After 10 consecutive failed attempts, the Phillies finally slipped a “W” passed the Mets, confirming that, hey, you can only keep greatness down for so long.
Umm, yeah …
Kidding aside, if ever a game highlighted the abysmal player-personnel decisions made for years by an organization, this one did so quite well. Just with a single, solitary individual.
Not for nothing, but what the hell have they been doing with this guy? Yeah, OK, this is just piling on during a crappy season, pointing out a career-best, six-RBI effort by a mediocre player.
Umm, not exactly.
For starters, this team has been going downhill on roller skates since getting bounced from the 2011 postseason, and I’ve been championing this kid getting more time ever since he came up for a cup of coffee in 2012 and drove home 10 runs in 12 games. By then, despite the unyielding hero worship by Ruben Amaro, Dave Montgomery and fans stuck on hitting the rewind button on 2008, Ryan Howard was done. Contract, schmontract. He was a shot player, undone by injury.
It happens, and the Phillies needed to deal with it … and they didn’t.
They needed to get a return on their massive investment in Howard, only with declining abilities combined with advancing age by the player made his contract – and, sad to say, the player himself – a bloated, anchor-dropping liability that would be forever attached to the club during its lifespan.
The powers that be in the front office, much like those paying for their seats, kept clinging to hopes that the Big Piece would return to pre-Achilles tendon tear form much the same as they did with steadfastly believing Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley would never leave their primes, never mind grasp that those were in the rearview mirror already.
The main difference is, the Phillies really didn’t have anyone capable of supplanting, legitimately supplanting, Rollins at shortstop or Utley at second. In Ruf, yeah, they had a guy who was showing anyone who cared to notice that he not only would be a suitable replacement, but – hold on, catch your breath at this blasphemy – an improvement at first.
Fast forward to now, with the fourth season of Ruf’s in-and-out, up-and-down, yo-yo ride winding down, and look at his career numbers. He’s just hitting a “regular” year’s total of plate appearances. In 578 at-bats, he has 27 homers, 72 runs scored and 74 RBIs.
Those sound remarkably similar to what Howard currently produces per season in a far more cushioned, coddled and cocoon-like existence … without any interruptions or distractions or concerns about whether his travels plans will be major- or minor-league.
My favorite case against playing Ruf has been that he’s not a good outfielder, usually coming from the mouths of the same experts who raved about Hunter Pence’s skills even as his botched, inane, unthinkable malapropos piled up out in right at Citizens Bank Park.
The beauty is, Ruf isn’t an outfielder anyway. He’s a brilliant-fielding first baseman – smooth, cat-quick and smart. While Howard was nowhere near the “problem” there that many labeled him as, he does not compare well with Ruf defensively. There is, and always was, a major difference between the two.
Still, Ruf has sat, or shuttled between here, Reading and Allentown … while Howard has limped through an early twilight to his derailed Hall of Fame career.
It’s just a good thing all those endless Domonic Brown reboots occurred. Otherwise, no one would have had an opportunity to see what the future was going to hold.
Which is what you see today, a squad that stands 20.5 games behind the NL East division leaders and actually has overachieved to reach 53-80 at this point in the 2015 season.
Oh, and did you hear about the Phillies snapping that long losing streak to the Mets, the freakin’ Mets?
Talk about Ruf …
- Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org