All Things Bubba

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

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Waiting for spring

Seems like we're getting a snowstorm a week. This week's wasn't as as bad as it could have been. We got a lot of snow, followed by sleet and then rain. It melted, leaving a thick layer of slush over everything Wednesday afternoon. Which of course froze solid overnight, making it treacherous to walk around this morning.

I'm eagerly awaiting spring, and baseball season. I can't wait to pack up my camera and head to the ballpark again.

Former Yankee Matt DeSalvo signed a minor league deal with the Mets.

The Pirates have signed Eric Hinske to a guaranteed contract. That probably means Doug Mientkiewicz won't be returning to Pittsburgh. Not sure what this means for Andy Phillips. Hinske plays the same positions as Andy, but bats left. They may want a righty to go along with him.

posted by BubbaFan, 9:06 PM | link | 0 comments |

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Yankee Years

The baseball world is abuzz over The Yankee Years, the new book co-written by Joe Torre. It won't be officially released until February 3, but review copies have gone out, and there are a ton of articles already.

The New York Times review by Michiko Kakutani suggests that what went wrong with the Yankees was exactly what fans have been complaining about for years:

The hallmark of the Yankees who won World Series championships in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000 was gritty team play: they weren’t famous for a roster of flashy superstars or power hitters; rather, they were a resolute band of brothers, who put collective play above individual stats — an ensemble distinguished by its chemistry on the field and in the clubhouse, a team renowned for its resourcefulness, its determination and its ability to grind out win after win after win.

...Torre and Verducci note that as the core of the old guard from the championship years dwindled — Tino Martinez, Scott Brosius, Chuck Knoblauch and Paul O’Neill were all history by 2002 — the front office tended to turn to imported All-Stars, who failed to congeal into an effective ensemble. The farm system, which had produced the likes of Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams and Rivera, was increasingly neglected, and Steinbrenner began to indulge his taste for what Torre calls “big boppers” like Jason Giambi, who the manager felt “wasn’t part of what we prided ourselves on: playing well defensively.”

Though that was what Ms. Kakutani found most interesting about the book, the sports world is fascinated with the clubhouse confidences Torre apparently revealed.

Kevin Brown was a basket case. Randy Johnson was fragile and easily rattled. A-Rod was obsessed with Jeter, and his teammates called him "A-Fraud" behind his back. George Steinbrenner was no longer lucid by 2007. And everyone despised Carl Pavano.

I'm not sure what to think. What happens in the clubhouse is supposed to stay there, and I'm kind of surprised that Torre would break that unwritten rule, especially since he's still managing, albeit for a different team. Some are accusing him of doing it for the money, but I find that hard to believe. How much money does he need? The Yankees paid him millions, he's being paid well by the Dodgers, and he's had a slew of endorsement deals. I doubt young Andrea will have to worry about how she's going to pay for college.

More likely, this is payback for the way he was fired. The Yankees treated him very shabbily. I think it was time for him to go, and they had every right to fire him...but they should have had the guts to do it directly. Instead, we got that whole dog and pony show, with Torre left swinging in the breeze for days. Finally, they offered him a contract calculated to be so insulting they knew he would refuse it. They were too lily-livered to actually fire him, for fear of how the fans would react. He deserved better than that.

I don't blame Torre for being bitter, but I'm still surprised he would do this. He just didn't seem the type.

I confess, though...I'm dying to read this book. I've already got it on pre-order at Amazon.


posted by BubbaFan, 11:22 PM | link | 0 comments |

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Can Andy Phillips make the Pirates' roster?

I have a friend who is a long-time Pirates fan. (She's a big reason I am a baseball fan today.) I e-mailed her yesterday and asked her if she thought the Bucs would sign Minky, and if they did, was there still room on the roster for Andy Phillips?

She replied that she didn't think there was room on the roster for either Minky or Andy. The fans love Minky, and want him back. She does, too. But the Pirates want 41-year-old Luis Gonzalez instead. She's horrified at the very thought.

Bucs Dugout thinks it's a bad idea, too:

The Pirates already have Jeff Salazar, a better, more versatile defensive outfielder and probably Gonzalez' equal as a hitter, signed to a minor league contract. The Pirates should let him have one of the bench spots. They also have Andy Phillips, a good minor-league hitter who can probably fill the Mientkiewicz infield-corners role perfectly well. Phillips can also fill in at second and left in a pinch, and he's a righty, so he can take some at bats against tough lefties away from Adam LaRoche early in the season.

