Carlos Ruiz’s two-run home run, the first of his career, capped a five-run fourth inning to help lead the Phillies past the Padres 6-5. Here's hoping the 27-year-old rookie gets many more chances.
I’ve followed the catching saga closely for some time, not just because Ruiz is one of my favorite players, but because the Phillies’ handling of this position stands against everything I believe in when it comes to the development of a prospect.
To my delight, nearly all of this site’s readers concur the catching situation doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense. The decision to go with Sal Fasano for this long, an aging, overmatched career major and minor-league backup, represents the kind of old-fashioned reasoning that separates the Phillies from the rest of baseball.
Harkening back to December, Fasano was brought aboard as a cheaper, younger version of Todd Pratt, a placeholder in case a young catcher emerged. Fasano signed close to the league minimum, which was as good as it was going to get for the 34-year-old Triple-A catcher.
Now it’s July. Not only has Ruiz exhausted his minor league development by hitting the cover off the ball in Scranton, as it turns out, Fasano has been injured for weeks. He’s had inflammation in his left knee for the better part of the season and had to leave Sunday's game against Toronto. Plus, he isn't hitting.
Ruiz, making his second appearance of the season, will share catching duties for at least the next two weeks with Chris Coste. Coste, starting more games at catcher than his biggest fans would have dreamed, has actually outperformed Fasano both offensively and defensively. I would have no problem keeping him on as a spare bat once Mike Lieberthal returns. In fact, the Phillies should entertain thoughts on making Lieby the spare bat.
Even Sal’s Pals cannot be blind to what we’ve seen: Feeble hitting; inferior receiving; extremely poor speed; a bad physical specimen with inevitable injury problems; and nothing close to consistent results handling the starting staff, which was his alleged specialty.
Here’s a quote from Bill James, offered up on another site from a poster as commentary about the Phils' catcher situation.
"… poorly run organizations leave promising young players on the bench in favor of established mediocrities and tend to project their weaknesses onto their best players, and ultimately will dwell not on what the player can do, but on what he can't."
Here’s the new rule for 2006: The kids stay. Cole Hamels stays. Carlos Ruiz stays. And so on down the line. The Phillies have little hope to contend. They can only build toward contending next season. But here’s the beauty of it. They lose absolutely nothing in going this direction. Even if they were in a dead heat with the Mets, they should do this.
Here’s what you don’t do. You don’t screw yourself once again and make Fasano the personal catcher for Jon Lieber once he returns. The Phillies have already catered to too many mediocrities like Lieber, who does not return the favor by keeping himself in shape.
Here’s what you do do. You allow Fasano to ride off into the sunset, where he can remember his magical half season with the Phillies, the one in which he became a starting catcher, got his batting average as high as .281, and had his own fan club.