Every team seems to have one: a guy who gets all the blame, receives non-stop derision, and can do nothing right. Whether or not the latter is necessarily true or not, some players can’t win for losing. And for the Oakland A’s, before there was Daric Barton, there was Bobby Crosby.
I scooped ice cream with Bobby yesterday at the 95.7 The Game booth during the A’s annual Root Beer Float Day, which raised an impressive $34,709 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. I’ve been a “celebrity scooper” at the Coliseum the last six years and it’s always been a great chance to interact with people and help kids in need. It was also the first time I saw Crosby there, let alone work with him.
I was honestly surprised to see him there. I recall his father, former big leaguer Ed Crosby, had some rather unpleasant things to say about the A’s organization after Bobby had left. But I was also happy to see Bobby there. I always liked him on a personal level and it never sat well with me that he was the whipping boy for so many years. It’s always hard to pinpoint just why a certain athlete becomes the brunt of every joke, but it certainly happened to Crosby. It was rather unexpected, because at first it looked like things were going to go in a much better direction for him.
I remember that when the A’s drafted Crosby in the first round of the 2001 draft, shortstop Miguel Tejada remarked, “A shortstop? Should I worry about my job?”
Well, it was a prescient statement by Miggy because it was Crosby who replaced him in 2004 when Tejada was allowed to leave as a free agent to Baltimore. Although Tejada was the AL MVP in 2002, cheapskate ownership knew Crosby was waiting in the minors and was much less expensive labor. And Crosby won the AL Rookie of the Year that season, making A’s fans salivate over a young talent that would surely improve in the coming years. Although Crosby only batted .239 in his debut season, he led all American League rookies in hits, doubles, and walks. But two other numbers really stood out. He whacked an impressive 22 homers runs yet also struck out 141 times. Those are Rob Deer stats.
In his second season as Oakland’s everyday shortstop, his average went up to a career-high of .276, but injuries meant he only played half the season. From then on out for the next four years, he never hit above .237 and never reached double-digits in dingers. In his last year with the A’s, 2009, he was supposed to slot into a utility role. But injuries to Orlando Cabrera, Nomar Garciaparra, and Mark Ellis meant that Crosby would receive plenty of playing time. I recall a game one sunny afternoon versus the Yankees. Crosby was at short and was being heckled in the top of the first before being openly booed as he stepped in for his first AB of the day. He was a target of hate before he even had a chance to fail or make a mistake that day.
My friend Joe mentioned something to me yesterday which I didn’t know about. He said that once at a FanFest a fan got on the mic during a question and answer period with the players and openly questioned Crosby’s desire to win and if he even cared about baseball. He said it was very awkward. I feel badly for Crosby, because in my mind, he was just a guy who couldn’t hit major league pitching. At least, not at a consistent level. His career average (including time with Pittsburgh and Arizona) is .236, which seems about right. I guess he never quite lived up to the expectations of the fanbase, and perhaps he reminded us all of Ben Grieve, another A’s Rookie of the Year who quickly fizzled out.
Yesterday, though, you didn’t hear any boos. You only heard the screams and swoons of lots of women who gladly paid ten bucks to the JDRF to take a picture with Crosby. He still is in great shape and retains his Hollywood good looks. Crosby told me he’s running a baseball academy down in Orange County now, not too far to where he grew up. I’m just glad he was asked to come, he showed up, and helped raise money for a good cause. Maybe now he doesn’t feel as sour about his time here as he might have before this event. I know it made me feel better about the whole thing.