writing about "the next Maury Wills" in sixth grade the day after a shortstop named Nomar Garciaparra hit his first home run, I remember a relationship with a baseball-noncompliant girlfriend falling apart the day Nomar hit three home runs on his birthday, and I remember a party at loyal commenter Jason's house the day he was traded for two .246 hitters.  I hit my first 100 mile running week when the Red Sox lost a 19-inning game to Chicago, and I remember the Patriots getting blown out by Denver on MNF when my grandfather died.  Most recently, I got engaged with the unintentional backdrop of the epic Game 6 (the 8th inning, to be exact) of the 2011 World Series. 

Opinions are formed by your own experiences, which is why, as a marginal professional athlete, I hate steroids and why, as someone who suffered from a sports hernia in 2010, had empathy toward Mike Cameron's situation in 2010.  No incident shaped an unpopular opinion, however, more than what happened on December 31, 2006.  The following story is 100% true.

I was a senior in college, Hanley Ramirez had just won the Rookie of the Year while Josh Beckett gave up 36 home runs, and the Red Sox had an underachieving center fielder.  There were preliminary talks about starting a blog with this basketball player with whom I shared a freshman year class, hours in the gym, and an unbridled passion for baseball.  I had already been writing prolifically about baseball in my AIM profile, including some choice words about the Red Sox' new center fielder Coco Crisp, whom I thought was a terrible acquisition.  Makes no sense to bring in (and extend) a fragile leadoff hitter who had a career OBP worse than the league average, I argued, and I was absolutely correct.  However, this night I was to celebrate the New Year with my new girlfriend in her hometown, a reasonably tightly-knit community in which now I also reside. 

She was a freshman and shortly before acquiring me, she had let go of her last boyfriend.  All indications pointed to the fact that this kid was a terrific boyfriend, and they had parted ways shortly after she went to college.  As the replacement boyfriend who was brought into this situation shortly after the previous break-up, I had big shoes to fill and probably unreasonable expectations.  I could be a decent to good boyfriend and still be compared unfavorably to the guy who came before me.  Whatever, I just did the best I could, including not objecting to the illegality of the Captain Morgan in her trunk while my girlfriend and I stopped at the local convenience store for some Coca-Colas.

We walk into the store together and, inevitably, she knew the kid working behind the counter.  Inconveniently for me, my predecessor had also worked at this convenience store, so my girlfriend knew the entire staff, including this poor kid.  The first question from this kid to the Franchise was something along the lines of how school was going.  The second question was asking how my predecessor was doing.  The third question was whether she had seen my predecessor during Christmas break.  The fourth question was whether she was spending New Year's with my predecessor.  There I was, standing there with the Drew Bledsoe Face on (wow, a Bill Simmons reference!), with all this going on. 

At this point, I realized something.  I was Coco Crisp.  It didn't matter how much trash this guy talked on his way out (there was quite a bit).  It didn't matter whom he ended up with in the aftermath of this breakup.  It didn't matter if I did the equivalent of hitting .310, stole 40 bases (and didn't get thrown out at third base at an inane point trying to get to 40 bases), and scored a hundred runs.  I would seemingly forever be the guy after this guy.  There was already a bench mark that was seemingly attainable.  If I screwed up or worked on my blog all night instead of hanging out, it was a story of how I sucked and my predecessor was so much better.  If I did something good, it was a story of how I was cool but my predecessor did it this way.  It could never be a story of I sucked, period, or a story of how I was great, period. 

Just like Coco Crisp never, ever got a chance in this town to just suck without being worse than Johnny Damon.  He never got a chance to make a catch without being compared to Johnny Damon.  He couldn't work a 10-pitch season-saving at-bat in the ALCS after being benched the night before without it being compared to the way Johnny Damon worked at-bats.

The way I saw it after that night, Coco Crisp couldn't walk into a convenience store and buy a self-endorsed gallon of Hood milk without fielding questions about the guy who ran his mouth and went to New York.  He never got to suck independently of the guy who came before him.  He never got to save the 2008 season independently of the guy who came before him.  Yup, Johnny Damon may have been the best to ever fill that role.  Good for him.  But Coco Crisp never got a chance.

