By John Kruk
Page 2

Before I get started, let me just say that the incident on Wednesday with Frank Francisco and the A's fans was one of the uglier moments baseball has seen in several years.

Frank is looking at some serious suspension time for throwing that chair. And you know what? He should be. I mean, you pick up a weapon like that, you need some help. Anyway, a suspension is the least of his concerns. He's also looking at some jail time and a big dent in his wallet when the woman he hit sues him. Once again, he deserves whatever he gets.

But there's another sad aspect to this whole thing -- we're never going to really know what happened.

Now that this thing is so out of hand, there's no way anyone involved is going to tell the unbiased truth about what went down.

You know why? Because they'd probably be pretty embarassed to say publicly what they were shouting back and forth that night. So we're never going to know if it was only Frank who crossed the line.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "These guys are professional athletes and they get paid an awful lot of money to be out there, so some heckling is just part of the game."

Hey, I played in the league, and I heard tons of stuff.

"Kruk, you're fat!"

"Get a haircut, you hippie!"

"Hey, Kruk! Last night me and your mom ... "

You get the point. Most of this stuff is pretty weak, watered-down crap that wouldn't make most guys turn even turn their head. But some of these people -- and by "some," I mean "few" -- come out to the ballpark to get personal.

If a player got divorced or had a kid out of wedlock, you better believe they're going to bring that up. Nothing is off limits.

You'd be amazed at some of the stuff I heard when I came back from treatments for testicular cancer in '94.

A's-Rangers
Who crossed the line first? We'll never know.

"Hey, Kruk. I hear you're half the man you used to be!"

"Hey, one-nut! You would have won the Series in '93 if your sick ass wasn't on the team."

You got to be kidding me. That's why you came out to the game? To yell stuff like that?

Now, there are some rumors floating around about what was said to Texas reliever Doug Brocail on Wednesday that started this whole thing -- some stuff about a personal tragedy that occurred in his family. We'll just leave it at that.

Let me tell you: If that is true, it's pretty pathetic. But it's also not the first time somebody in the stands decided to bring up a guy's family.

When that goes on, I'm surprised players aren't going in the stands more often.

Look at David Wells. You can call him fat all day long. He won't just laugh at you; he'll probably agree with you. But start making fun of his children? Well, that's when Boomer might decide it's time for your ass to get beat.

Let me say again that this is a very small number of fans. The great interactions I've have with fans are far more numerous than the bad ones. Hell, after we played the Cubs at Wrigley, I used to go over to a bar across the street and hang out with some of them.

After the strike in '94, the players and the league made a concerted effort to bring the game back to the fans -- sign more autographs, make the new ballparks more fan-friendly than functional, stuff like that. But are we heading back to the point now where guys won't want to interact with the fans?

What incentive would you have to go shake hands with a bunch of people when one of them might have just been making fun of your son or your wife?

What would have happened if Brocail or Francisco had told security what happened? Security would have told the guy to calm down, and that would have been the end of it, right?

Wrong. Now this guy knows he's gotten to Francisco or Brocail. He waits a couple minutes, and then starts up right where he left off.

I know major league players make a lot of money and people pay a lot to watch them, but does that mean they can't get ticked off?

I'm not saying pick-up-a-chair-and-throw-it ticked off, but enough that they might want to have a short conversation with the person.

Let's see what happens when 30,000 people come to your job and shout obscenities about the private details of your life.

How long would you last?

ONE VOICE
So the NHL has locked out its players ... again.

Lockout, strike -- it's all means the same thing. No games.

And much like when MLB went on strike in '94, it looks like the same problem: The head of the union vs. the owners.

When the head of the MLBPA, Donald Fehr, went on TV back then and said, "The players voted to strike," you would think he meant that all the players on all the major league teams cast a ballot and decided that this was the thing to do.

Wrong.

Donald Fehr
Donald Fehr knows what the players want ... at least he thinks he does.

I can't speak for everyone in the league back then, but I know I never voted. And it wasn't that I missed the deadline. I was never asked to vote. I went back to West Virginia when the strike started. Our player rep, Darren Daulton, updated me about once a month; and that was it.

And it wasn't like I was a rookie, either. I'd been in the league for nine years. Anyway, that was the extent of my participation in the strike -- the one that I supposedly voted for.

Much like the way things are shaping up in the NHL, it was just a battle between a few people.

You think that if the owners told the majority of major leaguers back then that they couldn't pay their $9 million salaries anymore -- that it would have to be $7 or $8 million -- they would have cared?

Hell, no.

But that was never considered. It was all about what Donald Fehr was going to do.

Every year at spring training, he would have a meeting with the teams and say, "This is what I'm going to do about this. This is what I'm going to say to Bud Selig. This is what I'm planning for next year and the year after that."

Really, Donald? That's great. But here's a quick question: Ever bother to ask what the players want? Or if it's anything close to your master plan?

Now, I'm not here to bash the union. The union does a lot a great things for players, especially some of the retired players. But you have to look at the actions of the union leadership. You have to ask the question: Is all this good for the players?

Look at Alex Rodriguez. He wanted out of Texas and had a deal to go to Boston. They re-worked his contract so he'd get more marketing rights or something like that, and less cash. Done deal.

Uh-oh ... here comes the MLBPA.

No trade. A-Rod stays in Texas.

Alex ended up in New York, so good for him -- but he didn't see it that way at the time.

Wouldn't you say that a union is too powerful when it has the right to reject what one of its members wants to do? Or when the bottom line is more important than anything else?

Alex Rodriguez
If it weren't for the Yankees deep pockets, it would have been a different ending for A-Rod.

I remember when I signed a three-year deal in 1991, and everyone thought I didn't get enough money. Believe me, they weren't concerened about my future. They were mad because I was lowering the bar and messing things up for the other first basemen who were up for new contracts.

Well, I was playing where I wanted to play. I didn't care if I could have gone somewhere else for an extra million over a few years.

Sorry, Mark Grace and Jeff Bagwell. Hope you aren't starving today because of me.

I'm not saying the owners are right about everything. I'm not saying we should just make minumum wage and be happy. But let's be honest: The owners aren't wrong about everything, either.

You really think the owners are making millions and hiding it somewhere? When Fehr goes on about revenue and players salaries and thinks he's uncovered some shady accounting, do you think the owners would really be that dumb?

Or, is everyone just talking about part of the money pie? Sure, there are players salaries; but there are also front-office salaries, stadium staff, minor league players, coaches, equipment guys, the scouting system. When they house and feed the players at minor league camp, do you think that's free?

I'm no GM and I'm no owner. I can't really speak to how all this money flies around. But my point is that everyone has their story, so you need to sit down and compromise. Don't take pot shots in the press and wait until the 11th hour to sit down and try and hammer out a deal.

And don't let one guy do all your talking for you.

So when the NHL updates are on TV and you hear the accusations flying back and forth, remember that when someone speaks for "the players," he's probably just speaking for himself.

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




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CHEWING THE FAT