They think Andy should get a roster spot, and the Bucs should sign an outfielder like Adam Dunn, Bobby Abreu, or Eric Hinske. (The Pirates are rumored to be close to signing Hinske.)

In any case, it sounds like Andy has a legitimate chance to make the Pirates' roster, though it's far from a sure thing.

And in other hot stove news, the Yankees DFA'd Chase Wright in order to make room for Andy Pettitte on the roster. Pretty much what everyone was expecting.

posted by BubbaFan, 7:28 PM | link | 2 comments |

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A bad year for free agents

Even though I've been seriously concerned about the economy for awhile now, I'm really surprised at how quickly it's affected Major League Baseball. Surely the multimillionaire kings of the diamond would be immune to the downturn, at least for awhile.

Nope. There are a lot of big name stars still looking for jobs. Some players and their agents suspect collusion, but they're in denial. The problem is the economy:

Rather, it would seem to be a confluence of factors that has caused this ice jam in the free agent market - the economy, the downside of many players left on the market and a disconnect between the agents and the new-market value of their clients. You could add to that the gloomy long-term economic picture former treasury secretary Paul Volcker painted for the owners at their meeting in New York last November. Between that and Bud Selig's even more dire follow-up speech, the owners were left pale-faced.

The Yankees are still spending, but that's about it:

..."I always felt the top 5-6 guys would get their money and the Yankees pretty much took care of that," said one baseball executive. "But I can tell you, teams are scared to death about how the economy is going to affect all their in-ballpark revenues, above and beyond just ticket sales. Things like advertising, corporate sponsorship and merchandising."

Long time Red Adam Dunn is a prime example. He just turned 29, and is in his baseball prime. He's been a remarkably consistent power bat, though his defense is pretty terrible. He reportedly told his teammates last year that he expected to sign a multi-year contract for $100 million or more.

But teams have not been beating a path to his door. As the hot stove season went on, there was speculation that he might have to settle for three years, $36 million. Now, many are expecting him to sign for one year and less than $10 million. That won't put him in the poor house, but it's a big fall from what was expected. It has to be a major bummer for Dunn, who has probably been eagerly awaiting free agency, only to have the market collapse just as he arrived.

Many are expecting him to sign for one year, in hopes that next year will be better. I'm not so sure that's the smart thing to do. This looks like it's going to be a major recession. Another Great Depression, or worse. Next year could be worse, not better. And even if it's not...there's always the possibility of injury.

Of course, he may not have a choice. There may be no team willing to offer him a multiyear deal, even at a discount. But if there is...I think I'd go for it, even if it's a big drop from the $100 million he was hoping for.


posted by BubbaFan, 9:56 PM | link | 0 comments |

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Million dollar Melky

Pete Abe reports that Melky Cabrera and the Yankees avoided arbitration. Melky wanted $1.7 million, the Yanks offered $1.2 million. They settled on a $1.4 million deal, plus performance incentives.

Unreal. He was terrible. He got sent down to AAA. There were stories about him and Cano partying at all hours, and it was rumored one reason he was sent down was because they wanted to separate the two and break up the party. I can't believe Melky had the 'nads to even file for arbitration after the year he had. And he gets a million dollar raise.

In other hot stove news...Mike Stanton signed a minor league deal with the Cuba.

And Doug Mientkiewicz, though still unsigned, may return to the Pirates. Apparently, the Pittsburgh fans love him:

Doug Mientkiewicz said he was "blown away" by feedback he has heard and read from Pittsburgh fans urging the Pirates to re-sign him. Had he been received like this anywhere else? "Not this quickly," he said. "And I had a good year, but I didn't do what I thought I was capable of doing. My numbers were very average, at best. I should have had more home runs, more RBIs. But, that said, the way the people there took to me - I'm overwhelmed, floored, whatever words you can use to describe it. They get me. They understand me."

The Pirates front office seems less enthusiastic, but they've expressed some interest.

posted by BubbaFan, 8:48 PM | link | 2 comments |

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Rest in peace, India

Ruben Sierra's furry namesake.

I just found out that the First Cat died January 4. Actually, I just found out we had a First Cat. I didn't realize that Bush family even had a cat. Dogs, sure, but their cat apparently kept a very low profile.

