Normally, the Seattle Mariners coming to Philadelphia for a quick two-game set wouldn’t move the needle all that much. After all, it’s the Mariners, a team located about as far away from Philadelphia geographically as possible.
But this is no ordinary series. Tonight, the city welcomes back one of its most beloved athletes ever.
And no, that is not hyperbole. Carlos Ruiz, the lovable Chooch, will return to Citizens Bank Park for the first time since being traded from the Phils to the Dodgers late last season, and he will be welcomed home like few athletes in the city’s history.
Chooch’s place in team history is secure. He was the man who caught the final out of the Phillies’ second world championship. He received four different no-hitters, one of only two catchers to pull off that feat (Jason Varitek was the other). One of those no-hitters was in Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS thrown by Roy Halladay, only the second postseason no-hitter in baseball history.
He made an All Star team in 2012. He was one of six Phillies catchers since 1901 to be behind the plate for more than 1000 games (1069, 5th all-time). His 68 homers are 5th in team history, his .266 batting average is 7th, his .352 on-base percentage is 10th, and his 22.3 fWAR was 2nd-most in team history, behind Darren Daulton’s 24.4.
And boy, the Phillies sure did get their money’s worth.
He signed with the team as a pudgy second baseman for the low-low price of $8000 back in 1998. He eventually turned that into a 3-year, $26 million deal after the 2013 season, still a fantastic investment for the franchise.
He’s not doing much this year with Seattle as the team’s back-up catcher. In 33 PAs he’s batting .115/.281/.154, but is playing solid defense and is still walking a lot, 12.1% of his PAs.
But the end is near. So as we welcome Carlos Ruiz back to Philly for the first time, let’s take a look back at what I believe are his five greatest Phils moments.
5. ROY HALLADAY COMMERCIAL
What’s great about this is that Chooch isn’t even actually physically a part of this. Instead, it’s a feature of Halladay promoting MLB 2K11. But featured prominently in the ad is a huggable Carlos Ruiz pillow that Halladay simply must have whenever he’s forced to make a difficult life decision.
After all, if you could take Carlos Ruiz around with you everywhere to help you decide things great and small, wouldn’t you?
4. ROY HALLADAY PLAYOFF NO-HITTER
Sure, this was more of a Roy Halladay moment than a Chooch moment, but Ruiz was prominently featured in this game. After all, so much of the work that’s done in a dominating no-hitter is put in by that game’s catcher, and it’s no accident Chooch caught four of these things.
He also made the final out on a little dribbler in front of the plate that turned out to be an extremely difficult play.
3. RUIZ CATCHES THE FINAL OUT OF 2008
We all remember Brad Lidge dropping that nasty 0-2 slider on Eric Hinske for the final out of the 2008 World Series. We then remember Lidge dropping to his knees as he awaits Ruiz to meet him in front of the pitcher’s mound before the rest of the team, led by a lumbering Ryan Howard that must have scared the bejeezus out of all of them, piled on top.
2. RUIZ’ GAME-WINNING SINGLE, GAME 3, 2008 WORLD SERIES
StatCast wasn’t around in 2008, so we have to estimate that the batted ball speed of the most important hit of Ruiz’ life probably left his barrel at around .056 mph. Nevertheless, with the bases loaded and nobody out in the bottom of the 9th inning of a 4-4 game, Ruiz’ dribbler up the 3rd base line scored Eric Bruntlett from 3rd to give the Phillies a momentum-swinging Game 3 victory and a 2-1 series lead.
Ruiz would hit .375/.500/.688 in that World Series with 2 doubles and a homer and would be given a second nickname based on his postseason exploits, “ChoochTober.” After all, the guy hit .255/.377/.425 in 184 postseason plate appearances in his career with 5 October dingers.
1. RUIZ WALK-OFF DOUBLE COMPLETES MASSIVE PHILLIES COMEBACK
This was one of the sneakier-great moments during the Phils’ run of excellence. In 2010, Ruiz and the Phillies got to poor Jonathan Broxton for a third straight year, coming back from eight runs down in the 8th inning to beat L.A.
Chooch finished things off on a walk-off double for what I believe was his top individual moment in the Phillies uniform.
Carlos, welcome back to Philadelphia, a place you will always be able to call home.