Someone hug Ryan Howard today. After, of course, you wish Chooch a fond farewell.
Carlos Ruiz was traded Thursday to the Los Angeles Dodgers for fellow longtime backstop A.J. Ellis, minor league arm Tommy Bergjans and either a player to be named later or cash. From Phillies.com:
Ruiz, 37, needed to accept the trade to the Dodgers because he had 5-and-10 rights (at least 10 years of service time and five years with current team) with the Phils. The catcher met with Phillies vice president and general manager Matt Klentak and manager Pete Mackanin on Wednesday in Chicago to discuss the deal.
Man, to be a fly on the clubhouse wall for that conversation. Sure, it was clear that Chooch was going to have his contract bought out at the end of the season — the Phillies owed him either $4.5 million next season or just $500,000 to walk away after this one — but it’s hard to see a guy go who was so important to a franchise and yet still, somehow, seemed underrated.
No, this wasn’t a shock, and while Chooch has been hot since the All-Star break, hitting .340 in limited action, it’s not as if the Phillies were going to put him back in the starting lineup and suddenly it’s 2012 again.
Notable internet meme maker FanSince09 summed up the city’s love for Ruiz when penned an ode to Chooch for Billy Penn back in May, when Chooch surprisingly made our Ultimate Phillies Final Four. In part:
Chooch is often overlooked by the media because he played an unglamorus role and hit in a lineup with such names as Chase Utley and Future Hall Of Famer Raul Ibanez. But real fans know why Chooch isn’t just one of the four greatest Phillies, he’s the greatest Phillie. One might even say he’s the Brian Dawkins of the Phillies.
Chooch wasn’t supposed to be Chooch. He was a fringe Major League player who used hustle, hustle and grit to secure a key spot on some of the best Phillies teams of all time; an 8-hole hitter who became the team’s most reliable offensive threat and caught three real no hitters and one fake one.
Let’s put this in perspective a little. Seeing Chooch go before the end of the 2016 season is sad, but sad like when you’re eating a bag of chips, and think you have one chip left…only dig your hand in to find the bag empty. It’s crushing, for a minute, until you realize it was pretty much over already.
With Chooch joining Chase Utley with the first-place Dodgers, giving him another shot at a championship, that leaves just Ryan Howard — if you can believe that — as the only player remaining from the 2008 World F’ing Champions.
Howard has made it clear he still wants to try to play next year, and yeah, there was some chance the Phillies might want to bring Ruiz back next year on a cut-rate deal. But without much in terms of veteran depth at catcher in the system, Howard’s contract has been an albatross around the neck of the franchise for nearly half a decade.
Howard has a $10 million buyout after the season, and now with Chooch gone, that buyout is more expensive than 22 of the other 23 players on this year’s roster…combined.
If the Phillies could trade Howard, they would have done it already. Sure, there’s a chance, like with Chooch, Howard can be dealt in the next few days. Frankly, given Howard’s second-half production — he is hitting .333 in the second half with an OPS of 1.084, which includes a .362 batting average and 1.166 OPS with five home runs in his last 50 plate appearances — it wouldn’t be surprising for a contender in need of a lefty bat to try to work a deal for Howard, if the Phillies were willing to eat most of his remaining contract.
Yet until Howard is either dealt or, more likely, plays his last game as a Phillie on October 2, the Big Piece is all we have left from the 2008 champions. Utley’s in LA, and now Chooch is with him. Rollins was there too, before he went to Chicago, and now he’s out entirely. So is Victorino. Hamels is a stud in Texas, while Werth is showing his…value in Washington. The rest of that group has long since hung up their spikes.
Howard is all we got, so let’s all promise to relive the glory years a little, and remember the times we had, while we still have the chance.
As for Chooch, he’ll get the chance he’d never get in Philly, even if he came back next year. Whether he plays after this season or not, the Phillies did him a solid by shipping him to a contender. He deserved at least that much.