The A’s of the 2000s were full of players who had great potential but couldn’t reach it due to injuries or other reasons. Eric Chavez looked like a potential Hall of Famer before injuries slowed him down. Rich Harden looked like an ace but his arm just couldn’t hold up. But one case gets overlooked in my opinion. Some call him a flash in the pan, but I think his story is more tragic than that. And that’s the story of Bobby Crosby. With Crosby starting a new job as the manager of A’s single-A team the Stockton Ports, I’d thought I’d go back and look at what could’ve been with him, had he not gotten injured.
On November 8th, 2004, it was announced that A’s shortstop Bobby Crosby had won the AL Rookie of the Year award after receiving a 99% share of the votes, only missing out on one first-place vote. There were notable holes in Crosby’s game, such as his high strikeout rate and below-average on-base percentage, but he more than made up for it by being a star defender. In 1356 innings Crosby led all AL shortstops in DRS and was tied for 4th in UZR. his mark of 2.6 fWAR was very good for a rookie. After former MVP and team centerpiece Miguel Tejada left the A’s in free agency, there was hope that Crosby would more than adequately fill his shoes. And for a while, it looked like he would.
In 2005 Crosby made great strides to improve his hitting, cutting his strikeout rate by 8% and thus raising his OBP to well above league average. He was also able to maintain the power he was known for, having an ISO of .180. And the improvements at the plate did not lead to him being a detriment in the field. Despite playing only 743.1 innings, he still led AL shortstop in DRS and came in second in UZR with 9 and 10.1 respectively. All while battling injuries that limited him to only 84 games. Unfortunately, the A’s didn’t make the playoffs in 2005, but there was hope that Crosby would be able to maintain his newfound prowess at the plate over a full season, all while continuing to provide some stellar defense. Maybe then the A’s could make the playoffs
The A’s did make the playoffs in 2006, but unfortunately not thanks to Crosby. Crosby was placed on the injured list on August 22nd with a lower back strain. Up to that point, Crosby saw his strikeout rate shoot back up by 5% while his OBP cratered to below .300. His power had also disappeared too, only slugging .338. His offense wasn’t the only thing that took a nosedive. He was struggling in the field, the part of the game he was best at. In 828 innings Crosby had -5 DRS and only 1.1 UZR. Crosby didn’t play another game in the 2006 season after that placement onto the injured list, rather D’Angelo Jimenez took his spot on the left side of the infield for the rest of the regular season and in the postseason. The injured had caught up to Crosby. He would only break 100 games in a season one more time, in 2008. And even then he didn’t reach the level of where he was in his rookie season, only having 1.3 fWAR that year.
So how would the A’s have done if Crosby didn’t have his career derailed by injuries? It’s hard to say, since his one stellar season was shortened because of said injuries. We don’t know if he would be able to maintain his 2005 pace over 162 games. At the very least he could’ve been a Paul DeJong type player. Average at the plate but stellar in the field. 9 DRS in 743.1 innings translates to about 16 DRS in 1,350 innings. He and Chavez could’ve combined to be one of the best left sides of the infield in the history of baseball. A healthy Crosby also means the A’s wouldn’t have had to struggle to find a replacement for him, so no signing Orlando Cabrera or calling up Cliff Pennington. Between 2008 and 2012 the A’s had only one season of productivity from a shortstop that matched what Crosby did his rookie season. He did leave a sizable hole. Crosby was most likely never going to be a Hall of Famer, nor was he the type of player that would’ve lead a team to a World Series championship, but he could’ve been a rock. A solid foundational piece for the A’s to build around. Instead, he became another chapter in a book about how injuries can rob us of the joy of watching talented players do their thing. Vaya Con Dios Mr. Crosby. Have fun managing in Stockton.