Coco Crisp salutes A's fans on way out of town

HOUSTON -- If someone other than the Cleveland Indians had come calling, Coco Crisp would still be playing for the A's.

But the chance to return to his first major league team, play for manager Terry Francona and participate in a pennant race was an opportunity the 36-year-old outfielder couldn't pass up. A deal was announced Wednesday before the A's suffered a 4-3 loss to the Houston Astros.

"It was a tough decision because of the history I have with the A's," Crisp told this newspaper before flying to Cleveland.

The Indians lead the American League Central, and with the trade having been finalized before Sept. 1, he's eligible for the postseason roster. Things came together quickly, with Crisp waiving his no-trade rights Monday night, then the A's and Indians working out the details of the trade on Tuesday.

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"Everybody wants to be able to play in a pennant race and have a chance to go to the World Series," CrispW said. "But I had a very personal relationship with the A's and with the fans there. Actually knowing some of the fans on a personal level, it was different than any other place I'd ever played.

"I'd go out to dinner with those guys in the bleachers, have conversations with them. So to leave a place like that where you have that kind of a bond with the fan base, it's not easy. And to leave my teammates in Oakland, the guys you go to war with, that's not easy."

Crisp said he hopes to be a veteran influence on a good young Cleveland team that has control of the A.L. Central. The Indians have been seeking outfield help for more than a month, as they are without the injured Michael Brantley and will be without Abraham Almonte in the postseason. Almonte served an 80-game suspension for a positive test involving performance-enhancing drugs, and a secondary part of the penalty is a ban from the playoffs.

"They have a nice foundation there," Crisp said of Cleveland. "I'll help out in whatever form I can. I'm excited to go to a place where I've played before and where I've had success and where I had my start."

Just as excited is Crisp's oldest daughter Amailee. She was born in Cleveland and "is really stoked to know we're going back there," he said. At the end of July she accompanied him to Cleveland for the A's series there to celebrate her birthday in her hometown.

There was some unpleasantness between Crisp and the A's in August when he suggested the team was sitting him to deliberately keep his number of games below 130. He needs to hit that number for a $13 million contract option to kick in. He's at 102, with the Indians having just 30 games left to play.

A's general manager David Forst said playing time didn't figure into the trade, that the Indians approached Oakland about a deal and not the other way around. Crisp, who came to the A's in 2010, was the team's longest-tenured player and the only one remaining from when Bob Melvin took over as manager in 2012. He was the driving force behind the A's going to the postseason in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

"Coco was an important part of a lot of good teams here," Forst said. "He was, in a way, the beginning of us turning things around. We have a lot of sentimental attachment to him. This is a great opportunity for Coco to play for a playoff contender, and it's a chance for us to look forward and give some other players a chance."

The first of those is Joey Wendle, who was promoted from Triple-A Nashville on Wednesday and made his big-league debut against the Astros.

"Those three years playing in the postseason was a special time," Crisp said. "And now, toward the end of your career to be going to a team that's playing well, to help them pull off a championship, that would be crazy.

"I'm no Lebron. But the sports franchises in Cleveland have been playing well and baseball has always gotten lots of support. I know I'm not going to get my 130 games there. But it would be special to win there."

The trade was a little emotional for Melvin, who noted that none of the players that he inherited when he became manager midway through the 2011 season are still around.

"He's the last one," Melvin said of Crisp. "There's no question that he's had a big impact on what we've done here. He had a great career for us. He was instrumental on our three playoff teams. I only wish him the best."

For more on the A's, see John Hickey's Inside the A's blog at ibabuzz.com/athletics.