John Kruk Is Dead Weight On ESPN...and Lots of It
Yes, I'm making a fat joke.
I apologize to those more substantial frames out there who might be offended. But you show a reckless lack of integrity by going on national television and taking a butcher's knife to my man Pablo Sandoval, and I take the gloves off.
If John Kruk can't be troubled to put Wednesday's "brawl" between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants in proper context before going after Little Panda, then I can't be troubled to exercise appropriate restraint.
Good for the goose, good for the gander (yes, I'm calling John Kruk a girl).
Eric Young plays it down the fairway.
EY gives no context so he keeps his analysis within the confines of the diamond. He rightly points out that the pitch was simply to establish the inside corner (true), that Sandoval lets his emotions pull his puppet strings (true), and that he can't afford to lose control to the point of getting suspended since he is the straw stirring the Giant offense (really, really true).
Let's get this straight—I totally agree that Pablo Sandoval overreacted and needs to learn from his mistake. If he'd gotten thumbed and benched for five games, ugh.
The inside fastball from James McDonald was simply that, an inside fastball. It sure looked like it hit Little Money—the ball wasn't caught, it clearly didn't hit the bat, and Pablito was pointing to a mark on his elbow. Still, I haven't seen a conclusive replay because I haven't looked for one.
It simply doesn't matter except as to whether it was another case of the umpires trying to hand all the games in the series to the Bums—not that the horribly blown calls mattered much in the first two games.
Regardless of whether the heater actually got Sandoval, it'd be a stretch to call that a case of throwing at the batter.
Furthermore, it's fine for John Kruk to spout his flawed opinionalysis through those jowls if he took the trouble to frame them appropriately. Instead, he picks up the story at the end—the bench-clearing meeting of minds—then proceeds to indiscriminately slash and burn.
Unfortunately for Big John, the whole story includes the start.
First and foremost, it includes the heat of an August postseason chase between two repulsed rivals—both figuratively and literally. I was at the game, and thankfully in the shade, because it was an unusually hot and cloudlessly placid day in the City.
Los Gigantes and the Bums engaged their special brand of hostility under an unrelenting sun with no ocean breeze or marine layer for which the Bay Area is famous. And it is a special brand of hostility—you can have your Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, I'll take the West Coast's version, and we'll both be happy in ignorance.
Above all rivalries, there are no accidents in this one. Every confrontation has a heavy current of intent and elicits the commensurate response.
Which brings me to the middle of the story: The part about Casey Blake and Brian Wilson.
Several months ago, Blake hit a game-tying bomb off the San Francisco closer and apparently mocked Wilson's post-save celebration. The two individuals have publicly moved on from the ugly misunderstanding—Blake says he had no idea the hurler's antics were partially in tribute to his deceased father—but I can almost guarantee you the Giant clubhouse hasn't forgiven or forgotten.
Not after the visible player reaction after Wilson blew the guilty Dodger away in the 10th on Wednesday. One thing is for sure: the fans in AT&T Park haven't.
But the middle of the story is thicker than just the Blake-Wilson Affair.
It also includes a minimum of five egregiously blown calls in Los Angeles' favor over the course of three games in SAN FRANCISCO. Part of homefield advantage is supposed to be the benefit of doubt. The good guys usually get the either-or calls, whether acknowledged or not.
And these weren't close calls.
Every replay made it clear there would've been two distinct sounds—the foot hitting the base and then the ball hitting leather. Two. Distinct. Yet the blind in blue (and apparently deaf) kept pulling the Dodgers' card.
Bruce Bochy got run twice and even bench coach Ron Wotus got in on the act. He followed Bochy out the gate on Wednesday after another blown call allowed Los Angeles to tie the game in the top of the ninth.
Having said all of that, the most self-serving omission by John Kruk, who admits to being close chums with the Dodger coaching staff in the clip, was the play that happened immediately before the smoke with which Sandoval took issue.
Eugenio Velez came across the dish to score on a play that might've been close had the throw from centerfielder Matt Kemp been on target. Instead, the wayward launch went about 15 feet over catcher Russell Martin's head. For some quixotic reason, Martin (in full gear no less) leaped to try to snag a toss Dwight Howard probably couldn't have reined in.
Martin also did this from basically right on top of home plate.
To the surprise of no one except possibly the Dodger backstop, Velez slid for the backish part of home and consequently upended Martin. The fall was pretty brutal and looked damn jarring as pieces of the Tools of Ignorance came flying off that don't usually come flying off—shin guards, the mask from the helmet, etc.
However, the collision was almost completely on Matt Kemp and Russell Martin.
If not for the bad throw, Martin's futile leap, and his positioning, would've put him in position to tag the runner. Additionally, all Velez did was slide and come up—the latter part of which made the upending more severe and wasn't exactly necessary, but still can't be considered anything more than a marginal contribution to the matter.
In a show of sportsmanship, both Eugenio and Sandoval helped Martin reassemble his gear. Then the Kung Fu Panda stood patiently as the Dodger catcher collected himself, then took a couple warm-up tosses from McDonald.
The inside statement and flaring of tempers came on the first pitch following this sequence.
Now, none of this excuses Sandoval's loss of self-restraint. Much of it was ancient history or not the Dodgers' fault, and even I won't tell you McDonald was throwing at Pablo.
Nor does any of it excuse the posturing ironically pilloried by Kruk.
The ESPN "analyst" has the hypocritical audacity to chastise Sandoval for his physical antics while doing the exact same thing himself—the little shoulder jerks, facial expressions, hand gestures, and shifting from foot-to-foot to add a little extra bit of taunt to his words.
Little Money's not the tough guy; John Kruk is, at least while he's in a studio and behind a television camera. Though apparently not tough enough to tell the whole story before carving up his good buddies' antagonist. Nice work, John.
The whole thing stinks all the more considering this, even if you believe Sandoval was 100 percent out of line, would be his first offense.
The kid just turned 23 and has never shown an immature, disrespectful, or petulantly sensitive bone in his body while learning on the fly in Major League Baseball. Even after getting boned over by Charlie Manuel during the All-Star game selection process. So how about a little slack?
Pablo Sandoval was wrong to lose his cool, but the matter is not as simple as that, as much as John Kruk would have you believe.
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