The 18-year-old cat was named India - after Ruben Sierra. One of his nicknames was "El Indio" ("The Indian" - a name he got growing up in Puerto Rico, since his father was Indian).

India, an American shorthair, grew up with the Bushes’ twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara. According to Bush family lore, it was young Barbara who named the cat after one of her dad’s star players when he was an owner of the Texas Rangers.

As for the previous First Cat, Socks...he's still alive and kicking, though now old and ill. Like many other Clintonistas, he has moved back to DC now that the Democrats have taken over the White House again.

posted by BubbaFan, 9:46 AM | link | 0 comments |

Friday, January 16, 2009

Money, Money, Money

The McPaper had another article the other day about how the bad economy is affecting sports. The problem isn't the fans. At least so far, the fans are hanging in there. The problem is the sponsors. The Arena Football League has canceled their 2009 season. Not because they're afraid they can't sell tickets, but because they're afraid their sponsors will pull out. A lot of their sponsors are in the banking and car industries - both very hard hit by the financial crisis.

Baseball must be facing similar issues. The SWB Yankees play on PNC Field, and a lot of other teams also play in parks that bear the names of banks. I suppose they must have an advantage over sports like Arena Football, being connected to deep-pocketed big league teams...but even the big league teams seem a little worried.

The issue of salary cap has arisen again:

Some baseball owners say it may be time to reconsider a salary cap after the New York Yankees spent nearly a half-billion dollars on free agents during a recession that may cause some teams to retrench.

"I would ask, if it's such a bad idea, what sport doesn't have a salary cap other than us?" Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio said Wednesday.

But even the Yankees are having money problems:

The Yankees are asking at a hearing this week for another $259 million in tax-exempt bonds and $111 million in taxable bonds to build the Bronx stadium, scheduled to open with an exhibition game on April 3. That's on top of $940 million in tax-exempt bonds and $25 million in taxable bonds already granted.

The cost of the stadium has risen to $1.5 billion from $800 million when the project was announced in June 2005. The cost includes $1.3 billion in bond financing and $225 million in private funds.

The subsidies for the stadium have sparked outrage in the middle of a global economic meltdown that has crippled the city's budget and cut thousands of working-class jobs while the Yankees doled out hundreds of millions of dollars for new players. The team, which last season failed to make the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade, signed pitchers CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett and first baseman Mark Teixeira to contracts totaling $423.5 million.

The Yanks did eventually get the tax breaks they asked for. However, a lot of New Yorkers, including many Yankee fans, are angry. The state budget is terrible shape. And it's the billionaire Yankees who are getting a bailout? I don't blame people for being upset. And if the financial crisis continues - and I fear it will - people will be even more irate.


posted by BubbaFan, 8:05 PM | link | 0 comments |

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Shelley Duncan clears waivers

The Yankees released the list of players given spring training invites. Among them is Shelley Duncan, which means he must have cleared waivers. I'm kind of surprised. I thought someone would grab him.

Since this is the first time he was outrighted to the minors, he could not refuse the assignment.

Among other transactions: Justin Christian signed with Baltimore. Randy Choate signed with the Rays. And Nick Green signed with the Red Sox.

posted by BubbaFan, 6:39 PM | link | 0 comments |

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Hall of Fame

The votes are in, and Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice have been elected to the Hall of Fame. Henderson was a no-brainer, Rice, not so much.

Rickey Henderson blocked Bubba when he was a Dodger:

SARASOTA, FL (March 31, 2005) – Rickey Henderson is still available, presumably in great shape and ready to resume his career. The Yankees, to Bubba Crosby's relief, are not interested.

Henderson, a future Hall of Fame outfielder, represented the most deflating moment in Crosby's career. After six minor-league seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Crosby had finally learned how to hit. He was bruising the Pacific Coast League in the summer of 2003, and the Dodgers were desperate for hitting.

But instead of calling up Crosby, their former first-round pick, the Dodgers signed Henderson, who was 44 years old. Henderson batted .208. The Dodgers traded Crosby to the Yankees for Robin Ventura two weeks later, when he was batting .361 at Triple-A.