Despite the fact that he wasn't a great player and certainly wasn't a cerebral player, after December 31, 2006, Coco Crisp got a chance from me.  When that blog (this blog) started a month and a half later, Coco Crisp was defended mercilessly against a legion of people who thought he sucked and Johnny Damon was so much better.  When Crisp was hitting .220 during Senior Week 2007 (as Pat, the Franchise, and many others know), I may have been mid-meltdown, but I continued to plead for this guy getting the chance he deserved.

Coco Crisp was a good player in Boston, and he was certainly underappreciated.  Due to the events of December 31, 2006, I was able to appreciate his contributions, his work ethic, and the true magnitude of his 2008 ALCS at-bat.  So thanks, Coco Crisp, for doing what you could about an unfair situation and inspiring me to do the same thing.  You deserved the chance to come into your own.  You deserved the chance I had.

6 comments:

Ross Kaplan said...

DV, congratulations on your pending nuptials. I loved your comparison to Coco. Continuing with that theme, the ballplayer I'd compare myself with would have to be Shelley (son of Dave) Duncan. We don't have much in the way of any athletic ability, but damnit we make up for that in our passion for the game we love and by being a fan favorite. Also, the only reason why we have a job in our chosen professions is nepotism.

the gm at work said...

Tank,

Excellent comment. First of all, thanks - as the whole thing started in 2006, I wanted to buy out the franchise's last year of arbitration eligibility and avoid free agency.

Regarding Duncan, you also have the gall to write "Red Sox suck" in a kid's autograph book. I just hope that despite getting the job through nepotism, you are retaining it with your own merit. Considering the lack of during-busines-hour posts you leave here, I'd say you're doing okay.

Was Shelley Duncan the one who could do the standing leap six feet in the air? Because you certainly cannot do that.

Anonymous said...

Congrats to DV on his engagement! I've know for a few weeks, but he wanted to hold off on an announcement for a while.

That was Cody ransom who did the 6 foot leap.

Glad we got one last Coco post. He was one of the biggest topics on this site for the last 5 seasons, and I'm glad we (mostly you, but as a Yankees fan I was more or less indifferent, and I did grow to feel badly for the guy because he didn't get a fair chance in Boston) were a place that defended the guy. He seemed like a good dude and he played hard. He wasn't the best player in baseball but his talents dictated he should have been given more of a chance than he got.

PF

the gm at work said...

Pat,

Thanks, and thanks for keeping it on the down low and letting the information seep its way through her circle before I broadcast it on HYD.

Shelley Duncan, Cody Ransom, and Colter Bean share a space in obscure Yankee history.

Also glad I got to talk about the heinous injustice served to Coco Crisp one last time and hopefully enlightening our reader base the way I was enlightened on December 31, 2006. What was cool about your comment, your post on October 18, 2008, and really your general attitude toward this recurring topic was the fact that we don't have much room to agree on stuff, especially since the day sabermetrics died to me. We can appreciate each other's viewpoints, but in few places can we actually agree - or convince each other - on an unpopular viewpoint.

The viewpoint of "Coco Crisp was a martyr in Boston" I think would get us hung up on if we were to present it to sports radio. Even most of our readers think we're full of crap. But I'm glad the two of us are here to stand up for what's right. Like Theo Epstein, I like justice.

Anonymous said...

DV

You should have just told us that story a long time ago and I never would have given you crap about Coco Crisp ever again. To paraphrase Peter Griffin, "I may be a son of a bitch, but one thing, sir, that I am not, is a son of a bitch."

Also, underage people can transport booze in a vehicle as long as it is locked in the trunk of a car (at least in Maine). If it's in the passenger area that's a problem.

Lastly, there are many significant life moments that we can tie in with sports. And in turn it makes those sports, players, and teams matter more to us. It also makes the people we shared those moments with all the more special. I wish you and fiance all the best DV.

--the Gunn

the gm said...

Story or not, it's all about justice.