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Is Carlos Ruiz finished? Be careful: Phillies once thought the same about Bob Boone

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With just weeks left until the Major League Baseball trade deadline, it’s not surprise that several Phillies are being mentioned in the rumor mill.

 

One recent rumor seems to be catcher and fan favorite Carlos Ruiz to the Yankees for reliever Joba Chamberlain. 

 

Personally, I would never make this deal. Chamberlain currently has a 5.48 ERA and has never been able to get things together for any considerable length of time over the course of his career. The Phillies are looking to put out the fire on the field, not prolong it.

 

As far as Ruiz is concerned, it’s been a tough year for him to say the least. His 25-game suspension for violating tCarlos Ruizhe league’s substance abuse policy didn’t exactly sit well with Phillies’ management. Then shortly after returning, he suffered a hamstring injury. After coming off his best season in the major leagues, Ruiz currently has no home runs and just six runs batted in. He’s 34 years old and in the final year of his contract.

 

That doesn’t exactly scream “three-year extension,” and there have been rumblings as to whether Ruiz’s strong 2012 season has been a matter of inflated stats rather than a legitimate performance.

 

But before the Phillies decide that the best thing to do is part company with Chooch, keep in mind the Phillies once cut ties with another former All-Star catcher whom they thought had seen better days, but then moved on to arguably greater success with his new team.

 

Bob Boone is probably the greatest receiver to ever wear the Phillies uniform. Sure there’s been better hitters (Darren Daulton, Mike Lieberthal), but Boone was solid as a rock defensively and was one of the Phillies better clutch hitters during his nine seasons with the team.  Like Ruiz, Boone was drafted as an infielder, but seemed to make an effortless transition behind the plate. The workmanlike effort of Boone eventually resulted in him catching 2,225 major league games. Although Chooch won’t come close to Boone’s mark, I would like to think he established himself as one of the league’s premier receivers through hard work and hard work alone.

 

A three-time All-Star with the Phillies, Boone’s troubles began in late 1979, when he tore ligaments in his left knee. Although he rehabbed quickly and underwent surgery, 1980 didn’t get any better for Boone. His average dropped almost 60 points from the previous year(.286 to .229), and he had rookie catcher Keith Moreland breathing down his neck all summer. By the time the playoffs came around however,  Boone was behind the plate again. He managed to fight off a serious foot injury in the NLCS, hit .412 in the World Series, and catch every inning of the Phillies’ first ever championship against the Kansas City Royals. Despite Boone’s strong series with the bat and glove, many fans recall the one play he didn’t make, which turned into arguably the most miraculous play in team history.

 

 

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With one out in the ninth inning of Game 6 and the bases full of Royals, Tug McGraw induced second baseman Frank White to pop up in front of the Phillies dugout. Boone never heard Pete Rose call for the ball. So Boone, thinking he would possibly collide with Rose and botch a potential out, Boone reached for the ball and it pops into the air. The ever-attentive Rose then reached out for the ball and secured out number two. Moments later, the Phils were the champs.


 

Despite the Phillies finally getting over the hump in 1980, the 1981 season was a disaster for Boone from the start. With a baseball strike looming in June of that year, Boone was heavily involved as a player representative. This was something that reportedly rubbed the Phillies brass the wrong way. This was exacerbated by the eventual bitter labor stoppage- which lasted almost two months.

 

To make matters worse, Boone’s average dropped continued to drop, this time to .211, and he went on to lose his starting job to Moreland in the second half of the year. Furthermore, Boone and Moreland managed to throw out only 17% of base stealers that season. Weeks after the Phillies’ loss to the Expos in the NLDS, the sale of the team by the Carpenter family was made official, and Phillies’ management started cleaning house, and the 34-year old Boone was the first to go. After expressing a desire to return to his native state of California, his contract was sold to the California Angels for cash in December. Although there was never a definitive reason given for the Phillies and Boone going their separate ways, Boone believes that people in Philly may have thought his best days were behind him.  Boone leading the players’ negotiating team during the 1981 strike was also a likely factor in his departure.Photo: booneactionturf.com

 

Although the Phillies got younger by acquiring catcher Bo Diaz, Boone was far from finished and actually wound up staying in the majors leagues longer than Diaz. Boone went on to play seven seasons for the Angels, winning four Gold Gloves (doubling his Phillies total) and playing in two post seasons with the team. Boone played two more seasons with the Royals (winning another Gold Glove in 1989) and retired after the 1990 season.

 

Of course, not every scenario regarding Boone and Ruiz is comparable. At the time the Phillies sold him, Boone was under contract with the Phillies. As for Ruiz, his contract expires after 2013. The Phillies could either trade him at the deadline or let him walk after the season when he is granted free agency. Like Diaz, the Phillies could always acquire a younger catcher based on the current uncertainty of prospect Tommy Joseph (concussion) and Sebastian Valle, whose stock is not what it once was down in double-A Reading. No matter what the pending status’ of both prospects are, everybody can agree that Ruiz handles the pitching staff better than most backstops in the National League and backup Erik Kratz would not be the answer.

 

Of course, there is always some possibility of an extension for Ruiz, but after how this season is turning out, i think it’s just too risky of a move for the Phillies. Furthermore, as much of a Chooch fan as I am, I don’t see him playing into his 40’s and even coming close to duplicating the success of Boone. But then again, this is coming from the same guy who thought Roy Oswalt was a lock against the Cardinals in Game 4 of the 2011 NLDS. Ugh. Sorry to bring that up again.

 

No matter what they decide in the next few weeks or during the off season, the Phillies should think long and hard before they make a decision they possibly could regret.


Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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