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Coco deal is cuckoo

It's a mistake for Indians to shop Crisp to Boston

Posted: Wednesday January 25, 2006 2:33PM; Updated: Wednesday January 25, 2006 3:55PM
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Coco Crisp
Trading Coco Crisp to the Red Sox would be a mistake for the Indians.
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There's been plenty of offseason action in the AL, what with the Blue Jays spending greenbacks as if they're Loonies, the White Sox acquiring Jim Thome, the Red Sox picking up what's left of Josh Beckett's arm and the Yankees grabbing Johnny Damon. Off the field, l' affaire Epstein has been intriguing, to say the least.

But one of the most important moves is one that hasn't happened yet, though it seems imminent: Cleveland trading Coco Crisp to the Red Sox. What Boston gets out of the deal is obvious: The Sox need someone to replace Damon in center and atop the lineup. Cleveland's motivation is just as clear, but it doesn't make quite as much sense. The Indians will get Andy Marte, the top third base prospect in baseball. He put up decent numbers in Class AAA last year, but he's probably a year away -- which dovetails nicely with the fact that the Indians have Aaron Boone under contract for one more season to play third. When Boonie leaves, Marte should slide right in.

What's nonsensical about the move is that, while it makes the Tribe potentially more dangerous in 2007, it will weaken their lineup in 2006 -- a year in which they're likely to be scrapping with the Red Sox for a playoff spot. You figure the Yankees are the best bet in the East and the White Sox should top the Central (assuming their pitchers don't become mortals again,  Paul Konerko doesn't go in the tank after getting his big contract, Thome has some life left in his bat, and Ozzie Guillen doesn't quit to go on Venezuelan Big Brother or take over for David Lee Roth in Howard Stern's old gig). That leaves the Indians and the Red Sox battling with the Blue Jays for the wild card.

Crisp isn't in an ideal spot in Cleveland. The Indians have Grady Sizemore to play center (and hit leadoff, at least for the time being), so Crisp plays left. With Casey Blake, the weak link in the lineup, in right, the Indians aren't getting too much pop out of their corner outfielders. They're basically playing with two center fielders and a decent slugger who'd be better off as part of a platoon. (Blake hit 11 homers in 137 at bats against lefties; somehow he only had 17 RBIs against southpaws. The RBI bit doesn't mean much, just thought I'd mention it because it's weird.) So I can understand moving Crisp.

What's weird about this deal is not only is Cleveland providing its main rival with exactly what they need, but also the Indians are hurting themselves at the same time. If they replace Crisp with Jason Michaels of the Phillies, as they're likely to do, they'll be adding another corner outfielder with little pop, only this one doesn't run, he strikes out too much and has never been an everyday player. It's the kind of trade a team makes when it's playing for the future, not playing for a postseason berth. It does nothing to help the team in 2006.

If Crisp is worth an extra win or two for the Sox (who knows who'll play center if they don't get Crisp) and downgrading to Michaels costs the Indians a win or two, that's a pretty significant swing. (Another aspect of the deal that's bad for the Indians: They could potentially lose David Riske to Boston and Arthur Rhodes to Philly. This after they lost Bobby Howry as a free agent and re-signed closer Bob Wickman, who's a blowup waiting to happen. Last year, the Tribe's bullpen was awesome. This year, it could be quite ordinary.)

The deal is, for the time being, off, since Guillermo Mota, who would go from Boston to Cleveland, failed his physical. But I've got to believe this trade is going to happen; if two teams agree on the principles in a swap, they're not going to let it die because they can't match up secondary players. They'll likely figure out the parameters on a deal -- one which, when consummated, could be the most pivotal of the offseason.

Here's a story that just hasn't gotten enough attention over here: the fake Sheikh who brought down Sven-Goran Eriksson, the coach of England's national soccer team. Eriksson has been easing his way out for a while, but earlier this week he made it official: He's leaving his post after the World Cup, no matter what. (The consensus had been that he'd only definitely leave if England flamed out or won it all.)

What hastened his departure was a trip he took to Dubai, supposedly to meet with a wealthy Sheikh about setting up a soccer academy. He stayed at a seven-star hotel, drank vintage champagne, ate like a king and, in the course of making idle chit-chat, ripped a few of his players and made it known that he'd quit his England job if he was offered enough money. Turns out the sheikh was really a reporter for a British tabloid. (Supposedly the paper spent something like six months and $100,000 setting the thing up. Brilliant. I'd love to see the Post try that with Joe Torre.) Predictably, Sven's antics didn't go over well. One of the better English football writers, Richard Williams, has a very good take on the whole sordid affair.

While I was snooping around the Guardian site for the link to Williams' story, I somehow got sidetracked to a review of a fantastic CD, Loretta Lynn's Van Lear Rose. Lynn made it in 2004 with Jack White (yes, the White Stripes' Jack White), and it's really a remarkable record. Anyway, you should read Alex Petridis' review. Very funny stuff.

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