All Things Bubba

Because how can you not love a baseball player named "Bubba"?

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Auld Lang Syne



I ended up talking to my boss about Bubba Crosby today.

It was a quiet day in the office. Many people didn't come in, because of the holiday and because of a winter storm warning. Someone brought in a bunch of delicious leftover Christmas cookies, so the morning was spent scarfing down cookies and oohing and aahing over the unexpectedly heavy snowfall. My boss is so busy I often don't see him for days at a time. But today, he came over to talk to me. (Probably as a "holiday greetings" type deal, since he wasn't at the Christmas party.)

He's a Yankees fan, and he knows that I am, too, so he asked me what I thought of the Teixeira signing, and whether I thought the Yankees would sign anyone else. I said they'd probably need another starting pitcher, since Joba can't pitch a whole season and Burnett likely won't, either.

My boss liked the idea of signing Pettitte as a fifth starter type, but said he really wanted a center fielder. I thought the Yankees probably wouldn't spend big bucks on a CFer, because they're expecting Austin Jackson to take over in a year or two.

At that point, out of the blue, my boss asked, "What ever happened to Bubba Crosby?" He'd assumed Bubba had been playing for a team like the Royals, where nobody really notices who's in the lineup. I had to tell him that Bubba hadn't played since he left the Yankees, due to injuries, and was apparently retired now.

My boss then wondered if Bubba had earned even a million dollars playing baseball. I said he probably had, since he was a first round draft pick and got signing bonus of almost a million dollars. "I guess we don't have to feel sorry for him," my boss said.

No, no need to feel sorry for him. But I sure miss him.

Meanwhile, some other faces from the Yankees past were mentioned in Baseball America's latest minor league transaction report. Chad Moeller signed with Baltimore. Jason Lane is now a Jay.

And Bob Klapisch has some interesting things to say about the Teixeira signing. He thinks Teixeira will take Jeter's place in the spotlight - as a star on the field, and in the hearts of fans.

I dunno. People thought that about A-Rod, too, and that didn't happen. Not even close.

It's hard to imagine anyone taking over Jeter's place as the face of the franchise and in the hearts of fans. And yet...it's inevitable, some day. This season will be Jeter's age 35 year. Shortstop is a tough position for an aging player. Jeter is visibly declining, on defense and at the plate. Klapisch points out that Jeter doesn't have the power to be a DH. So where are they going to put him when he can't play SS any more? (And will it even be possible to get him to switch positions, even if there was some place to put him?)

Man, this is going to be tough. Watching Bernie's decline was hard enough. Losing Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera will be very difficult, too. But Jeter...the mind boggles, trying to imagine the Yankees without Derek Jeter.

posted by BubbaFan, 5:22 PM | link | 0 comments |

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Secret of Greatness


I'd always thought the difference between mere mortals and greatness was talent. That is, an inborn ability or aptitude. But according to researchers, it's not, as pointed out in this article:

What it takes to be great

Geoffrey Colvin, who later wrote a book about this (Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else), argues that scientific evidence points to practice, not talent, being the key to greatness. In sports and just about everything else. But not just any kind of practice.

So greatness isn't handed to anyone; it requires a lot of hard work. Yet that isn't enough, since many people work hard for decades without approaching greatness or even getting significantly better. What's missing?

The best people in any field are those who devote the most hours to what the researchers call "deliberate practice." It's activity that's explicitly intended to improve performance, that reaches for objectives just beyond one's level of competence, provides feedback on results and involves high levels of repetition.

For example: Simply hitting a bucket of balls is not deliberate practice, which is why most golfers don't get better. Hitting an eight-iron 300 times with a goal of leaving the ball within 20 feet of the pin 80 percent of the time, continually observing results and making appropriate adjustments, and doing that for hours every day - that's deliberate practice.

Innate physical gifts matter, but not as much as you think.

Certainly some important traits are partly inherited, such as physical size and particular measures of intelligence, but those influence what a person doesn't do more than what he does; a five-footer will never be an NFL lineman, and a seven-footer will never be an Olympic gymnast. Even those restrictions are less severe than you'd expect: Ericsson notes, "Some international chess masters have IQs in the 90s." The more research that's done, the more solid the deliberate-practice model becomes.

...Many great athletes are legendary for the brutal discipline of their practice routines. In basketball, Michael Jordan practiced intensely beyond the already punishing team practices. (Had Jordan possessed some mammoth natural gift specifically for basketball, it seems unlikely he'd have been cut from his high school team.)

