In the second inning of the Phillies’ loss to the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night, NBC Sports Philadelphia analyst John Kruk offered some advice he himself did not heed.
“Let’s get back to baseball,” Kruk said after a brief discussion of the MLB’s new crackdown on pitchers using illegal sticky substances to impact their performance.
Little did Kruk know the game would turn to the absurd in the fourth inning after Phillies manager Joe Girardi asked the umpires to check Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer’s hair, causing the seven-time All-Star to offer up a striptease to officials (though he was upstaged by Oakland A’s reliever Sergio Romo).
For the rest of the four-hour game, Kruk fixated and complained about the new crackdown, which was hastily arranged by the league and implemented on Monday, right in the middle of the season. Kruk, a former Phillies All-Star who played 10 years in the majors, pointed out that during his playing career, catchers would sometimes help pitchers smuggle in some pine tar on the baseball.
“At what point … Maybe now we need to check the catcher’s gear. Maybe a catcher has pine tar on his glove, and when he throws the ball back to the pitcher,” Kruk said during the fourth inning. “This might never end. I mean, hell, they might go out and check the bullpen catcher at some point.”
Kruk’s anger got even more noticeable in the fifth inning, when Scherzer stared down Girardi while leaving the field. Girardi left the dugout in anger and was ejected from the game, later telling reporters he was bothered by some Nationals coaches screaming at him from their dugout.
“Get used to it until they figure out a way to change it. This is a joke,” Kruk said, later, adding, “I’ll say this, and I’ll be completely honest — I’m glad as hell I’m not playing now. I couldn’t take this.”
“How do you change rules in the middle of the season? ‘All right, we’re not scoring enough runs so we’re going to check the pitchers.’ Give me a break,” Kruk added.
Kruk’s fixation on the crackdown, which was a central part of the game, nevertheless turned off some fans listening at home, including WIP host Glen Macnow and soon to be former Inquirer reporter Les Bowen.
During NBC Sports Philadelphia’s postgame show, former Phillies pitcher Ricky Bottalico echoed Kruk’s complaints, pointing out that all a pitcher needs to do to create a sticky substance is mix a little hair gel with some sweat.
“Here’s what baffles me,” Kruk said. “They checked the hat. They checked the glove. They checked the belt. Not once did they look at anyone’s fingers, not once did they look at anyone else’s uniform, at any point. At what point does this stop?”
All this happened on the same night when the network celebrated the 30th anniversary of Kruk’s first All-Star Game appearance, a game he didn’t even get any at-bats in. But in all fairness, Kruk looked as thrilled about the Phillie Phanatic entering the booth as he was about all the absurdity during the game.