Y'know, it's one thing for random bloggers to blame Bubba for that 2005 collision with Sheff. But it kind of plecks me off when a paper like the New York Times does it:
The Six Playoff Moves That Haunted Joe Torre
2005 Starting Bubba Crosby in center field in Game 5 of the division series in Anaheim. Torre had a sound reason for starting Crosby over Bernie Williams: Crosby covered more ground. But Crosby was also a reckless fielder, and that hurt the Yankees when he ran into Gary Sheffield on a critical misplay at the wall.
Grrr. I'll concede that Bubba can be a bit reckless on occasion. Heck, it's part of his appeal. But he was not reckless on that play, and the collision was not his fault. He was set up under the ball. He did not run into Sheff, Sheff ran into him. Sheff wasn't going to get that ball anyway. It bounced off his wrist before he even made contact with Bubba. While Bubba would have gotten it if Sheff hadn't run into him.
The decision that should haunt Torre from 2005 is the one to give infielder Tony Womack (the worst player in Major League Baseball that season) 65 starts in the outfield, while Bubba rode pine. Or how about the decision to play Matt Lawton (batting average .125, even though he was juicing) ahead of Bubba? Or the decision play 40-year-old Ruben Sierra (hit .226, with the mobility of a brick) instead of Bubba?
Bubba would have hit better than any of those guys, and he was easily the best defensive center fielder in the Yankees system. In 2005, the division race wasn't settled until the penultimate game. The Yankees got only one day off before their first post-season game, so Torre couldn't set up the rotation the way he wanted to. And the team was utterly exhausted, from what amounted to a grueling month-long playoff. Playing Bubba instead of Womack, Lawton, etc., would probably have been worth a few wins over the season. That would have given the Yanks some breathing room - and some much-needed rest - at the end of the season.
And if Torre had used him more often, he and Sheff might have been more in synch. (Bubba only got regular playing time in September, and Sheff missed a lot of playing time due to injury that month.)
There are a lot of things Torre probably should have done differently. (Like calling for the hit-and-run in that same game. Bernie missed the signal, and hung Cano out to dry. Which meant Bubba's single was for one RBI instead of two. Can't really blame Bernie; he wasn't asked to hit-and-run much.) But starting Bubba in Game 5? That is not a decision that should haunt Torre. Bubba played very well that night. (2 for 3 with a RBI and a stolen base...on a pitchout, no less!)
Sigh. As someone posted in the comments once, Bubba deserves to be remembered for more than a collision.