I don't think it's very difficult to understand why Chris Coste captured the imagination of so many baseball fans in Philadelphia and beyond over the course of his journey from minor-league journeyman to solid big-league hitter to high-profile author and World F. Champion. Coste's persistence through more than a decade in the minors represents an ideal of faith and belief in oneself in pursuit of a dream that had to seem well nigh impossible; we all might find inspiration in that story. Add to that the fact that for fans in their mid-to-late 30s, Coste was almost certainly the last "new Phillie" to join the team who was older than they. As a newly minted 36 year-old, I resemble this observation.
But Coste's exposure through the first month of the 2009 in light of the injury to Carlos Ruiz, coupled with his limited production through the second half of 2008, suggest that his great story might be approaching its conclusion, at least in terms of his playing career. After beating back a job challenge from since-traded Ronny Paulino during spring training, through 20 games in 2009, Coste is hitting .175/.267/.275, with ten strikeouts in 40 at-bats. Since a two-hit game against Milwaukee on April 21, Coste is 1 for his last 14, and unlike Ruiz, he hasn't offered great defense to excuse his anemic bat: already, Coste has two passed balls on the season, and the Phillies' staffwide pitching struggles haven't inspired great confidence in his game-calling. (That Paulino is mashing for the Marlins adds salt to the wound, but it's likely no more indicative of his real level than his awful spring with the Phils.)
Coste's poor April might not be as much of a concern were it not for the fact that he started off 2008 like a house afire, hitting .350/.435/.600 in 40 April at-bats last year. He kept it up in May, with a line of .333/.398/.581 through the first two months. (It was around then that I started suggesting an all-star write-in campaign for him.) But the second half was not as kind: Coste batted just .239/.311/.339 after the break, and got just five at-bats during the post-season. In 191 plate appearances since July 4 of last season, not counting playoffs, Coste has put up a composite line of .198/.236/.285 with just two home runs, none since August.
Coste has said on numerous occasions that when his playing days are over, he'd like to pursue a managing career--and that ultimately he would love to do that with the Phillies. Coste's profile as a catcher who's seen pretty much every aspect of baseball life suggests he'd be a good one. Given Coste's diminishing results between the white lines, it soon might be time for him to start thinking about that next chapter.