Goodbye, Chooch.

Hanging on the wall above my dresser, next to the decorative Phillies lamp, looking over the replica 2008 World Series trophy, is a framed commemoration of the great 2008 World Champions of Baseball. The multi-panel frame shows a box of infield dirt, which a hologram sticker assures me is from the actual playing surface. There’s also a picture of Cole Hamels finishing a pitch, under which is a shot of Shane Victorino leaping onto the victory dogpile. Undoubtedly, at the bottom of that pile is Carlos Ruiz.

Today, nearly eight years later and after eleven seasons in red pinstripes, Carlos Ruiz has been traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

There goes one of the two best catchers in Phillies history, in my extremely unbiased opinion. Of the 22 catchers who have logged at least 1,000 plate appearances for the Phillies franchise, Carlos Ruiz is third in bWAR, fifth in games played, fourth in runs, fifth in hits, second in doubles, sixth in homers, and sixth in RBI. His batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage rank ninth, ninth, and fourteenth, respectively. Even after setting aside the guys who played in the nineteenth century, Chooch isn’t exactly the clear offensive leader among Phillies catchers. If we had reliable defensive metrics for prior eras — let alone our own! — we might be able to more accurately demonstrate Ruiz’s place near the top of the franchise catcher list. His defensive presence, game-calling, and ability to handle some of the best pitchers in baseball were always his most important tools. The offensive outburst that began in 2009 was just the cherry on top.

Rk Player WAR PA From To Age G AB R H HR RBI BB SO SB BA OBP SLG
1 Jack Clements 29 4105 1884 1897 19-32 1000 3729 536 1079 70 636 308 304 54 0.289 0.352 0.426
2 Darren Daulton 22.4 4188 1983 1997 21-35 1109 3504 489 858 134 567 607 709 48 0.245 0.357 0.427
3 Carlos Ruiz 21.7 3884 2006 2016 27-37 1069 3378 388 898 68 401 386 456 24 0.266 0.352 0.393
4 Andy Seminick 17.4 3449 1943 1957 22-36 985 2936 385 716 123 411 450 591 20 0.244 0.351 0.419
5 Stan Lopata 17 2976 1948 1958 22-32 822 2545 375 655 116 393 389 481 18 0.257 0.355 0.459
6 Spud Davis 16.2 2712 1928 1939 23-34 814 2462 234 790 53 363 197 173 6 0.321 0.374 0.449
7 Mike Lieberthal 15.5 4613 1994 2006 22-34 1174 4141 528 1137 150 609 331 560 8 0.275 0.338 0.450
8 Clay Dalrymple 15.1 3331 1960 1968 23-31 1006 2881 225 674 50 312 351 378 3 0.234 0.319 0.334
9 Bob Boone 12.8 4152 1972 1981 24-33 1125 3690 349 957 65 456 365 311 23 0.259 0.325 0.370
10 Ed McFarland 10.7 1713 1897 1901 23-27 423 1522 225 447 7 214 141 84 35 0.294 0.357 0.394
11 Butch Henline 9.3 1926 1921 1926 26-31 576 1706 226 519 36 231 147 121 15 0.304 0.372 0.434
12 Smoky Burgess 9.2 1191 1952 1955 25-28 327 1049 125 332 15 139 131 50 7 0.316 0.393 0.452
13 Tim McCarver 7.4 1698 1970 1980 28-38 628 1461 174 397 26 168 199 119 17 0.272 0.359 0.396
14 Bo Diaz 5.9 1253 1982 1985 29-32 333 1147 132 294 36 174 85 164 4 0.256 0.308 0.402
15 Jimmie Wilson 4.4 2778 1923 1938 22-37 838 2545 305 732 22 315 172 152 44 0.288 0.334 0.369
16 Red Dooin 4.1 4092 1902 1914 23-35 1220 3832 321 922 10 335 150 305 132 0.241 0.273 0.299
17 Ozzie Virgil 4.1 1268 1980 1985 23-28 383 1134 131 279 46 154 112 239 1 0.246 0.319 0.422
18 Bennie Warren 3.8 1038 1939 1942 27-30 335 915 90 205 29 96 115 155 1 0.224 0.314 0.360
19 Todd Pratt 3.1 1010 1992 2005 25-38 299 862 99 221 28 114 123 239 2 0.256 0.357 0.412
20 Bill Killefer 2.2 2095 1911 1917 23-29 637 1958 149 471 4 156 57 99 22 0.241 0.268 0.289
21 Mike Ryan 0.9 1287 1968 1973 26-31 392 1185 89 225 21 91 87 225 1 0.190 0.246 0.288
22 Bill Atwood -0.8 1070 1936 1940 24-28 342 961 82 220 7 112 93 89 4 0.229 0.299 0.302
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/25/2016.

Indeed, as with many others who don the tools of ignorance, Ruiz blossomed late. In his first two seasons of full-time duty in 2007 and 2008, he managed a meager .241/.330/.352 slash line. During his four-year peak from 2009 to 2012 (age 30 to 33 seasons), Ruiz bumped that line up to .292/.380/.448. In the 2009 World Series, he hit .333/.478/.722 with a homer, a triple, two doubles, and five walks. In 2010, he scored some downballot MVP votes, finishing 17th. In his unforgettable 2012 season, Chooch made the All-Star team, hit 16 homers (more than he hit in 2010 and 2011 combined), and mustered a .325/.394/.540 slash line.

I grew up watching Darren Daulton, and loved him more than any other Phillie from that era. It’s difficult to say whether Daulton or Ruiz was the “better” catcher for the Phillies, considering the different skill sets of each player. What they share without doubt is their place at the heart of two of the most beloved teams in Phillies history. Daulton’s crew was more of a flash of lightning in an otherwise dark night. Ruiz was the backstop for the greatest collection of talent the Phillies have ever assembled. His steady presence was comforting, and the trademark “Choooooch” call from the crowd was emboldening. His calm agility is perhaps best demonstrated by the final play of Roy Halladay‘s 2010 playoff no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds. When Brandon Phillips hit a weak grounder in front of the plate, for a split second it seemed like history might have to wait…but then Carlos Ruiz pounced, and fired, and sealed the deal for Doctor October.

When Jayson Werth was allowed to leave town after that season, the wind rustled. By the time Shane Victorino was traded two years later, the writing was on the wall. As Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee saw their careers end abruptly, we became increasingly accustomed to the inevitable. The trades of Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Cole Hamels were anticipated for so long that their finality felt almost refreshing. Now, with Carlos Ruiz traded as well, we’re left with just one Big Piece.

There has been time to process these emotions. The Phillies haven’t been a playoff team since 2011, and the inevitable, painful trades are over. There hasn’t been a World Series game played in South Philadelphia since 2009. Yet today, as we turn one of the final pages in the chapter of the greatest team in Phillies history, there’s still time to celebrate like it was only yesterday. Goodbye, Chooch. You will be dearly missed.

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