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Carlos Ruiz returns, but a cheer for Chooch is a cheer for cheating

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Like passionate baseball fans everywhere, the Philly faithful let you know what they’re thinking.  

If a player is slumping, they share their displeasure.  If players don’t hustle as much as they should, they let him know about it.

Their knowledge of the game is second to none and they love intense, productive players forever.  But I wonder, do they have the courage to boo Carlos Ruiz when he returns to Citizens Bank Park?  Will they be honest with him and themselves, or are theCarlos Ruizy merely hypocrites of the highest order?  

“Chooch,” as he is known throughout the Delaware Valley, is as popular as any player on the Phillies. Maybe it’s his physique, which looks more like the guy in the next cubicle than a major league ballplayer.  Perhaps it’s the way he blocks the plate when runners try to score.  Intimidating, fearless. Or maybe it’s the fact he seems to come up with a big play when the Phillies really need one.  

Regardless, Ruiz’s return to the lineup is a welcome sight.  Especially when you consider Erik Kratz is merely a backup catcher and the Phillies are now mired in mediocrity.  

I suspect Ruiz will receive an ovation amidst bellows of “Choooooooooch” when he makes his first plate appearance. His return is likely to cause a mini-celebration on Broad Street.  

But despite Ruiz’s status, he doesn’t deserve a king’s welcome. He deserves the same venom and holier-than-thou sanctity Phillies fans have directed at other players caught in cheating scandals.  

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Ruiz deserves the same rolled eyes and snickering directed at Ryan Braun after he claimed someone tainted his positive sample. It’s now fair to question Ruiz’s entire career just as the careers of Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens and others have been questioned by fans on Philly sports talk radio.  

If you blindly accept Ruiz’s explanation that he should have gotten a prescription for his medication, you probably can’t appreciate what I’m saying.  

It also makes you a hypocrite.    

And before you accuse me of being pious or high and mighty, let me make my opinion on performance-enhancing drugs in sports perfectly clear: I couldn’t care less.

I enjoyed watching Barry Bonds chase the all-time home run record- no disrespect to the great Henry Aaron. I loved Rafael Palmeiro’s butter smooth swing. The fact many of his 569 career home runs were medically induced is meaningless to me. I couldn’t wait to watch him hit.  

Clemens certainly wasn’t my favorite player, but his presence on the mound had me on the edge of my seat. And while Ray Lewis thoroughly got on my nerves last season, the Super Bowl was far more interesting with him in it. If deer antler spray or something else hastened his return to the field, so be it.  

Naturally, I’d prefer every ballplayer were clean and player’s unions focused (along with ownership) on eradicating cheating from all sports, not just baseball. But that isn’t realistic, because miraculous comebacks by Hall-of-Fame worthy linebackers and catchers who use ADHD medications to post career-high numbers are good for business.  

Still, it’s misguided to act like the cheater on your favorite team is a victim while a player on an opposing squad is a rogue. It also shows an inability to put PEDs in the proper context.  

Since 1871, players have looked for ways to gain an advantage on the competition. From corked bats to Adderall, cheaters will always find a place in baseball. But for fans, the question is how long will you continue to pretend it is okay for your favorites to cheat but others must play by the rules?    

In my view, you either like baseball or you don’t. And if you like baseball as I do, choosing which cheater to hate makes little sense. Instead, simply enjoy the game for what it is and leave the postulation to people like George Will and Keith Olbermann.  

If you celebrate Carlos Ruiz’s return you’ll prove hypocrisy is alive and well in Philly.  

You’ll also prove you don’t really are about cheating, despite all your bluster.  

 Earl Myers is a freelance writer from the Philadelphia area.  He closely follows North America's four major sports leagues but just about any sporting event gets his attention.  His goal is to provoke a little thought in his readers.

Contact Earl at emyersiii@gmail.com

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