I often get asked by people my age how I can like baseball. It’s so slow, so repetitive, just so long in every respect; the season is 162 games for god’s sake, and those games aren’t even timed, theoretically they can go on forever. It’s hard to explain baseball’s appeal to someone unfamiliar with it, and you can quickly end up speaking in meaningless euphemisms like it being “America’s pastime” and how “every pitch counts.” Every sport has a rich and interesting history in America, and every moment matters in basically all other sports as well, there isn’t a play during a football game that doesn’t matter, nor a basket during a basketball game. Again, not a terribly compelling argument to watch baseball.
The more I consider it, the more I feel like the best answer I can give someone as to why baseball is worth their time is simply “Kruk and Kuip.” I don’t mean that someone has to watch a Giants broadcast, or be a Giants fan, to appreciate baseball, rather that these two noble and chivalrous men embody everything that’s good about the game.
They are about as knowledgeable as anyone I’ve ever listened to, and I honestly don’t think I’d be the baseball fan I am today without growing up watching them. One of the unique things about baseball is that every moment is connected with so many others (see, really easy to fall into using euphemisms), not just in the game currently being played, but with moments from games and even seasons past. The way a pitcher attacks a batter is different depending on if there’s a guy on deck that owns him or one that he knows how to get out. Kruk and Kuip do an excellent job of making viewers aware of this, you have to be operating with a context broader than an individual game, with every pitch you have to consider the history of the pitcher versus the batter, the pitcher versus the guy on deck, and even things like the history of a pitcher in a certain ballpark or during a certain time of day. It opens up a Pandora’s Box of strategy that is part of what makes baseball so profoundly interesting. They are fantastic at explaining what situations call for: why a runner with speed should try to steal second if he reaches with two outs, how a pitcher can work the outside part of the strike zone to get a hitter to hit into a defense. They make you aware of all the intricacies of the game. It’s not just a guy trying to hit a ball with a stick. It’s baseball, which is so much more than that.
But Kruk and Kuip don’t just inform their viewers, they entertain them. One of my favorite little quirks is the way you can tell how good of stuff a pitcher has by how much Kruk’s voice cracks when he gives you the scouting report. “He’s got a fastball that will go low to mid-nineties that he can cut and sink, a circle change, and a HaAAAaard slider.” Or how the tone of Kuip’s voice can tell you how hard the batter swung without even looking, “SWWingggggg and a miss.” Or how they will dub over visits to the mound with what they think the players are saying, “that’s a pitcher up there meat! You’re killing the drill just throw one across the plate this guy hasn’t had a hit in three months!” With other sports I’ve gotten into the practice of recording them and then starting them half an hour late, to skip commercials and other dead time. Not so with Giants games, I’ve found that half of the appeal watching them on TV is hanging out with Kruk and Kuip for three hours. When a pitcher, even an opposing one, gets into a good rhythm it’s awesome to watch Kruk’s appreciation of it, he’s still amazed and enthralled with baseball, even after all these years.
And that is their greatest strength as a broadcast team, the joy they exude while just watching baseball. It’s contagious, and it’s spread to a whole generation of baseball fans that grew up watching them.They seem to honestly still subscribe to the adorably naive notion that the Giants are the good guys and the other team are the bad guys, and when the Giants win the world is a better place for it. In today’s entertainment landscape, where it increasingly seems like you have to scrape off a layer of cynicism just to get to an honest thought, their sincerity and enthusiasm are so refreshing. The game is starting, why don’t you pull up a seat and kick it with Kruk and Kuip for it? I can think of no better company.