Everyone gets a retirement tour these days. From Chipper Jones to Mariano Rivera to Derek Jeter and, now, to David Ortiz, iconic players' careers are being celebrated not only by their own teams, but by every team they play against as well.
Despite featuring many elite players, the Phillies have few likely internal candidates for a retirement tour. Either because of trades--Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Jonathan Papelbon (just kidding!)--free agency--Pat Burrell, Kyle Kendrick (again, kidding!)--or precipitous injury-related decline--Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee--the great Phillies of the 2008-2011 era will not have their careers acknowledged with their own retirement tours as members of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Still, there are two Phillies who have survived the attrition that has plagued their fellow WFC and best-record-in-baseball brethren: Carlos Ruiz and Ryan Howard. Both players have buyouts after the 2016 season that the team is almost certain to avail themselves of. For the low price of $500K, the Phillies can clear Carlos Ruiz's roster spot for the likes of Jorge Alfaro or Andrew Knapp. For the slightly higher price of $10 million, the Phillies can finally rid themselves of Ryan Howard and his ill-considered contract extension.
But only one of those players, for my money, is likely to retire in the event of a buyout. Ryan Howard, for his myriad deficiencies as a major league baseball player, still can hit right-handed pitching at an above-average level. I would suspect he hangs on for another year or two as a cheap designated hitter in the American League in an attempt to collect another couple checks and perhaps chase the 400 HR mark.
That leaves Carlos Ruiz. Once one of the most underrated, and best, catchers in the game, Ruiz possesses little in the way of discernible baseball skills at age 37. In 2015, Ruiz posted career worsts in all three slash categories (.211/.290/.285) on his way to the first negative-WAR season of his career. Unlike some catchers, like Jose Molina, who can provide value framing/presenting pitches until their left arms fall off, Chooch has rated everywhere on the spectrum from awful to average throughout his career. Basically, without the bat, there's not much reason to have Ruiz on a major league roster besides some sort of spiritual influence.
Yikes! That last paragraph was tough to write. I'm sorry, Chooch. But, the fact is, when the Phillies inevitably buy him out after this season, he is unlikely to find employment as a player elsewhere in the game. Look at me, I'm tearing up here. Give me a minute to get myself together and dry off my keyboard.
Anyway, the point here is that Carlos Ruiz is likely done as a major league baseball player once his contract with the Phillies is terminated for the low price of $500,000. So, like any self-respecting public figure, he should seize those final moments and announce his retirement, even though it would mean forgoing that sweet half-a-million buyout.
It's unlikely, impossible even, that Ruiz would receive the same caliber of generosity as Derek Jeter on his retirement tour. But that is immaterial. What is important is that Phillies fans get one chance to celebrate, in an extended fashion, the career of perhaps the greatest catcher in franchise history. Having already been robbed of the opportunity to similarly commemorate the greatest shortstop, second baseman, party-animal, and handsome pitcher in team history, we deserve this one.
Let the Carlos Ruiz retirement tour commence and let the villagers of Philadelphia rejoice!