With the glory years clearly in the rearview mirror, I will take the next couple of weeks to review the major transactions that lead up to the best period in Philadelphia Phillies history, and how it impacts the team today and going forward. Today’s focus: May 5, 2006 — the Phillies promote Carlos Ruiz to the major league roster.
Background: Carlos Ruiz was signed at a very young age out of Panama. Never truly considered a future major league prospect, he began to turn heads in 2004 with his strong minor league performances and moved his name into the legitimate prospect category.
In May 2006, longtime catcher Mike Lieberthal went on the DL. Uncomfortable with the idea of Sal Fasano as the full-time catcher in the meantime, the man affectionately known as Chooch was promoted to the major league level for good.
Evaluation for Phillies: Chooch made a name for himself early with the Phils for his defense and relationship with pitchers. Lieberthal left via free agency after the ’06 season and Ruiz assumed the full-time catcher position in 2007 after beating out the likes of Rod Barajas and Chris Coste. Ruiz would go on to become arguably the best pitch-caller in the game, an All-Star and a clutch postseason hero.
Who Won?: This was clearly a good decision for the Phils as it worked out well for them. Ruiz was a nothing prospect at the beginning of his career who blossomed as a major leaguer. He placed in the MVP voting three straight seasons from 2010-2012, helped catch two no-hitters (one being a perfect game) from Roy Halladay in 2010, and had a career season in 2012.
What If They Didn’t Promote Ruiz?: The parameters down the road on this one are interesting. For one, the Phillies have always had a line of catching prospects ready to assume the starting position if Chooch ever faltered below league-average production. They drafted Jason Jaramillo in the second round of 2004’s draft with an eye on him being their future. They then traded him and Lou Marson became the future … before he was sent to Cleveland and was replaced by Travis d’Arnaud as the ‘next guy.’
The trend continues to modern day as Ruiz proved himself with the major league team and forced the team to make decisions on their catching prospects. Without Chooch’s promotion and chance to prove himself as the unlikely catcher of the future and during the golden age, the Phillies would have had to spend on free agent catchers to tide the team over, would have rolled with another prospect with far inferior skills (as it turns out) and would have robbed the team of valuable trade chips going forward.
Considering his performances in the postseason as well, it is hard to believe that another catcher would have facilitated such stellar pitching performances (Cole Hamels in 2008, Cliff Lee in 2009, Roy Halladay in 2010) or provided the clutch hitting that propelled the team to the success they had. Promoting Ruiz in 2006 and his subsequent blossoming as one of the core members of the golden age was a key decision that shaped the team’s future and their current outlook.
What’s Next? Bobby Abreu