So Am I Wrong About Bobby Crosby?

Most of you have probably seen Mychael Urban’s article on the middle infield, but I thought it was worth taking another look at the Crosby section, especially when my personal position appears to be in direct opposition.

On the other side of second base for the A's this year will again be the unfortunate soul whose recent injury history has turned him into anything but a Sure Thing in the minds of many A's fans.

Shortstop Bobby Crosby, the 2004 American League Rookie of the Year, has made five trips to the disabled list over the past three seasons, limiting him to fewer than 100 games each year, and he bottomed out in 2007 by batting .226 with eight homers, 31 RBIs and a .278 on-base percentage -- all career lows -- before missing the final 62 games with a broken bone in his left hand.

As a result, Crosby, who turned 27 earlier this month, has been the target of some vicious criticism on blogs and Web message boards. Among the printable labels with which he's been affixed are "bust," "fragile" and "useless."

Well, I object from the get-go on behalf of my contribution to this blog. I believe I had the temerity to use labels such as "overrated", "undisciplined", and "for-the-love-of-everything-sacred-and-holy-in-the-game-of-baseball-should-not-be-batting-third".

Crosby's teammates, however, virtually jump to his defense, calling the criticism unfair at best. And Ellis is at the front of the line.

Mark Ellis is adorable, but an unreliable witness. What is he supposed to say? "You know, Crosby kind of sucks at the plate?"  

"I don't think it's fair at all," Ellis sternly offered when the topic surfaced in September. "He's out right now with a broken hand because he got hit by a 98-mph fastball. He's been on the DL with a broken ankle [2005] after a collision at home plate. He's been on the DL after getting drilled in the ribs [2005]. He's missed time after getting spiked at the bag [2006]. That kind of stuff happens in this game. It's not like he's sitting out with something you can't see on an X-ray or with your own eyes. It's not like he's dogging it in rehab. "He's just been super unlucky. Sooner or later, his luck's going to turn and he's going to be the player that everyone in this room knows he can be."

Okay, see, I agree with the injury portion of the article. I don’t blame Crosby for his injuries. If you can truly label someone ‘prone to freak, not reoccurring, injuries’, Crosby would have that stuck to his forehead. It’s not his fault that he’s been injured, and just to set the record straight, I am not objecting to Crosby as a baseball player because I feel that he’s an injury risk. However, I could have been the person who broached the logical follow-up inquiry:

When it was pointed out to Geren that Crosby wasn't particularly good when he was healthy last season, he bristled.

Why? That seems like a simple observation to me.

"For one thing, he missed out on most of last offseason because of back problems that cost him time in Spring Training, and that impacts you for longer than some people might realize," Geren explained. "I don't think anybody in the organization is down on Bobby at all, because we know he's had some freak injuries over the past few years, and we know how hard that can be on a guy's development. You get hurt, you come back, you start to feel like you're getting back on track, and then you get hurt again and have to start all over again.

"That's what it's been like for Bobby since his rookie year. He gets off track, he gets on track, he gets knocked off again. When you miss time with injuries and you're always coming back, you're going to struggle to find your way until you can get an entire healthy offseason, a full Spring Training and a healthy season all put together, one after another. That's all Bobby needs. I truly believe that."

"He's ready to go," Geren said. "I'll tell you what, he's a guy I'm really pulling for. He deserves a nice run of good health here, and when he gets it, you're going to see a pretty special player."

I realize that injuries (especially back injuries) will affect overall performance as a player tries to put together a full season of stats, but isn’t it illogical to assume that a player will be a superstar simply because he’s healthy? In my opinion (and feel free to disagree), Bobby Crosby, even during his healthy year(s), didn’t show even a flash of this quality, which leads me to believe that Crosby’s injuries may actually be unrelated to his baseline talent.

There is a reason A’s fans cling to the dream of Rich Harden--despite his very real (and very earned) label of "fragile"--when healthy, Harden is among the elite pitchers in the entire league. He hasn’t had much of a chance to prove it, but the talent is there, even as a faint memory over the last few years. I can’t put Crosby in even the same conversation, even though I think it’s a thousand percent more likely for Crosby to finish a full season than Harden.

Crosby not only hasn’t teased us with the promise of greatness; right now, many doubt he can even be a serviceable major league hitter, despite what the A’s party line is. I realize I am not a scout, nor a GM, nor a manager, nor in any real way connected to or employed by the Oakland A’s, but I have seen Crosby in probably two-thirds of his major league plate appearances. If there’s a tremendous amount of potential there, it is swallowed up by The Bases-Loaded Popup and the Slider Three Feet Off The Plate. And until I can get a real answer for fundamental batting problems, including a seeming refusal to adjust at the plate, I simply can’t buy the hard-luck injury smoke-and-mirrors story as explaining away what frustrates me about this particular player.

Yet at the same time, I am sad, because I want Crosby to be good. He looks great out there; all shiny in his uniform, with a body that fits the quintessential baseball mold, a dad who played the game and was a part of the organization, and a real, likable personality that would serve him well in the limelight.

I’m just not convinced he’ll ever be in it.

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