February 21, 2007
Crosby likes Reds' camaraderie
By C. Trent Rosecrans
Bubba Crosby wants to show he's more than the defensive specialist he was labeled with the New York Yankees.
SARASOTA, Fla. - When Bubba Crosby walked into the Reds clubhouse at the City of Sarasota Sports Complex for the first time, he saw something he wasn't really used to, guys hugging each other and talking about dinner plans.
Crosby, who spent the last three years with the New York Yankees, wasn't used to seeing such a level of camaraderie.
Monday's drama in Tampa was that Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter aren't best friends. In Sarasota, Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn were ganging up on Ryan Freel and busting up the entire clubhouse in laughter.
"That's something we lacked in New York. It felt like everyone would go their own separate ways. Here guys go out and do things together," said Crosby, who was signed to a free agent contract in the off-season. "I think that's a huge part of the game. The Yankees have had $200 million-plus payrolls the last few years. Money doesn't mean championships all the time. You look at St. Louis, it looks like the guys love each other and hang out."
Even though position players aren't required to report until Thursday, most of the Reds regulars are already in Sarasota and have been for a while, just hanging out in the clubhouse and working on their own. They're here to work on their skills, but also because they want to be here and enjoy being here.
"We have a bunch of guys who screw around when it's time to screw around and be serious when it's time to serious," said pitcher Aaron Harang. "That makes it more fun to come to work every day."
It didn't take too long for Crosby to feel as if he fit in, getting invited to dinner by other players and joining in the clubhouse jokes.
"I've just been here five days, and everyone's been accepting to people coming in," Crosby said. "The staff and everyone have been great."
Crosby isn't just happy to be with the Reds for the clubhouse hijinks, but because after becoming a minor league free agent following the 2006 season, he wanted to find a place where he could play his style of baseball.
Because the 5-foot-11 Crosby is fast, loves to run and is a good bunter, he knew he wanted to play in the National League, and he found Cincinnati to be the best fit.
"Even being a fifth outfielder for a National League team, you're going to get three times as many at-bats as I would if I were with the Yankees again," Crosby said. "It's exciting to know I can play my game. Sometimes I'd get the green light, but I'd get the stare from Joe (Torre) that said I better be sure. Then you hesitate and just wait for (Hideki) Matsui to hit a two-run homer."
In three seasons with the Yankees, Crosby never had more than 100 at-bats in a season, despite appearing in as many as 76 games for New York in 2005. He stole just nine bases in his three seasons, despite stealing 106 in the minors.
Crosby, who can play all three outfield positions, was used primarily as a defensive player, either starting or coming in late in the game to shore up the defense. In the 2005 American League Division Series, he started in center field for three of the five games. He went 2-for-3 with an RBI in Game 5, but was pulled for pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra in the eighth inning of a Yankee loss.
"I think I just got labeled with the Yankees as a utility outfielder. I never got a chance to hit a whole lot in New York," Crosby said. "There they used two extra outfielders, they had an offensive guy, which was Bernie (Williams) last year, and a defensive one, which was me. I'd go out and do my part, but if my spot came in the order to hit, Bernie would hit for me."
Spotty at-bats hurt his timing, Crosby said, which hurt his numbers. He hit .207 last season (18-for-87) and .276 in 2005 (27-for-98). It's not that he can't hit, Crosby said, it's that he hasn't been given a chance. Not many players get called up to the big leagues to be outfield defensive specialist. Crosby hit .361 in Class AAA Las Vegas in 2003 before being called up the Dodgers and then traded to New York. He's a career .279 hitter in the minor leagues.
"I hit every spring training. I got to the big leagues with the Dodgers because I could hit," Crosby said. "I was ready to see what I can do, hitting. I knew I could go out there in spring and lead the whole camp in hitting and it wouldn't matter, I'd still be the fifth outfielder. It's nice to go to an organization that if you produce, you're going to play."
(NOTE: This article caused a bit of a ruckus among Yankee fans; please see Trent's explanation here.)