"Even though Rickey Henderson is one of the greatest baseball players ever, it was still, to me, kind of a slap in my face that I didn't get an opportunity," Crosby said. "I was a Dodger, and in that organization, that's all they talk about – breeding young talent, moving through the organization. It was kind of like, what else do I need to do?"

Well, I guess if you're going to be blocked, it might as well be by a future hall of famer.

posted by BubbaFan, 10:12 PM | link | 0 comments |

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Bellaire police shooting unearths unease

A follow-up on the Robbie Tolan shooting, which I posted about before. The Houston Chronicle has an article about it today, which includes a section about Bellaire's minority athletes. Jose Cruz Jr. says he moved away from Bellaire because of the way police treated him.

Celebrity residents have not been immune from police contact. Tolan's father, Bobby, was a major league baseball player, and the son starred at Bellaire High School.

Jose Cruz Jr., a former Bellaire High School and Rice University baseball standout and son of the one-time Astros star hitter, told a Houston television station last week that he, too, had been stopped by Bellaire police as an adult in 2002, an incident he said prompted him to move from his old hometown.

He said he was in a new car with his pregnant wife when a police officer stopped him because of an absent front license plate. He said he believed he was racially profiled.

"The officer proceeded to arrest me," Cruz told KHOU-TV (Channel 11). "He told me that there were warrants out for my arrest. I told him that I didn't have so much as a ticket, much less a warrant."

Because of the mistake, Cruz said, he ended up spending the night in jail.

There are hundreds of comments about the article. Obviously, feelings are running high.

We are soon to have a black president, which I wasn't sure I'd live to see. We've made a lot of progress over the last few decades. It's hard to imagine anyone today having to go through what Jackie Robinson had to put up with. But we've still got a long way to go.

And not just in Texas. In my town in upstate New York, there are still neighborhoods where minorities are not welcome. And not just blacks, Hispanics, and Asians; certain types of whites are not welcome, either. If your last name ends in a vowel, keep going. (That is, if you're Italian or Polish.)

I was reminded of that this week, because I was taking a class on mapping software, and zoomed in on one such neighborhood. Of course they don't actually say "No Italians allowed." The locals just know it. Including the real estate agents, who steer their clients accordingly.

Ironically, this neighborhood has attracted a lot of white professors from a nearby college. It's a private college, expensive and artsy. These professors tend to be very politically correct - the kind who go out of their way to give their children black and Asian and Hispanic dolls, as well as blue-eyed blond ones. They'd probably be horrified to know they were living in a segregated neighborhood.

posted by BubbaFan, 7:20 PM | link | 0 comments |

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Cardboard Crosby: 2003 Las Vegas 51s

This minor league card is dated 2003, and was probably actually printed then, since it doesn't include his 2003 stats. Bubba had played some games with the 51s in 2001 and 2002, so the photo is probably from one of those seasons. Likely 2002.

Here's the back:

It says:

Crosby enters his sixth season in professional baseball...split time last season between Double-A Jacksonville and the 51s...played in a total of 111 games. 2002: Appeared in 73 games for the 51s and battled .262 (73-for-279) with 12 doubles, nine home runs and 36 RBI...collected 19 multiple-hit games...appeared in 38 games at Jacksonville and batted .260. 2001: Led Southern League co-champion Jacksonville with a .302 batting mark...named to postseason SL all-star team...selected to the National League squad for Double-A All-Star a junior at Rice University in 1998, earned All-American honors after hitting .394 with 25 home runs and 91 RBI.

No, "51" isn't the name of a card game. The team is named after Area 51, the supposed UFO airbase. Hence the little gray alien head on the logo.

posted by BubbaFan, 12:52 PM | link | 0 comments |

Friday, January 09, 2009

Bible Baseball Camp

I posted before about Andy Phillips' involvement with the Baseball Country baseball camp. His hometown paper, the Demopolis Times, has an article about it today.

Small groups of campers, no more than 24 per camp, are drawn to the Burns property that provides professional baseball player instructors like Lee Evans, a fourth round Pittsburgh draft choice in 1996, and Andy Phillips, who recently signed as an infielder for the Pirates.

Phillips said his passion is helping to make a difference in the lives of these children. While some big names come to help with baseball camp, the most satisfying part of the program, he said, is watching these children develop confidence not only in their ability on the field, but their relationship with God.

