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Friday, July 9, 2004
Updated: December 6, 9:42 AM ET
Why pass over former players?

By John Kruk
Page 2

There are tons of dumb clichés in sports that everyone uses, and most of them make you look like you don't know what you're talking about.

But there is one that seems to apply when it comes to evaluating a player: If you haven't played the game, you just don't know.

Now, that's no rip on the GMs and scouts of the league. Believe me, these guys know plenty. Albert Pujols didn't jump from A ball to the majors on his own. Someone had to give him the nod.

What I'm saying is that most of these guys focus too much on talent, and there's so much more to playing the game than talent.

There's the rigors of playing a whole season. How a guy handles failure in front of 35,000 people. How he fits in with the team.

Now love them or hate them, the Yankees do this better than anyone. And no, it's not because of George Steinbrenner's checkbook.

They don't bring in anyone that the current roster doesn't want. When they traded for Roger Clemens, they asked Derek Jeter what he thought. When they got A-Rod, you better believe they talked to Jeter again, third base or no third base. Why just Jeter? Because that's who they are building the team around, and he speaks for everyone. He's been around long enough to know who is going to work in this clubhouse.

The Yankees could have replaced Bernie Williams plenty of times in the past few seasons, but Brian Cashman knows how well Bernie works with this team. Same thing for Tino Martinez. Sure, they eventually replaced him with Jason Giambi, but check out Tino's numbers. He hasn't had a good year since he left New York. There's a bunch of reasons other than money why this team is always contending for the title.

The Royals did just the opposite. They contended all last year, and thought bringing in a couple veterans would put them over the top. Sounds like a good idea -- that is, if you get the right veterans.

K.C. went with Juan Gonzalez and Benito Santiago. I played with Benito and he's a great guy, but he's also on his own program. He's not going to lead the Royals like Pudge is leading the Tigers. As far as Juan goes -- well, we all know his history.

Derek Jeter
The Yankees consult the captain, Derek Jeter, when they're contemplating a major roster change.
So now you have last season's leaders (Mike Sweeney and Joe Randa) taking a step back and handing over the reins to two guys who aren't going to take them.

The Royals had a lot of heart last season and won a bunch of close games. They definitely don't have that spark this year.

That's why I don't understand why there aren't more ex-players working in baseball. I'm not talking about community service positions or coaching in the minors, I'm talking about working with the GM to make the call on who should be playing at the highest level and who shouldn't.

Now, I'm not saying that the GMs don't know what they're doing, and that the ex-players of the world could step in and negotiate contracts, manage the rosters and make trades. Hell, if you sent most of us to school for 10 years, we still wouldn't know what we're talking about. What I'm saying is that teams are doing themselves a huge disservice by not tapping into their former players to help gauge what other players bring to the team. The chemistry, the leadership. All the stuff that makes decent teams good and good teams great.

Sure, some teams use ex-players, but not nearly enough.

Look at the A's. I know they have Billy Beane, but why did the league, especially Oakland, give Dave Stewart the cold shoulder?

Stewart grew up in the Oakland area. Led the team to a couple World Series wins. Now he has to be an agent because no one in baseball was going to give him a job. Everyone thought he had the Toronto job locked up until they hired J.P Ricciardi -- a smart baseball guy, but remember, Stewart was already the assistant GM in Toronto.

You know who Dave and a bunch of other agents hire to scout potential players? Who they rely on the most for the breakdown on whether or not a client will make the big leagues? Right, ex-players.

Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant might be one player with a little too much power.
Forget about all the baseball stuff for a second. Think of the value these guys would have in keeping team chemistry together. Or in wooing free agents.

If a guy has a problem with something, there's no way he's going to the GM. We're like one big fraternity, current players and ex-players. We've all been through it. Who's a player going to go to, then, if he has that choice?

The front office deals with the business of baseball, not the game of baseball; and that's where we have our problem. Don't you think you should listen more to the people to whom you're paying all that money?

Does this work all the time, giving players all the power? Absolutely not. Look at what's happened in Los Angeles. After, in my opinion, quitting on his teammates in the NBA Finals, Kobe Bryant tells the front office to get rid of the coach and the dominating center who brought him three titles. Only then will he consider playing for them.

So the power doesn't need to be on one side or the other. There needs to be a balance, because if you let one person in an organization run the whole thing on either side, you're looking for trouble.

