Crisp sets sights on 40 steals
Royals' new center fielder ready to get running
KANSAS CITY -- Give this to Coco Crisp: He's got confidence in his ability. One day into his transfer to the Royals, and he's talking about stealing 40 bases.
That would be something different. No Royals player has swiped that many in a season since Carlos Beltran pilfered 41 in 2003. Before that, Johnny Damon had a league-leading 46 in 2000.
Bold talk, perhaps, from Crisp, who has never stolen 40 even in the Minor Leagues and has a Major League best of 28, for Boston in 2007.
You have to love Crisp's enthusiasm.
"I've always been underrated as a speed demon, primarily I guess because I don't steal a lot of bases," Crisp said from his Rancho Mirage, Calif., home.
"That's never been like my prime focus. When I was young, I'd just run. Now I have an idea of when and how to steal bases -- when it's appropriate for the situation and when we might need a spark. If I pick those times to go, I think I can easily steal 40. And whatever above that is uncharted territory for me, but without a doubt, 40 is something I can just close my eyes and do."
Crisp remembers following Beltran's pursuit of a 40-40 season in 2004, the year the Royals traded him to the Astros. Splitting the year between two teams and two leagues, Beltran came close to the rare feat with 43 stolen bases and 38 home runs.
Now Crisp, who has just 56 homers in his career, has no illusions of joining the 40-40 club or even of being in Beltran's class as a basestealer.
"He's not a burner, per se, but he's a great basestealer. I'd say I'm a good basestealer, but I'm a faster runner than I am a basestealer," Crisp said. "I can steal bases on just knowledge of the game and knowledge of the pitchers, but if you put me in a 100-yard dash, which we don't have, I'll finish a nose behind or in front of somebody."
In short, Coco Man believes his speed is a great weapon and that his cunning, guile and expertise are coming along as he matures as a player.
Crisp will utilize that speed as the Royals' center fielder in large Kauffman Stadium, where he often roamed when he was with the Indians in 2002-05. At Boston's Fenway Park, of course, he had to deal with the jigs and jags of the wall.
"It's a little simpler, as far as the wall goes, than I would say Boston is, so it shouldn't be too bad," Crisp said. "I know during day games, though, the sun can glare down pretty tough, and I have to prepare myself for that one. That can be the toughest thing at Kauffman field, playing those day games."
A switch hitter since age 11, Crisp had some frustrations playing at Fenway from both sides of the plate.
As Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein noted: "Fenway Park, especially right field, took away a lot of home runs from Coco. He hits a lot of balls in the air. He hit a lot of balls to the warning track that would have been out in another park."
Sure, after all, Crisp is no David Ortiz.
"Big Papi had some home runs taken away from him," Crisp exclaimed. "That thing is a thief."
That was from the left-handed side. And when Crisp batted right-handed, there was that darn Green Monster.
"I hit some line-drive bullets from the right side that hit off the wall. That part didn't play into the power part of my game," Crisp said. "It was too big for me from the left side to pull, and from the right side, when I'd pull a line drive, it'd just shoot off the wall for a double. But, with all that said, I think I still did OK there."
That he did, posting a .283 average at Fenway with 37 doubles, eight triples and six homers. By the way, at Kauffman his average is .267 (35-for-131) with two homers.
Crisp, his wife Maria and their children are looking forward to their Kansas City stay.
"It's a nice place to live, it seems like, with the exception of the tornado part of it. That might be a little scary for my wife. My daughter is into the 'Wizard of Oz,' and she says, 'Kansas City -- the tornados? Will it take our house?'" Crisp said, laughing. "I say, 'No, baby, that's a movie.'"
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.