By John Kruk
Page 2

OK, I'm not going to talk about guys watching their home runs anymore.

Seriously, I promise.

I know I'm old-school.

If the pitchers don't care that they're getting shown up by all these guys, then I'm not going to care, either.

But there's something I can't keep quiet about: guys who don't play hard.

Here's a quick example. Last week, Carlos Lee hits one deep for the White Sox, so he stands at the plate, admiring his work. Well, one problem: It wasn't a homer. The ball hit the top of the wall and bounced back into play. Carlos then tries to go for two, and he's out at second base by about 10 feet. Nice job. So instead of having a runner in scoring position, the Sox have nothing.

The point is that Lee could have cost them the game by not playing hard. That's my problem.

OK, if you need to know, the White Sox won the game in extra innings on a homer by Jose Valentin. Hey, Lee -- you owe Jose dinner.

The White Sox have a shot in the Central, but there's no way in hell they're going to get anywhere playing lazy baseball.

I don't want to sound like I'm calling Lee out on this. Sure, I blame him, partially. But some of the blame needs to go to front office and the manager, Ozzie Guillen, for putting up with that.

The very next inning, Ozzie should have waited until their pitcher was ready to go, called time-out and pulled Lee in front of everyone in the whole damn stadium -- with the TV cameras rolling, too.

You better believe Lee would have gotten the message then.

Everyone talks about the Yankees, and how big their payroll is. Well, let me add a little something. Those guys play hard every night, and it doesn't matter who is in the other dugout or what the score is.

Their leaders set the example, and everyone else follows.

What do you think young guys on the White Sox think when they see Lee, one of their best players, pulling stuff like that? Think they'll play hard all game? Maybe. But it should never be in doubt; and with that kind of attitude from your veterans, it is.

Baseball is a nine-inning game. A few hours a night. Man, if you can't play hard for nine innings, then you should go have yourself checked out because you have some problems.

OK, I'm sure the Carlos Lee fans have heard enough. Like I said, it isn't just him.

Take a look at Manny Ramirez. You want to know one of the reasons the Red Sox are trailing the Yankees? Take a look at the other night when Manny popped up to center.

I don't even think he'd even made it halfway down the first-base line by the time Kenny Lofton made the catch. I'll tell you, Kenny isn't winning any Gold Gloves out there. In fact, he dropped a routine fly just last week. How does Manny know he's going to catch this one?

Manny has been tearing it up this year, sure. I know that. And everyone pops out in this league. When you do, you're pretty ticked off. You want to smash your helmet into 1,000 pieces. Still, you aren't out until the guy catches it. So someone tell Manny to get out some of his aggression by running it out to first.

I'm not trying to single out Manny, either. Hell, Bonds pulls this stuff. So does Griffey. And these guys are all great players, no question. The point here is that so many guys don't play hard. You can look at any game and pick out a half-dozen moments like this. And that's pretty damn sad.

When did not playing hard become so accepted?

These guys are making millions of dollars to play game. You'd think the family of four who paid a couple hundred bucks to watch them play deserves at least nine innings of effort.

Is that too much to ask?

Oops! She did it again!
Britney Spears is getting married again.

Britney Spears
Here comes the bride ... again.

Wow. Congrats to her. I bet her parents are real proud.

And in another classy move, Britney and her fiance have decided to wait until his second child from his ex-girlfriend is born before they have the wedding.

Once again, Britney's parents must be beaming with pride.

I got some news for Ms. Spears: Whether she likes it or not, she's got an instant family. She's a stepmom.

How much do you think the ex is going to ask for now in child support? Think that might change?

"Hmm ... let me see. You're married to Britney Spears, so you're a millionaire ... Yeah, I think the current rate isn't going to cut it. I think I want our two children to grow up in the lap of luxury, too."

I thought this girl might smarten up after her Vegas marriage. I guess not.

Maybe she's a good girl after all. Maybe all this has to do with her stance on premartial sex. She can't wait. Marries some dude in Vegas. Knocks one out and gets a divorce.

Now, going for this backup dancer with 1.85 kids? I guess Brit is ready for some more.

You know those Southern girls grow up with pretty high moral standards, including looking at marriage as a sacred thing.

But Britney? She seems a little confused to me. One one hand, she's in all the papers, going to all the parties, all the clubs. Now she wants to settle down and get married.

Who knows? Maybe she just needs a hug. Yeah, the line forms to the right.

Houston, we have a problem
I just want Tracy McGrady to know how happy I am for him that he got his wish.

Tracy McGrady
Tracy couldn't be happier -- until he starts blaming everyone else when they lose.

Now he can be a part of the Rockets and team up with Yao Ming.

Tracy has been saying all the right things. How Jeff Van Gundy is the boss. How he can't wait to guard the opposing team's best player.

What? I'm sure Doc Rivers would have loved to hear something like that.

I know Tracy is a good player. After all, he has a couple of scoring titles. (Yeah, congrats on that, too.) But this deal looks like a Diamondbacks-Brewers trade to me.

Look what Arizona did. The basically gave up firve major league players to get Richie Sexton. Now, Richie's a good player, but they gave up way too much to get him.

The Rockets did the same thing. You're trying to tell me that losing Steve Francis, Cuttino Mobley and Kelvin Cato is worth getting McGrady?

Oh, wait. The Rockets got Juwan Howard, too. Yeah, that will help.

Either way you look at it, it's "McGrady's Team" now.

I have a quick question for all these NBA guys that want their "own" team: When was the last time you paid the damn bills?

Never? Oh, then I guess this isn't your team, after all. I guess you're just one player.

Now you can't put all the blame on these guys, especially all the high schoolers who enter the draft.

They're all pretty young and pretty immature. How could they not be? Ever since they were in the eighth grade, everyone has been telling them how special they are.

If you keep surrounding yourself with those people, sooner or later you're going to start believing all the great things they are saying about you -- true or not.

The other day, I was watching some interview with Beyonce Knowles. They were talking about how she just bought a place in Miami, but she still lives with her parents.

Why? Why would a rich and famous girl with thousands of adoring fans live with her mom and dad? Easy. She said she wants somebody to say 'no' to her once in a while. Someone to tell her she doesn't look great everyday. That she isn't the greatest person alive.

No.

Now, there's something most of these NBA guys need to hear more often.

John Kruk is an analyst for ESPN's "Baseball Tonight."




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