Because how can you not love a baseball player named "Bubba"?
It's the championship round of Red Hot Mama's "hottest baller" tournament: Bubba Crosby vs. Brandon Phillips. Vote early, vote often. ;-)
I am back home, safe and sound, if rather tired of driving. (It took me two 11-hour days behind the wheel to get from Florida to New York. Next time, I'm bringing a friend to share the driving. I thought none of my friends was interested. Turns out, one of them was, but she thought I was flying, and didn't want to shell out for plane tickets. If she'd known I was driving, she'd have come.)
Though I have to say, I enjoy vacationing by myself once in awhile. You can do exactly what you want, when you want, without worrying about whether everyone else is having fun. No arguing over which restaurant to go to, what to do, etc. I went to six baseball games in six days. And stayed to the very end of all of them, despite blistering heat and freezing cold. Dunno how many of my friends and family would be up for that.
Of course, the Reds made all kinds of moves today, while I was offline, battling traffic on I-95. They returned their other Rule 5 pick, optioned Bill Bray to the minors...and reassigned Andy Phillips to minor league camp.
Even more shocking, they are cutting Mike Stanton. Holy guacamole, I didn't see this coming. I thought he'd be given at least a couple of months to prove himself, if only because of his $3 million salary. The Reds are going to have to eat that now.
I confess, I didn't think Andy Phillips had much of a chance of making the big league roster when he signed with Cincinnati. Nothing against him; the Reds were just very well-stocked with infielders already. But the way he played the last few days, I was starting to think he might get the last roster spot.
I guess it's not to be. Jerry Hairston and Jolbert Cabrera have not been cut yet. They more versatile players (defensively) than Andy; they've both played SS and CF, as well as the corner OFer and infield positions that Andy plays. And they are veterans with years of experience. Dusty said earlier this season that that's what he was looking for in a utility player: a veteran who wouldn't be bothered by failure.
Bubba had a major league deal last year, and was on the roster, so he had to clear waivers and accept assignment to the minors before they could send him to Louisville. I don't think that's the case with Andy. Andy was signed to a minor league deal, and was not on the roster. So I don't think he has a choice. He's a Louisville Bat now; he cannot refuse the assignment and become a free agent.
Of course, the Reds might call him up if someone gets injured. Or they could trade him to a team that needs him more than they do.
At least he'll be playing somewhere. I'd be thrilled if Bubba was playing for Louisville this year.
I was at the Reds-Jays game last night. Andy started at 3B and had a pretty good night, on offense and defense. I'm packing up the car to go back to NY now, but I'll post more details (and photos, of course!) when I have time. For now, here's one to tide you over. ;-)
Well, I had an awesome seat at yesterday's Reds game...but Andy Phillips didn't play. That's the first game this spring he hasn't played in at all. Maybe they just wanted to give him a rest. Also, most of the starters stayed in the whole game yesterday. Getting ready for the regular season to begin, I guess. However, I do have a few photos from Monday's game for you Andy fans.
Jerry Gil was reassigned to minor league camp yesterday, so that's one less infielder/outfielder in competition for the 25th roster spot.
I tried to go to Mote Aquarium on Monday, but there was no parking. None at all. Cars were double-parked, jammed along the sides of the road and on the grass, and some were idling in the parking lot, just waiting for a space to open up. None did. And there was a really long line, mostly of little kids, waiting to get into the aquarium. I decided I had better ways to spend a hot, sunny Monday.
So I went back the way I came, and stopped at that beach park across from Bird Key. There's a bridge with pedestrian walkways that I've been wanting to walk over every time I drive by. And there are little parks on either end. People were windsurfing at one end, fishing at the other. (I have no idea what they were fishing for, though the bait they were using was pretty big. I saw one guy get a bite, but the fish slipped the hook before he could haul it in.)
Me, I took photos. The locals thought it was hilarious that I was trying to take pictures of a bird that was flying by. They kept laughing at me and telling me I wasn't going to succeed. Hah! Once you've tried tracking speeding outfielders, a mere bird is a piece of cake:
I think it's a pelican. There are a lot of seabirds around here that you just don't see in upstate NY.
I was surprised that once I was out of the car, it was no longer a hot day. The wind was incredible. Once I was moving it was okay, but it was surprisingly cold.
That should have been a warning to me. It was freezing at the game that night. I brought a jacket, but it wasn't warm enough. The wind just blew right through you.
The game was sold out, but I bought a bleacher ticket for face value from someone who was trying to get rid of it. I chose the right field bleachers, because there's usually more action along the first base line. And I figured if Andy entered the game, it would likely be at 1B.
Bad choice. The view is pretty lousy from the right field bleachers. You can't even see the plate from many of the bleacher seats.
By the sixth inning, it was so cold that people began leaving en masse. I moved up a little, to get a better view of the middle infield (though it meant I couldn't see the plate or first base at all). It was a mistake. One of the stadium ushers noticed me and told me I couldn't use a camera. WTF? Even the Nazis at Yankee Stadium allow cameras. My bag was searched, I told them it was camera gear, they looked at it, and said it was okay. If cameras are forbidden in the stadium, wouldn't someone have said something? The rules say no food or drink; they don't say no cameras. Almost everyone in the place had a camera.
I asked why, and he just said, "Because no cameras are allowed anywhere here. Put it away now."
So I did what any law-abiding fan would do. I packed away the camera...and decamped to the left field bleachers, where I took out the camera again.
It was a blessing in disguise. The view was much better from left field. It was warmer, too. And Andy ended up coming in at 3B, not 1B. I tried to blend in with the crowd, but by then, there wasn't any. However, none of the stadium employees on that side of the field had a problem with my camera.