In football, all-time-great receiver Jerry Rice - passed up by 15 teams because they considered him too slow - practiced so hard that other players would get sick trying to keep up.

Perhaps most interesting: the "ten-year rule." Scientists have found that it takes at least ten years of deliberate practice to become world-class at anything.

It's often been noted that for baseball players, age 27-28 is the "magic year" - the year where a player is at his peak or finally "figures it out." I'd always thought that was because men reach their physical peaks at about age 28. (I read once that male slaves sold for the most money at age 28, because that's when they were at their peak.)

But perhaps it's just the "ten year rule." Whether a young player signs a pro contract or goes to college, the late teens is likely to be when he gets really serious about practice. Which would put the ten year point at about age 27-28.

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posted by BubbaFan, 5:16 PM | link | 4 comments |

Friday, December 26, 2008

December winners, October losers


From Jacob Luft of SI.com:

For Yanks, winter success hasn't yielded much silverware

Unfortunately for the Yankees, you don't get a ring for winning the Hot Stove. As much as Yankees fans may think these signings somehow guarantee a playoff spot, or even a ring, recent history tells a different tale.

These hired guns merely represent the latest in a long line of Mr. Decembers the Yankees have been so successful in acquiring. What they need is the next Mr. October. (Here's a hint: Whoever he is, he's not wearing No. 13 in pinstripes.) What they need is an answer to why they consistently fall short at the hands of younger, hungrier teams that feature dominant pitching, something called "defense" and a 40-man roster buttressed by another mysterious baseball contraption known as a "farm system."

He has a point. Those certainly were weaknesses of Yankees teams in recent years.

However, it's not like the Yankees have much of a choice. They drafted poorly for years, then traded away all their best prospects. That means they pretty much have to buy players now if they want to win. And being the Yankees, of course they want to win.

But the reason I'm highlighting Mr. Luft's article is this part:

2005

Hot Stove haul: Johnson, Pavano, Jaret Wright

Ring haul: Zero

What happened?: Sheffield crashes into Bubba Crosby in the outfield in Game 5, allowing a weaker Angels club to pull off the first-round upset. Pavano shows up to work for a little while, then decides it's just not his thing.

Yes! Finally, a mainstream sports reporter gets it right. Bubba didn't crash into Sheff, Sheff crashed into Bubba. Bubba was set up under the ball, fer cripes sake.

posted by BubbaFan, 10:45 PM | link | 0 comments |

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Brother, can you spare a dime?


The NY Times is hurting for cash. They took out a mortgage on their new building a couple of weeks ago, but apparently, it wasn't enough. They may be forced to sell their stake in the Boston Red Sox:

New York Times may sell Red Sox stake

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- The New York Times Co is trying to sell its stake in the holding company of the Boston Red Sox baseball team, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing people familiar with the discussions.

The sale, which could give the Times desperately needed cash as newspaper advertising revenue falls and its debt payments loom, could involve its 17.5 percent stake in New England Sports Ventures and possibly the struggling Boston Globe daily newspaper, the Journal reported.

New England Sports Ventures owns the Red Sox, the Fenway Park baseball field where the team plays, and most of the cable network that shows their games.

Yankees fans would not be upset about it, that's for sure. Many felt the Times were traitors, owning the Sox while reporting in the Yankees' home town.

Still, it's a little scary that big-name papers like the NY Times, Boston Globe, LA Times, and Chicago Tribune are struggling so. They haven't quite figured out how to make money on the Internet. And bloggers are pretty much parasites on the mainstream media.

Meanwhile...former Yankee farmhand Mike Vento has signed a minor league deal with the Nationals.

Merry Christmas, all!


posted by BubbaFan, 6:34 PM | link | 0 comments |

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Texmas


Well, well. Brian Cashman snuck out for some secret last-minute Christmas shopping, and came home with Mark Teixeira. Yankee fans are ecstatic.

And I'm stunned. I really didn't think there was room on the team (or in the budget) for Teixeira.

But not as stunned as Pete Abe, who has been telling his readers for weeks that they were stupid if they thought the Yankees would sign Tex. Indeed, as recently as this afternoon, he posted an article about why the Yanks couldn't afford Teixeira. Less than an hour and a half later, news of the signing broke.

I wonder if the Yankees will now trade Nady or Swisher. It doesn't seem like there's room enough on the team for all of them.

posted by BubbaFan, 6:47 PM | link | 0 comments |

Monday, December 22, 2008

Andy Phillips is a Pirate



Andy Phillips got a new team for Christmas. According to MLB.com, Andy has signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He has a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.


