The Smallest Violin Plays for Chris Coste
Chris Coste had it pretty good in Philadelphia. He was freakishly old for a rookie, which gave him plenty of fodder — and a title — for a book that became relatively popular. He’s been contacted about turning his life story into a movie in the vein of Vince Papale. For a catcher with a limited skill set (the ability to play below-average defense at five positions and about league-average offense), the Phillies have treated him very well by giving him his Major League break and about a million dollars in the process.
Realizing just how good Coste has had it, it makes the following all the more difficult to understand. From the Delaware County Daily Times:
[…] he never understood why his former employers felt the need to replace him. He also sounded off about Charlie Manuel, saying the manager’s decision to replace him with Carlos Ruiz when Brad Lidge came into pitch “killed” his reputation.
“My disappointment is after four years they never recognized that I was actually a way above average defensive catcher,” Coste said before starting against the Phillies Saturday.
With the caveat that catcher defense is extremely hard to quantify, it is still laughable that Coste ever was an above-average defensive catcher. Last season, Coste was near the bottom among all Major League catchers in throwing out base-stealers (42nd out of 58 at 15.4%). His replacement, Paul Bako, was much higher (21st at 26.7%).
He had a SLG-light .724 OPS in 118 plate appearances for the Phillies this season before getting shipped to the Houston Astros. His SLG was an Eric Bruntlett-esque .382. It is no surprise that when Coste’s bat went, so did he. He did not bring any value to the Phillies other than with his bat and his ability to circulate blood and breathe oxygen while wearing a catcher’s mask and mitt.
“When (Manuel) started doing that, Lidge had five wild pitches — four with Ruiz and one with me,” Coste said. “What that did, as much as I respect Charlie — and I respect him as much or more than any baseball person alive — is it gave Ruiz this image of best defensive catcher in baseball … we all know he’s awesome but it also killed my reputation … I’m not saying I was better than Ruiz by any means, but I was far better than I was given credit for.”
You know how when someone says, “I’m not trying to be offensive, but…” and they follow up with an incredibly offensive statement? That’s what Coste is doing, in a sense. “Charlie’s great, but…” or “Ruiz is great, but…” It’s a cover for insulting them.
Wild pitch records by catcher are darn near impossible to find, so I don’t know exactly how many of Brad Lidge’s pitches Ruiz and Coste saw. However, according to Coste’s own claim, Ruiz caught him much more. So, the four wild pitches to one isn’t really meaningful in the context of total pitches. And whether justified or not, if pitchers — and managers — feel more comfortable with another catcher, then that’s who they’re going to go with. Even if Ruiz is the absolute worst at blocking sliders, if Lidge believes he’s the best and it helps him more confidently throw his slider, then Ruiz should catch him.
It is interesting, having said all this, to look at the word Coste apparently used: faith. Charlie Manuel lost faith in Coste. One of the definitions of faith is “belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.” Yeah, that’s an accurate description of what happened because it appears that Manuel based his decision to go with Bako over Coste on facts.
Enjoy fourth place, Chris.