Andy got one at-bat. He grounded into a double play. Guess you can't hit a home run every time.
Andy waits for the throw at third base, but there isn't one. It's a triple.
But it was too little, too late. Reds win, 5-3.
Good night, Andy!
Andy's on the front page of Reds.com. It's a photo for this article:
Tough decisions looming for Reds
As for the battle for the final bench spot, Jolbert Cabrera, Andy Phillips, Andy Green, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Jerry Gil remain in the mix. Cabrera and Phillips seem to have the best shot, but this battle is too close to call.
...Andy Phillips, the only Reds player to play in every game this spring, entered Monday's game against the Blue Jays batting .262 (11-for-42) with one home run and eight RBIs. Both Cabrera and Phillips have played multiple positions around the infield and outfield.
"You always stay positive," Phillips said of the final week. "You have to keep a positive frame of mind."
No baseball for me today. The weather forecast was dreadful - rain and thunder. The Reds were playing the Astros, a two-hour drive away. The Yankees were playing at home, which means they were sold out for sure. If the weather forecast weren't so bad, I might have driven two hours to see the Astros, or taken my chances with a scalper for the Yankees, or hung around Ed Smith to see if the Bats were playing at home. But it wasn't worth it when the games were likely to be rained out.
The good news is that the rest of the week is supposed to be nice. I might stay an extra day. The day I was planning to leave, the Yankees play at Philly during the day, and the Reds play at Toronto at night. The stadiums are close to each other. If I'm not all baseballed out by then, I could go to both games that day.
As it turned out, while the Yankees were rained out today, the Reds did play. They lost a squeaker to the Astros, 6-5. Andy Phillips came in at 1B in the bottom of the 8th, and got one at-bat in the ninth. He hit a single to center. (Too bad I missed it!)
Instead, I went to Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales. It's a garden and nature preserve, a two-hour drive away from Sarasota. Not one of the better-known Florida attractions, which is nice, because it's not crowded. It's in the middle of a huge orange grove; you drive through acres of orange trees to get there. The scent of orange blossoms fills the air.
I left fairly early this morning, and stopped for breakfast along the way. (Chicken-fried steak, eggs, and grits. Hey, why eat food you can get at home while you're on vacation? ;-)
On the way, I accidentally pulled into the wrong driveway while stopping to get gas. I thought it connected to the gas station next door, but it didn't. Instead, it was an office building that was pretty deserted, since it was Saturday. I pulled around in back to turn around, and found a drainage canal. Hoping to see an alligator, I looked in. No alligators, but there was a flock of peacocks. They were eating garbage out of the dumpster in back of the building.
I got to Bok Tower a little after ten, and it was almost empty. It was beautiful, in a sort of Jurassic Park, tropical way. There's a web of paths through the garden, and most of the time I was all alone. The smell of flowers is everywhere, as is the sound of birds. (That was very Jurassic Park-like, too.) And you can hear the carillon bells, even when you can't see the tower. (In fact, I had a hard time finding the tower at first. My tendency to choose the road less traveled, I think. If you choose the more obvious paths, you get there quickly.)
The sight of the tower looming through the trees is quite impressive.
Spanish moss drips from the trees in this part of Florida. I haven't seen Spanish moss since a childhood trip to coastal North Carolina.
There are a lot of animals in the park. They feed the birds, so there are a lot of those. I saw one lone swan, who kept rushing excitedly toward me, obviously expecting to be fed. Alas, I didn't have any food on me.
There are alligators in the park, but I didn't see any. I did see a green heron, some little lizards, and a lot of squirrels.
The squirrels were tiny things. At first I thought they were babies (it's the right time of year, I guess). But I never saw any "adults" - gray squirrels the size of the ones you see in the northeast everywhere. I think these Florida squirrels might be a different species. Cute little critters.
Tomorrow, the Reds play Tampa at home. I will be there, camera in tow.
Of course, I haven't actually seen much of Sarasota, because it was almost 10pm when I got here. It took a lot longer than Mapquest predicted. There was a lot of construction and some really bad traffic. I forgot that construction would be going on down south. In the northeast, they shut down the asphalt plants over the winter. (Asphalt and concrete don't set right if it's too cold.) The plants don't re-open until April, so there's very little construction going on now up there.
At least the weather was nicer today. Very warm and sunny.
Needless to say, I didn't make it to the Reds-Twins game tonight. Apparently, I didn't miss much. The Twins blanked the Reds 4-0. Andy was subbed into left field, and was 0 for 1 at the plate.
More interesting is the roster moves the Reds made today. Jay Bruce was reassigned to minor league camp. Many fans are upset, but this was pretty much expected. He may be called up as soon as June. Drew Anderson was optioned to Louisville.
Nothing really shocking so far. The Reds have cut young players they still have control of, and who weren't really expected to make the team to begin with. Basically, they haven't lost anyone, they just stashed them in the minors for awhile longer.
Last year, Bubba was not cut until the last week, and it was probably that soon only because he asked to be cut as early as possible if he was going to be cut. He was hoping to sign with another team if the Reds didn't keep him on the roster.
This doesn't enter into it with Andy, since he has a minor league contract, not a major league deal like Bubba had. As I understand it, this means Andy plays for the Bats if he doesn't make the big league team - no need to pass through waivers, and no refusing the assignment to the minors. (Unless Andy has a clause in his contract that allows him to opt out if he's not called up in a certain amount of time. Carlos Pena had one, which is how he was able to leave the Yankees for the Sox. Ron Villone had one last year, and Nick Green has one this year.) So we might not know Andy's fate until the deadline. Last year, the Reds didn't announce the 25th roster spot until the very last minute.