The Pirates' spring training is in Sarasota, like the Reds. If he doesn't make the roster, he'll play with the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians. They're in the IL, so we'll get to see him play the SWB Yankees at least.


(Photos are from the "Miracle on Madison" charity event, Dec. 3, 2007.)

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posted by BubbaFan, 6:09 PM | link | 0 comments |

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow




Well, we won't have Chris Britton to kick around any more. He signed with the Padres after the Yanks non-tendered him.

The Yankees didn't seem to like Britton very much for some reason. They just never gave him much of a shot. Basically, they called him up when they were absolutely desperate, and sent him down as soon as possible, even though he pitched really well. I figured someone would jump at the chance to sign him.

Meanwhile, we got socked with snow all weekend. Pity the poor stores that were hoping for a big weekend. The weekend before Christmas is the second biggest weekend for holiday shopping, after Thanksgiving weekend. Maybe the biggest, period. But in much of the country, people holed up at home, unwilling to venture forth into the snow. I suspect this has killed any hope of a good holiday season for retailers.

I did not even go grocery shopping this weekend. The weather was just too awful. The snow finally started tapering off this afternoon, and I went out to look around a bit. On foot, because I was too lazy to dig out my car.

Snow on the red berries of my neighbor's hedge.


Tables and benches at the local park give you an idea of just how much snow fell.


My neighbor's wreath, covered with snow:


I will have to dig out the car and go grocery shopping tomorrow, or it will be Spam and ramen for Christmas dinner.

posted by BubbaFan, 7:26 PM | link | 0 comments |

Friday, December 19, 2008

White Christmas


Okay, everyone loves a white Christmas, but this is ridiculous. We got about 15" this afternoon. As if that's not bad enough...they're predicting another 7" tomorrow night, from a different storm. Arrrghhh. Make it stop!

Today was the office Christmas party. Our office parties are tedious at best, but this one was really dreary. They moved it up to 11am (from noon), hoping to get it over with sooner so people could get home before the roads got too bad. A lot of people just didn't bother to show up. They either didn't want to drive in the snow, or their kids' schools were closed and they had no child care. Those who were there were nervously checking the weather.

Though they moved the party up, lunch was actually served late. It was 1:30pm when the entrees finally appeared. I think the kitchen staff was probably short-handed, with a lot of people calling in because of the weather. We were all getting really antsy. Not because we were hungry, but because we wanted to get it over with and go home. When we finally got our food, we scarfed it down and hit the road. No hanging around for coffee, no mingling to catch up with the retirees who only show up once a year at the Christmas party, no games of darts or billiards, no hitting other bars afterwards. Usually, I'm one of the first to sneak out, but this time, I was one of the last there. (And I didn't stay long. I left at about 2pm - half an hour after lunch was served.) It was unreal. Some people even took their meals to go.

Nobody really enjoys the Christmas party, even when it's not in the middle of a blizzard. It's such a hectic time of year that an office party is more a burden than a pleasure. Some have suggested not bothering, and instead having a summer picnic as our social function/team building exercise. There would be no snow worries, and we could do a potluck, which would be cheaper than going to a restaurant or hiring a caterer.

I like the idea, but the brass probably doesn't. They're very traditional. I suspect they'd be very hurt that people didn't appreciate their Christmas party.

Anyways, I had only a two-mile drive home, but it was harrowing. The roads were really awful. I skidded trying to turn onto my street (even though I wasn't going very fast). I could not turn the car in time, and ended up stuck in the middle of the intersection when the light changed. Luckily, there was no one behind me, so I could back up, out of the intersection, and try again when the light turned green. Parking was also a nightmare. There wasn't that much snow at the time, but it was pretty greasy.

Some of my coworkers had to drive an hour or more home. That must have been really awful.

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posted by BubbaFan, 10:04 PM | link | 2 comments |

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Paper Cuts


The economic crisis is hitting the media hard. Gannett laid off 10% of its staff. The Chicago Tribune (owner of the Cubs) is bankrupt, as is sister paper the Los Angeles Times. CNN laid off its entire science department, including Miles O'Brien. The New York Times was forced to take out a mortgage on their building last week. Christian Science Monitor is going web-only, no longer printing a dead-tree version. The Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News are considering delivering papers only three days a week, and asking their subscribers to read the paper online on other days.

