John Kruk famously said during his playing days, “I’m not an athlete; I’m a baseball player.”
I have a very hard time reconciling the John Kruk I adored as a teenager with the John Kruk now comfortably ensconced over at ESPN. I rooted emphatically for the Phillies to win the 1993 World Series, and Kruk was pretty much the reason why. John Kruk was Kenny Powers before Kenny Powers was Kenny Powers. He traded his number for a case of beer. He had a glorious mullet. He was crazy fat. He went on Letterman all the time. He shrugged off testicular cancer. He never bathed. That John Kruk was awesome. My favorite memory of that John Kruk was when he had to face Randy Johnson at the All-Star game and ducked away from Johnson’s inside fastball out of sheer terror. I would totally have done that if I had to face Randy Johnson. That John Kruk and I, we had a lot in common.
But that John Kruk has very little to do with the polished Kruk now deployed over at “Baseball Tonight.” It’s not Kruk’s fault. I’m sure he’s still essentially the same likable guy, it’s just that ESPN has gone ahead and repurposed him into just another boring talking head. Mike Golic Jr., in essence. Kruk happily admitted once that an opinion of his on the show was forced on him by producers, and not an actual honest opinion. And I hate that ESPN has done that to him. I hate that they took a guy who people liked because of his honesty and went ahead and stripped that away.
You don’t get much of the old John Kruk on TV anymore. No more mullet. No more drinkin’. All the jocularity that seemed genuine anytime he showed up at Letterman has been systematically erased. His persona feels more strained now. They could replace with him with any former player and you probably wouldn’t notice, unless that former player was, you know, skinny and stuff.
So here’s hoping that one day, Krukkie will be freed from ESPN’s devilish clutches and revert back to being the sloppy free spirit. And the mullet. I definitely want the mullet back.