I've sat back and not said much for a little while now. I've watched closely as A's fans continually ripped Mark Kotsay. First, starting with his outburst about Ken Macha and then recently for his "decision" to postpone surgery until spring training started. I'll be the first one to say that Kotsay is one of my favorite players ever to adorn the green and gold so my opinion on this topic is pretty biased. And perhaps I'm blind to the realities of the criticism that Kotsay has brought upon himself.
So, here I am, the Kotsay Defense Force (or KDF) doing what I should've done a while ago and that is stick up for a player who I think has been nothing but a good influence on this team and franchise. When Mark Kotsay was acquired a few seasons ago, I didn't think much of him because I hadn't seen him play much. He was an NL guy and I watch almost exclusively American League games. I'd heard he was a good defensive player who was fairly decent with the bat. I remember several folks saying he was a patient hitter when the A's got him, but he quickly dispelled that myth with his aggressiveness at the plate.
But what made me fall for Kots was that glove of his. Do any of you happen to remember the adventure that Terrence Long was in center? Or Eric Byrnes and his routine of, "Whoops, I misjudged that one off the bat too and now I have to sprint like hell to make a diving catch!" Kotsay still gets one of the best reads off of a bat that I've ever seen. It's almost magical to watch him move and anticipate as the ball strikes the bat. Whereas some players stop and hesitate that split second, Kotsay is typically off and running. It's that superior skill that has made it tough for the folks who give out gold gloves even consider Kotsay because he rarely ever has to dive for a ball. So he isn't showing up on all the highlight shows. And yeah, he may have lost a step last year, but I would imagine that his aching back has a lot to do with it.
Which leads me to why people shouldn't jump all over a guy for not having a surgery...I've had four surgeries in my life and none of them were easy. They all laid me out for some time. I know he's a professional athlete, but he's still a human being and if there's a chance you can avoid someone splitting you wide open with sharp instruments, especially near your spinal cord, you try and take the path of least resistence. The truth is that he probably thought that it was behind him but when it flared up in late February, that's when you start going around to make sure that the decision you're making is the right one. The good news is that if the surgery is successful and the rehab goes well, we will probably have a Kotsay who isn't hitting the DL constantly. He probably should've considered it in November, but perhaps he thought some rest would do him well. At the same time, Kotsay's issue does help out with the small roster crunch the A's are experiencing right now. The Stewart signing is looking smarter than ever and Goleski gets a little more time to prove himself (although he's fighting it quite a bit right now).
Finally, the whole Macha issue became very public and people wanted to know what the players thought of him. Many of the players spoke out and while Kotsay was probably one of the main culprits of going over the top in the criticism especially in his zestful, "I wasn't getting enough respect" crap, I don't necessarily fault a player for saying how he felt. Lord knows that I wish more players would actually say how they feel. I've interviewed so many players in the past and they all give you the Bull Durham canned BS constantly. Was Kotsay wrong to step on a guy while he was down? Definitely. But it wasn't enough for me to turn on him.
And that brings me full circle. Perhaps I'm separating myself from AN in my adoration of a singular player. Maybe I'm creating a schism because of that smooth as silk centerfielder. And it's possible that I have blinders on to a player's faults when they fall in my "favorites" category. But I think back to great moments that Kotsay has given me as an A's fan and I can't help it. I'll never forget that 12-pitch at-bat Kotsay had against BJ Ryan on AN Day last year that led to the game winning home run by Bradley. Bradley wound up with the glory of running around the bases, but it never happens if Kotsay doesn't foul off nasty pitch after pitch, each of those pitches further cementing my current position as president of the KDF.
Go ahead, fire away. I know you're going to have plenty to shoot at me on this one.