Ron Costello

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Can Utley Become Kruk Lite?

Too much fun, what's that mean?
It's like too much money, there's no such thing
It's like a girl too pretty with too much class
Being too lucky, a car too fast
No matter what they say, I've done
But I ain't never had too much fun
Country singer, Daryle Singletary

I love Chase Utley.

He's moved into my number one all time favorite Phillie, pushing Dick Allen to second and Pete Rose, third. But I wonder, has Chase — like the above country song suggests — ever had too much fun on the field?

It appears my number one Phillie plays with an intense, driven desire to compete and win. While that is what makes Chase Utley, Chase Utley, does it also make some of his teammates tight? Nervous? Like, maybe, Domonic Brown? Stay with me on this, I'm speculating!

I doubt, for example, that John Kruk — who also played with the intensity of a matador inside Madrid's most famous bullring; but a loose and jovial matador,  loose enough to laugh and pound his chest when the bull surged through his cape.

Remember Kruk facing Randy Johnson in the '93 All-Star game? See the video, top right. Can you see Utley doing that? Utley would have peered out over the field, arched his back like he does, glared at Johnson, and dug in, determined to get wood on the ball.

But that's what made John Kruk, John Kruk. Here's a personal memory of the Kruker.

It was Dreamweek, 2000. I was what the professional players called a Dreamer, along with 50-60 other Dreamers, including beer tycoon Dick Yuengling — whose locker stall was next to mine — who stocked the Dreamer's clubhouse with cans of the good stuff shipped down on pallets from Pottsville to Clearwater, Florida.

After Sunday's day-long round of batting practice — where the pro coaches watched from the bleachers and from which they made their draft choices Sunday evening — we gathered in a tent Monday morning, away from the hot Florida sun, just prior to the first game.

Dreamweek Commissioner and now Pirates manager Clint Hurdle finished a half hour talk on the facets of Dreamweek, when suddenly a Dreamer raised his hand: "Will there be a crowd in the stands when we play at Jack Russell Stadium?" he asked.

Everyone was in uniform and I was sitting about ten feet across from Kruk, who had his feet resting on a chair, his hat pulled down, like he was sleeping. Hearing the question, Kruk popped up, pushed his hat back and said, "Crowd? Hell, there'll be so many empty seats there for you Dreamers, they can paint the f-en' place."

The Dreamers roared with laughter.

Kruk could roll out of bed at 4 a.m., get a base hit, then go back to sleep. In '93, Kruk hit .316, 14 home runs, a .430 on base percentage, 169 hits and 111 walks. He even stole 6 bases.

Similar numbers that a healthy Chase Utley could produce in 2015 — Kruk was 32 in '93, Utley is 36.

But the thing is Kruk was a lovable, laughable, kindhearted jokester, who helped keep the locker room loose among other loony tune characters like Larry Andersen, Mitch Williams, and Lenny Dykstra. And they were led by a man's man baller named Darren Daulton.

Here's the point. Could Utley, in the twilight light of his career, be the leader of this 2015 Phillies club, like Daulton was in '93, while at the same time keeping things light, both on the field and in the clubhouse, like Kruk did?

Sort of a Daulton/Kruk lite.

Even the second year manager, Ryne Sandberg, who seems wound tighter than a two dollar watch, could use some comedy now and then, don't you think?

If anyone on the club could do it, it's Chase Utley.

Note: In his morning's paper, team President Pat Gillick made the following quote, "Now somebody can sit in their basement and take punches at you and never show up."

Guess he's talking about bloggers. After thinking about it, the Hall of Fame general manager is right. I don't think I take punches. Sure, I poke fun at Ruben Amaro, Jr., who I refer to as Junior, but in reality, I staunchly defend him in family arguments and discussions on the street, as well.

But here's what I'm going to do. From now on, I'll try not to take punches, unless I think through what Mr. Gillick said — that I will have to meet with him the next morning.

Only, my computer is between my living room and dining room, not in my basement.

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