This article from AFP has a summary:

US newspapers struggling to survive

Circulation is dropping, print advertising revenue is falling and readers are going online to get news for free, leaving the US newspaper industry awash in red ink and threatening some of the biggest names in journalism.

"The business model that used to work at newspapers does not work any more," The Washington Post Co chairman Donald Graham said last week, echoing what many observers of the US media landscape have been saying for some time.

...The crisis gripping the industry is of course no laughing matter to the 15,422 newspaper employees who have been laid off this year or taken buyouts, according to figures compiled by Erica Smith, a St Louis Post-Dispatch journalist who tracks the cuts on her blog at graphicdesignr.net/papercuts/

Media job losses are also being updated several times a day on a feed on micro-blogging service Twitter started last month by a group of public relations agents called The Media Is Dying (twitter.com/themediaisdying).

Not a day goes by without more bad news for the newspaper industry as the financial slowdown accelerates the decline in print advertising revenue and more classified advertisers turn to free websites such as Craigslist.com.

As the article points out, the problem is not all due to the financial crisis. Rather, the bad economy has hastened what was probably an inevitable decline. The traditional media was already under pressure from "new media" - the Internet.

A few years ago, I was home for Christmas and watched Hawai`i win a thrilling bowl game with my parents. After the game, my mom couldn't wait to read about it in the paper the next day. Not me. I got online and read about it right away. Not only that, I went to the loser's web site and read their articles, too. And didn't have to get black stuff all over my fingers.

I have never subscribed to a newspaper, and I can't imagine I ever will. Why, when you can get news for free on the net?

And yet...I'm not sure net news is ready to stand alone. A bunch of bloggers isn't going to provide the coverage that real papers with regular reporters can provide. Some papers have been trying to transition to the web, but the bad economy is making that difficult. Web advertising is likely to drop just like print advertising is. (Perhaps even more so, since browsers like Firefox allow people to easily block ads.)

Eventually, that may affect even us bloggers. The dot-com bust saw a lot of "free" things that people had taken for granted disappear, or become so crippled as to be useless. Free Internet access, such as Juno and Netzero, became pay services. Free webhosting became so limited and choked with ads that most people ended up paying for hosting instead. I wonder if the same thing will happen to blogs and social networking sites this time around.

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posted by BubbaFan, 8:23 PM | link | 0 comments |

Friday, December 12, 2008

Things are tough all over


The economic crisis is hitting sports at all levels. From the local:

East Side Union chief to propose a budget that eliminates all sports

In an extraordinary cost-cutting proposal even for hard times, a school chief in East San Jose wants to eliminate football, basketball, soccer and all other athletic programs involving thousands of students at 11 high schools.

"I didn't do this for shock value," said Bob Nunez, superintendent of the East Side Union High School District. "I did it because I need to look at the academic programs we would not have if we keep sports."

To the national:

Economic slump causes NFL to cut staff
NEW YORK (AP) -- The NFL pays its players billions of dollars a year and fans pack its stadiums every week. But even the deep-pocketed league is shedding jobs.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday that the league is cutting more than 10 percent of its staff in response to the downturn in the nation's economy that could put a dent in ticket sales for next season.

...The NFL long has been regarded as one of the most wealthiest pro sports leagues on the planet. In September, Forbes called the NFL "the richest game" and the "the strongest sport in the world." The league has revenues of approximately $6.5 billion of which an estimated $4.5 billion goes to players.

But now it joins the NBA, NASCAR teams and the company that runs Major League Baseball's Internet division in announcing layoffs. The NHL hasn't laid off workers, though it is in a hiring freeze, a spokesman said Tuesday.

The Yankees, however, seem unfazed. They reportedly signed A.J. Burnett to a five-year, $82.5 million deal today.

Yes, they have a ton of money with expired contracts coming off the books. But I wonder if they'll regret this. Other teams are being very cautious because of the financial crisis. The Yankees may be wealthy, but they just shelled out for that fancy new stadium. And will be competing with the Jets, Giants, and Mets, who will also have new digs, in selling seats.

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posted by BubbaFan, 6:29 PM | link | 0 comments |

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Melky to Milwaukee?


Cashman is certainly not letting grass grow under his feet this year. Many suspect that he's doing what he wished he did last year. The fact that Yankees have $80 million coming off the books this year doesn't hurt. He landed Sabathia, and is wooing Sheets, Lowe, Burnett...and Pettitte.

