Part of life on the road as a major league player is dealing with clubhouse attendants. When you're at home, your own guys are in charge. But when you're away, you've got relative strangers taking care of you for three or four days.
You get to know many of these guys over the years, though. The good ones learn what you like, and don't forget it. If you have a favorite chewing tobacco, it'll be there waiting for you in your locker. Favorite gum? Same thing. You'll never have to go looking for what you want.
And the best ones know when to leave you alone. They know not to come over and make a wisecrack after you've gone 0-for-4. They know what a player goes through.
On occasion, a player and a clubhouse attendant won't see eye-to-eye. I remember one former teammate of mine, Dave Hollins ... well, "intense" is a mild word to describe him. Anyway, Hollins always insisted that his chair face into his locker.
The visiting clubhouse attendant in San Francisco was a guy named Harvey Hodgerney. And every time Hollins left his locker, Harvey would go over and move his chair to face the other way.
Eventually, totally exasperated, Hollins came to me and said, "Krukie, will you tell this guy to leave the seat in my locker the way I like it? I can't deal with him."
So I went and told Harvey, and he said, "This is my clubhouse. I do what I want."
I responded, "Okay, but I'm just telling you, he's not gonna be a happy camper. It could get ugly."
Soon after this, Hollins left his locker to go lift some weights -- and Harvey ran over and turned the seat around again. When Hollins came back, he said to me, "I tell you what: If that sonofabitch does that one more time, I'm gonna kill him!"
Of course, he wasn't serious. But that's the kind of quirks some players have. I always got along with Harvey. But needless to say, Harvey and Hollins never became best buds.
The best guy I ever dealt with was Jerry Risch in St. Louis. When you came into town, he'd go out of his way to do whatever you wanted. Yes, he obviously wanted to make money. But you never got the sense that it was all about the money with him. It was about the players being happy.
There's really no set price on how much to tip the clubhouse guys. The standard rate is about $20 per day -- which, when you think about it, is pretty reasonable. They get you food and drink, before and after the games. They clean your spikes. They wash your uniforms. If you go out to lunch and happen to spill something on your clothes, they rush it out and have it dry-cleaned for you. They really go all-out.
I actually enjoyed hanging out with them. I'd always stay late in the clubhouse after games, when everyone else was gone. I'd drink a few beers with the guys. And sometimes, they'd even give me a ride back to my hotel.
One other thing -- I still talk to these guys. And ironically, they say that there are a couple of Hall of Famers out there who were the cheapest players they ever dealt with. And they also say there's a few future Hall of Famers playing right now who are among the cheapest players in the league when it comes to tipping. I'm not going to name names -- but the opinions from the clubhouse guys are pretty unanimous. Sometimes, one little thing goes wrong, like a sock is missing; and some guys don't feel obligated to leave a tip.
That's a damn shame. Because to me, these guys are the real people of baseball. They enjoy what they're doing, and they rarely even get to watch much of the game -- maybe just a little bit on TV.
Most of these guys have been doing this job for years. And it's not easy. A team's flight might get in after a night game, and they have to stick around to unpack equpiment, wash clothes, etc. It's a thankless job. I wouldn't want it. They should be well taken care of.
IN SEARCH OF LOST COOL
Let's face it, Carlos Zambrano just lost it on Monday night.
A quick recap: First, Zambrano hit Jim Edmonds with a pitch in the first inning. Then Zambrano got ticked off when Edmonds homered off him in the fourth and lingered for a moment to admire it -- he yelled at Edmonds to just put his head down and run around the bases like Scott Rolen does. In the sixth, after striking out Edmonds, Zambrano wagged his finger at him. And then, after giving up a tiebreaking homer to Rolen in the eighth, Zambrano plunked Edmonds, the very next hitter, for a second time and was ejected.
I'll give Zambrano credit for one thing: He didn't throw at Edmonds' head. Did he want to hit him? Absolutely. But he hit him in a good spot, below the shoulders. That's proper baseball etiquette.
But as a young player, what was he thinking? Talking trash? He told Edmonds to run around the bases like Rolen. Well, he got his wish a few innings later, when Rolen himself ran around the bases after what ended up being the game-winning home run.
A warning to any young player who wants to run his mouth: It'll come back to haunt you. The baseball gods always get you back.
And honestly, why is Zambrano getting mad at a guy for hitting a home run off him? He made a bad pitch. When you make bad pitches, that's what hitters are supposed to do. If you want to get back at him, throw better pitches next time.
I know that Moises Alou had a talk with Zambrano after that game. That's important. Zambrano has to know that he can't lose it like that. When guys hit the ball that far, they have a tendency to stare a bit. Don't overreact to that.
Plus, the Cubs are still in a pennant race. And by doing what he did, Zambrano set up his own teammates to get hit, and maybe even hurt, when these teams meet in the future. At the very least, the Cubs hitters are going to be defensive at the plate, expecting that they might get plunked. You know there's going to be retaliation at some point.
The bottom line is, you have to control your emotions or you'll hurt your team. As a pitcher, you're going to give up home runs. Crappy pitches should be hit hard. Be mad at yourself for making bad pitches. And do better next time.
I read that Britney Spears' fiance just became a father again. He now has two children with his former girlfriend.
So Britney Spears is going to be a stepmom.
Britney made a comment like, "I need to meet these kids and get to know them." Umm, you think?
She's in for a rough time. It's not going to be easy. But hey, she's in love, right? What can you do?
I hope she knows what she's doing.
John Kruk is an analyst for ESPN's "Baseball Tonight."