John Kruk loves the Phillies. He loves having been a part of the Phillies, and he loves coming back to the Phillies. He loves saying how nobody ever leaves the Phillies. He loves playing for the Phillies, he loves coaching for the Phillies, he loves broadcasting for the Phillies. He loves Philadelphia. He loves playing up the idea that it is difficult to play in Philadelphia, and that the guys who succeed here are part of some special club that broke through the local peoples’ hard shell to bathe in the warm goo underneath.
These are conclusions I’ve drawn over the years, watching Kruk interact with people and give public addresses. Even yesterday, as he talked to the media about rejoining the TV broadcast team, he discussed how dangerously intelligent we are; like sharks that have learned how to read. And understand baseball.
Why it’s taken so long for him to get a role with the organization is beyond me; the fact that he had another, probably more lucrative job at ESPN prior to this likely had something to do with it. I was a huge advocate for him to get the managing gig that went to Ryne Sandberg a few years ago - the Phillies were going to be bad, so why not just keep a loose clubhouse - though he wasn’t campaigning for the job and probably was unaware of my efforts to give it to him.
But now, thanks to a desire to put off retirement and cutbacks at Bristol (Kruk was sick of getting harassed with corporate phone calls on the golf course anyway), Kruk has returned to the Phillies’ broadcast booth for a formal gig for the first time since 2003. He may need to adjust expectations, having watched a team that year that actually finished ten games over .500, while the 2017 Phillies have been projected to finish somewhat lower than that. Then again, we might be lucky if he can reach the booth without getting stuck in a broom closet; he’s apparently bad at getting around in stadiums (“I really suck at that. I mean, it's terrible.") To be fair, we’ve all gotten lost countless times in large and small baseball venues, and anyone who says they haven’t is a shameful liar who deserves no respect.
But Kruk made it clear that he has no intention of “sugarcoating” anything for the fans or the players, and we can expect a certain amount of informal jawing with which radio listeners are already familiar. He’ll only be around for 90 games, but when he’s here, he’ll probably be a refreshing dose of Larry Andersen-brand color commentating to contrast the industrial, vanilla tone the Phillies TV broadcast has adopted since being reworked by a faceless cable conglomerate in 2014. But the man who got his career batting average up to an even .300 and then immediately quit playing baseball forever in the middle of a game should be able to provide the sort of relatable commentary we need to keep watching as the endless baseball season swallows our lives.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the park, a truck packed full baseball stuff was dispatched to Clearwater, so that all of the Phillies bats (1,200) and bicycles (6) and golf clubs (25 sets) will be down there when the players start arriving on February 13. My god, that’s in four days. We’re four moonrises from something that resembles baseball.
The Phillies explained, as they do every year, how their Truck Day is different from all other teams’ because their Truck Day involves the transportation of unlicensed, highly unstable weaponry.
Relax, that thing thing will be out of the back of a speeding truck and into the hands of a wild animal in no time.
Every year, baseball teams send their trucks to spring training locations several days before the team embarks, and every year we’re on edge: Will the truck survive the bone-strewn hellscape between here and Florida? What’s even out there, beyond Philadelphia city limits, anyway? Our overlords tell us nothing awaits us out there but death, but those trucks seem to safely arrive at their destination every year. You know, I’m starting to wonder if this is all just a government ruse in order to keep us afraid and therefore keep us in li[THIS BLOG POST HAS BEEN CENSORED BY THE PHILADELPHIA CITY GOVERNMENT. MAY GOD HAVE MERCY ON THAT TRUCK DRIVER’S SOUL AS IT EMBARKS ON A PERILOUS ODYSSEY OUTSIDE OF THE QUARANTINE ZONE, WHERE WE ARE SAFE FOREVER].