"It's literally a field of dreams," Phillips said. "These kids come to camp and they don't want to leave." A particular camp that excites him is the one the team does for underprivileged children. "These children have nothing," he said. "They show up without shoes or gloves. We take the equipment and teach them (baseball), but we are also sharing our love of Christ. We can teach baseball, but if that's all we're doing it's not enough. For me it's about helping the kids."

The Pirates are in the same division as the Reds, so if Andy makes the squad, he'll be playing against his old teammates. A lot. There's also a series against the Mets. And a series against the Marlins over Fourth of July weekend, for you Florida fans.


posted by BubbaFan, 8:04 PM | link | 0 comments |

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Dateline Bellaire

A strange and tragic story from Bubba's home town of Bellaire, Texas.

Son of baseballer shot by cop

(CNN) -- Robbie Tolan sits in a Houston, Texas, hospital bed with a bullet from a police officer's gun lodged in his liver. The son of a famed baseball player was shot in his own driveway.

But how this unarmed 23-year-old and his cousin ended up in the cross-hairs of an officer's gun, suspected of stealing a car, is a question sparking allegations of racial profiling.

Robbie Tolan played a little minor league baseball in the Nationals system, but didn't stick. He played most recently with an independent league team. He is the son of Bobby Tolan, a lefty outfielder who played for the Cincinnati Reds, among other teams.

He and his brother were coming back from a Jack In the Box run, when two police officers stopped them in their own driveway, and forced them to lie down on the ground, suspecting them of driving a stolen car.

The car was not stolen, and it's unclear why they thought it was. It was a Nissan Xterra - not a cheap car, but not so expensive you'd assume a person driving one had stolen it.

According to the article, the young man's mother heard the commotion, came out, and was shoved against the wall. Robbie tried to get up to defend her, and the officer shot him.

The officer who fired the gun is on administrative leave. Robbie will likely survive, but his baseball career may be over.

I guess I can understand the cop being quick on the trigger. They didn't know how many people were in the house, or if they were armed. But jeez, you can't expect a 23-year-old to just lie there when you're manhandling his mom.

I'm reminded of a guy I worked with on my first job in NYC. He grew up in a rough neighborhood, but had avoided drugs, gangs, and other pitfalls. He studied hard, got a degree and a good job, and seemed on his way to making something of himself. I sort of lost touch with him when I was transferred to a different department, and was shocked when I later heard that he was in jail. He was the last person in the world I would have expected to end up in jail. He had killed someone. Someone had attacked his mother, and he shot him.

It's rarely a good idea to mess with someone's mom.

posted by BubbaFan, 10:22 PM | link | 4 comments |

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Pieces sliding into place

Now that the holidays are over, the business of baseball is speeding up.

Mark Teixeira was added to the Yankees roster, which meant someone had to go. That someone was Shelley Duncan. If he clears waivers, he'll be back in Scranton. My guess is he won't clear waivers, though. Someone will want cheap, right-handed power.

Carl Pavano signed with the Indians. Good grief. Words fail me.

Andy Pettitte refused the Yankees' offer. It's not looking good for his return.

Jason Giambi is going home to Oakland. He got a one-year deal for $4.5 million.

And Bubba's chair went for $266.97.

posted by BubbaFan, 10:12 PM | link | 0 comments |

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Tide Rolled

Andy Phillips was doubtless rooting for the Crimson Tide last night. I thought they might have a national championship in them for awhile this year, but no. They got mugged by Utah in the Sugar Bowl. Just didn't look like the same team they were earlier this season.

And on the baseball front, "Everyday" Scott Proctor is now a Fish. He signed a one-year deal with the Marlins worth $750,000, and could earn another $250,000 in performance incentives.

Proctor is originally from Florida, not far from Miami, so this is going home for him.

posted by BubbaFan, 7:56 PM | link | 0 comments |

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Buy Bubba's Chair

Just when I thought I'd seen it all... Someone is selling chairs from the Yankees clubhouse, circa 2005. Including Bubba Crosby's.

Flash Gordon's chair is also available.

Pretty cool items. I imagine a lot of fans would love to have a chair from the Yankees clubhouse.

Minimum bid is only $0.99, but watch out for the shipping. It's $40. (Which is probably reasonable for such a bulky item.)

  Oh, and happy new year, all. Hard to believe it's actually 2009.

posted by BubbaFan, 9:46 AM | link | 0 comments |