I could go on and on with this; and, no, I'm not campaigning for a job. I just think Major League Baseball needs to wake up and realize what they aren't using. Everyone wants an edge in this game somehow, and there's no better place to start than with the guys who used to play the game.

Like I said: Nobody knows a player like a player.

Hey now, you're an All-Star
Every year, it seems like someone has something to say about the All-Star rosters.

This guy deserved to be there. This guy doesn't.

I know, we hear it every year.

This year is a little different. Take a look. It's tough to argue that any of these guys shouldn't have made it.

Well, Jason Giambi doesn't deserve to be there. But you guys voted for him, so no one can complain about that.

I'm talking about all the alternates. I think the right guys got picked because of the way the process works now.

Before, you had the reigning league champion's manager pick the alternates, and that usually caused a lot of problems. Now, you have the players, coaches and managers voting on the team. That's the way it should be, because -- like them or not -- these guys know best.

Carlos Guillen
Tigers shortstop Carlos Guillen was rightfully voted onto the AL All-Star team.
The players voted on Sean Casey of the Reds and Carlos Guillen of the Tigers.

Everyone is supposed to go to this game to have fun. It's an exhibition for the fans. That's why I'm glad that Jack McKeon and Joe Torre don't have to take heat for picking all the alternates.

I still have one problem, and I know I've said it before: There's enough drama and excitement at this game that you don't need to play it for home field in the World Series.

If your team isn't a contender, what's the point? Maybe you win for the AL, then two weeks later you're traded to a contender in the NL. That doesn't seem too fair.

That's why this whole campaign doesn't make any sense.

You're trying to tell me this whole home-field thing is more interesting than Mike Piazza catching Roger Clemens? Clemens, who has come back from retirement to be the toast of his hometown?

They're going to have to talk to each other at some point. Who knows, maybe Pujols can be the mediator. Or maybe they can call the UN or something.

How about the National League outfield? You have three 500-homer guys out there in Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr. and Sammy Sosa. That's not something to talk about?

I know the game could stink, and this is only what I'm seeing on paper. But when you have this much talent taking the field, you don't need to add anything.

What do I know? I'm just another ex-player.

Feeling perky
I was watching some show the other day and it started to get into all the perks celebrities ask for when they make an appearance or star in a movie.

You won't believe it when you hear these. Actually, you probably will. I just haven't accepted the way these people act yet.

Anyway, let's start with Jennifer Lopez. She was making some charity appearance. A quick 90-minute thing and she was done. She should get a couple folding chairs, a couple sodas and that's it, right?

Wrong. Jenny from the block, or wherever she claims to be from, had to have a dressing room with a white couch, a white carpet, white flowers and white candles.

What? That's the only way she can get ready or else she can't go on? I guess when she was growing up in the Bronx that's what her apartment looked like. Yeah, I bet that's exactly what the Lopez house was like.

I was reading People magazine and the list of Sharon Stone's demands are insane. First off, she needs to have the best trailer, three nannies (at $1,500 a week), two cell phones, two pagers, a private home on location or the Presidential suite at a first-class hotel, two assistants (one at $1,500 a week that doubles as a trainer), the right to approve the caterer and pilates equipment.

Sharon Stone
What's up with all of Sharon Stone's demands? It's been a long time since "Basic Instinct."
Did I miss something? When did Sharon Stone become a great actress?

Before I even think about how ridiculous these people are, my first question is, how on earth do you even think to ask for this stuff? Do you really need someone to pay for your entourage? Hell, if you can't afford it then maybe you should think about scaling it back a little.

Look at MC Hammer. Laugh all you want at that guy now, but he had millions. What happened? He hired everyone he ever met to work for him. I don't care who you are -- the money doesn't flow forever.

Athletes are starting to get that way, too.

When Kevin Brown signed his deal with the Dodgers, they threw in a bunch of trips on the FOX corporate jet so he could get home to Georgia or his family could get to L.A. whenever they wanted.

How do you get the balls to ask for this stuff? I've been in hotels all over the country and not one of them has ever hurt my throat. Not so for Britney Spears. She needs an odorless carpet or else she gets a sore throat. I didn't even know carpet smelled.

You know what? More power to these people, because they may look dumb for asking for this stuff but the bigger moron is the one who gives it to them.

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