Replacing Johnny Damon–a bona fide cult hero during his time with the Sox and a dude who put up some damn pretty numbers in his final seasons with us–wouldn’t be easy. But Coco seemed the guy to do it. He was younger. More vibrant. Faster. Laid back. Zero ego. A real gamer, they said, who’d have us asking “Johnny who?” as soon as he hit the Fenway green. Before he’d even slipped on the local jersey, he was shilling for Dunkin’ Donuts and his name was launching a thousand T-shirts.
And we were hooked.
Then the season started. And he broke his finger, missing the next 42 games. And when he got back… things never really seemed to gel. Just some curiously average play punctuated by some f@#king spectacular catches–shit I’d only previously seen in Spielberg movies. We got nothing that even touched his 2005 season with the Indians, where he hit .300 with 178 hits, 69 RBIs and 16 home runs (in his three seasons with the Sox combined, in fact, he only hit 5 more home runs than he nailed in ’05). By the 2007 postseason, fans were clamoring for Coco’s ass to meet bench so that Jacoby the Young–heir apparent to Covelli’s centerfield perch–could get in the game. And their wish was soon granted.
We thought he’d be trade bait before the 2008 season, but he stuck around, putting up some fairly decent numbers in a reduced and revolving role. He didn’t pull a Valentin and wail about his lot in life; he just went out and played and did his job. I like to think a bit of his frustration burned through when he charged James Shields to set off the Tampa Bay fracas, and he earned major props in my book for accusing the Rays of pulling at his hair “like little girls.”
Now he’s gone, traded to Kansas City for relief pitcher Ramón Ramírez. And if I have to remember him for any one thing, it’ll be that human Hindenberg he pulled to snare the final out of the 2007 ALCS, barrel-assing into the corner triangle and sacrificing everything he had to close it out.
We expected incredibly awesome things and got some pretty okay stuff. Including two or three catches we’ll be replaying in our minds for the rest of our lives. And I’m fine with that.