TORONTO -- Much praise has been bestowed upon the World Series-bound Indians for their actions ahead of the non-waiver Trade Deadline. They landed the grand prize, after all, in American League Championship Series MVP Andrew Miller, and any discussion about their wheeling and dealing has to start with him. Coco Crisp surely deserves a mention, though.
Crisp arrived after Miller, and just before the less-heralded postseason roster deadline on Aug. 31 as a last-minute addendum to an Indians club that was planning for a postseason without outfielder Abraham Almonte, who was deemed ineligible for the playoffs as part of his punishment after testing positive for a banned performance-enhancing substance.
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Crisp would be a nice filler, the Indians thought. First they had to convince him to sign off on the deal, though; Crisp, nearing the end of his seventh season in Oakland, had the right to veto the trade because of his 10 and five rights (10 years in the big leagues, the past five being with his current team). He didn't, and boy, are the Indians better for it.
On Wednesday, amid the backdrop of starter Ryan Merritt's gutsy performance, Crisp chimed in with a solo home run, helping the Indians take down the Blue Jays with a 3-0 victory in Game 5 of the ALCS to clinch their first World Series appearance in nearly two decades.
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Each of Crisp's past three home runs have come in clinchers: the switch-hitter homered Sept. 26, when the Indians claimed the AL Central, and again Oct. 10, the day Cleveland punched its ticket to the ALCS with an AL Division Series sweep of Boston.
This is no coincidence.
"He's a big-time player," said Indians reliever Dan Otero, who played with Crisp in Oakland. "He loves the big moments."
Otero remembers hearing about Crisp's impending return to Cleveland, where the 15-year veteran began his career in 2002, and immediately texting A's pitcher Sonny Gray.
"I was like, 'Hey, you think Coco's going to help us?'" Otero recalled Wednesday night, in between tastes of champagne. "He told me, 'Absolutely he's going to help you."
Crisp has that way about him. Even when he was relegated to a reserve role this season, as the A's tried to keep the injury-prone player -- he had six DL stints with Oakland -- on the field, Crisp kept at it, proving his worth as a valuable bench bat. He led all AL players with a .392 average with runners in scoring position.
Each of the previous two seasons saw Crisp battling a chronic neck issue that can only be resolved with likely career-ending surgery.
"He was always on the couch, in the trainer's room," said Otero, who has found Crisp after each of Cleveland's clinching victories.
"We've embraced after every one of them," Otero said, "and to see the smile on his face every time has just been awesome."
"For Cleveland to want me back here, for Oakland to give me the chance to come to a winning environment, it's very special, and I feel very blessed to be here with these guys," Crisp said. "To come back to the place where I started, and to be in this situation with these guys, who have been grinding all year, I can't say enough, It's like a family in here."
In 2002, the Indians acquired Crisp from the Cardinals as the player to be named in the Chuck Finley trade, later packaging him to Boston in 2006 with Josh Bard and David Riske in a deal to pick up prospect Andy Marte, among others. Crisp played under then-Boston manager Terry Francona, the man responsible for guiding the Indians to this year's Fall Classic, and won his first World Series championship in 2007 with Boston.
Crisp will turn 37 on Nov. 1. His steps have slowed, but his pulse for the game hasn't.
"I think he underappreciates himself a little bit," Mike Napoli said. "He's a humble guy, but he brings a whole lot to the table."