All right. This is going about as well as we thought it would. The team is bad, the bullpen is bad, the offense is bad, and resurfacing accusations of tanking are, naturally, quite bad. But what has it been, like, a month already? At least a couple of weeks?
Okay, something's got to change. The team can't keep going out there the way it is, right? I guess this is just what early stages of development look like. Still, though, there's got to be a way to move some pieces around so that the result is an extra base runner here; a bonus run or two there...
Who do we got left, anyway?
Looking for offense, Pete Mackanin told Darin Ruf to start working out in LF. Ruf did not play there this spring.— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) April 8, 2016
There was a time when the Phillies had such a bounty of interchangeable back-up players with no role that they were trying everybody in the outfield. Darin Ruf was one of the more curious cases because he was only being blocked by Ryan Howard, a first baseman not too difficult to outpace offensively in his twilight years, and because Ruf is not an outfielder.
Despite this, 29-year-old Ruf has played in 90 games as an outfielder, 62 in left, 28 in right. There was never a particular moment when anyone thought, "You know what, I think he finally gets it." So, the team backed off of the concept, Ruf didn't catch a ray of sunshine in the outfield this past spring, and everyone assumed the long-discussed platoon at first base with Howard would be a thing. They assumed this because Pete Mackanin told Howard it was going to be a thing.
But that was before the Phillies scored 12 runs in their first four games. Even the Padres have scored more than that, and they were shut out in each of their first three games. The Phillies are sensing an emergency and don't want to wait around before breaking the glass, so, uh, this is the plan.
This does not feel like a right thing to do, but it does seem like something a team in this position would do. It's the sort of baseline adjustment they don't even think is going to do much, but they want to appear to be at least trying. Like when somebody suggests the offense will get a boost because eventually career .246-hitter Cody Asche will be back. Will Asche provide the boost the offense needs to earn the name "offense?" You can't say he definitely won't!
The other half of the idea, the half that says this will be worth it just to get Ruf back in the lineup, relies on Ruf being the productive power hitter he has never reliably become. Last year he hit 12 home runs but was sixth on the team in SLG (.414) among players who made it into at least 80 games, behind Andres Blanco and Jeff Francoeur. He hit exactly .235 two years in a row. What offense do the Phillies think they'll be getting their hands on by, as Matt Winkelman put it, sacrificing defense at two positions? The whole point of not sending Ruf out there anymore was that the team had decided it wanted a new fast, slick, defensive set of outfielders, not the Delmon Young's and Grady Sizemore's of the world. Remember when there were three center fielders out there? Maybe the plan has changed since Aaron Altherr got hurt.
But, hey. Maybe Ruf will bring something to the table. Maybe we'll get a May 2013/Dom Brown outburst out of him. And don't forget, Cody Asche will come back eventually. In the mean time, take solace in the fact that there is so, so much baseball left to play.
@Matt_Winkelman please pace yourself. there's a thousand more games, and none of them matter. let me be the one in pain.— Michael Levin (@Michael_Levin) April 8, 2016