Now it sounds like Melky Cabrera will be sent to Milwaukee for outfielder Mike Cameron. Other players may be thrown in. The Brewers reportedly want a prospect thrown in if they have to eat some of Cameron's salary. And the Yankees are supposedly interested in Bill Hall, too. (If Hall ends up in pinstripes, Reds fans will be very happy. He wreaks havoc on the Reds.)

The Rule 5 draft was today, and the Yankees were totally raided. Six players were taken from the Yankees system, four in the major league phase. They didn't take anyone. Wow. I guess that says something about the Yankees' farm system.

posted by BubbaFan, 7:30 PM | link | 0 comments |

Friday, December 05, 2008

Wise Fools



One of the few things I remember from my sophomore year of high school: my English teacher telling us that "sophomore" means "wise fool."

These photos are from the 1993 Bellaire High yearbook. (Thanks, R!) Looks like Bubba made the varsity baseball team as a sophomore:


Bubba is in the second row, first on the left. Here's a detail:


And here's his regular yearbook pic. It's a little odd-looking because it was on the inner edge of the page, and it was hard to scan because of the yearbook binding. Very nice pic anyway.


Dunno what the deal is with the loud shirts. He wore a pretty wild shirt in his freshman pic, too.

It's not that I don't like the shirts. Hey, I'm from Hawaii, where a Hawaiian shirt is appropriate for any occasion. And you should have seen the things I wore back in 1993. (I seem to recall that pleated miniskirts and blouses made of bright prints with strategically placed transparent patches were fashionable around then.) But I think those shirts are the wildest things I've ever seen Bubba wear. (Except that Elvis costume, of course.) Other players wear gaudy t-shirts, pink leather ties, and flashy jewelry off the field, but Bubba's civvies are always pretty conservative. He dresses like the guys at my geeky engineering school did. (I once read an old copy of Women's Dress for Success, and it advised women who want to marry an engineer to dress in solid colors only, because engineers hate prints. That cracked me up...because it's so true!)

I wonder if his mom dressed him in those shirts? By his junior year, he was wearing the LL Bean-type clothes we're used to seeing him in.

posted by BubbaFan, 7:40 PM | link | 0 comments |

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Trading Cano?


Dunno if anything will come of it, but the Dodgers have inquired about Robinson Cano.

The teams are expected to renew their talks about Cano at the winter meetings, and the Yankees again figure to ask for outfielder Matt Kemp. Cano, however, is red-hot in winter ball, and the Yankees will value him as the offensive machine he was in 2006 and '07, not the player who slumped in '08...

I'm not quite sure what to make of Cano. More and more, he's reminding me of a previous Yankees second baseman: Alphonso Soriano. Great hitter, not so great plate discipline, and a bit of a headcase. Well, headcase may be too strong a word. But Cano, like Sori before him, is a bit immature, and doesn't seem to be learning from experience. I think he will have an impressive career, but perhaps not with the Yankees.

Nice that he's doing well in winterball...but Melky did well in winterball last year, and it didn't translate to the big leagues.

Speaking of which...some have suggested that Cano and Melky both would do better if they weren't playing together. Though I don't think Melky has much trade value at this point.

My guess is Cashman wouldn't want to trade Cano. Maybe it's 20-20 hindsight, but it seems like he holds onto his players too long. Melky's peak value was two years ago. They could have gotten a lot more for Scott Proctor if they'd traded him earlier, too. And Girardi tried to trade for Bubba in the spring of 2006, and was rebuffed.

Also, it's not like the Yanks have anyone who can play second base better than Cano. If they trade Robby, they'll have to trade for a replacement, too.

I get the feeling that some in the Yankees organization are a bit fed up with Cano's attitude, but with his talent, I think they'll be patient with him.

posted by BubbaFan, 10:08 PM | link | 4 comments |

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Arbitration Deadline


Tonight at midnight is the arbitration deadline. The economic crisis is clearly having an effect. The Yankees did not offer anyone arbitration - not even Bobby Abreu, which was a surprise.

And the Diamondbacks didn't offer arbitration to Adam Dunn.

A couple of months ago, this would have been shocking. The D-backs were counting on getting a couple of draft picks when Dunn became a free agent. That's the reason they gave up the players they gave up. Near as I can figure, the D-backs didn’t offer him arbitration because they were afraid he’d accept the offer.

He’s said he really loves Arizona and fit in well in the clubhouse. And with the market the way it is, he might have been willing to take a one-year deal, in hopes that the market will be better next year.

This is a result of the financial crisis. Everyone’s watching their pennies...even major league baseball teams.

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posted by BubbaFan, 11:15 PM | link | 0 comments |