Unimpressed with the Kruky Monster being awarded the Noble Prize in Economics yesterday (sorry, that was the Krugy Monster), Slate’s Ben Mathis-Lilly admits that “Baseball Tonight” is the venue for postseason highlights, but advises that you watch with the volume turned down, “lest John Kruk pulverize the parts of your brain responsible for logical reasoning.”
Kruk is a champion of the indefensible, the nonsensical, and the utterly pointless who once called Placido Polanco the toughest out in the American League (he isn’t) and said that Brett Myers’ arrest for hitting his wife in the face would “propel him to stand up and be the ace of [the Phillies’] staff” (it didn’t, which is probably a good thing). Last week, Kruk’s SportsCenter segment on the Tampa Bay Rays concluded with the meaningful observation that they are “a special team that can do special things.”
This would all be more shocking if Kruk wasn’t on a baseball broadcast, where such statements are the coin of the realm. While ESPN is the most egregious offender, the pre- and post-game shows on TBS and Fox aren’t much better. TBS’s cacophonously uninformative production features former pros Dennis Eckersley, Harold Reynolds, and Cal Ripken Jr. yelling excitedly at one another for a half hour, like a better-natured but equally unintelligible version of Crossfire. Meanwhile, Fox lead analyst Kevin Kennedy summed up the Dodgers’ Game 2 NLCS loss to the Phillies by observing that the team “went away from good pitches,” urging them to include more good pitches in their Game 3 plan. And Kennedy is a markedly better analyst than his colleague Mark Grace.
I’m convinced that there’s room in the market for a smarter show about the national pastime. My imaginary show would ignore the axiom that the highlight is king”frankly, I don’t think most fans will really miss those clips of a guy hitting a ball followed by a clip of a ball landing in the stands. (Unless a guy catches it in his beer or while holding his kid or something”everyone loves that stuff!) Instead, my show would take a cue from sites like Baseball Prospectus and Hardball Times and put crucial decisions in context. Consider BP’s observation that the Angels-Red Sox series turned on three characteristically bold base-running decisions by the Angels that all turned out badly, which they used to illustrate the point that Mike Scioscia’s managerial style has not kept up with the particular skills of his roster. Or their breakdown of the Phillies-Dodgers NLCS, which observed that the Phils’ decision to bat Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in succession will allow Joe Torre to use his left-handed specialist, Joe Beimel, against both of them in key spots. It isn’t as if this kind of analysis can’t be put together on short notice”you just need analysts who aren’t John Kruk.