Ron Costello

Thursday, January 21, 2016

There are many ways to tell if a baseball player belongs in the Show. We shall examine two of them.

The first way — we'll call it the Domonic Brown way — is when the manager runs you out there game after game, letting you sink or swim.

Well, Brown sunk and now he's gone.

The second way — and let's call this the Darin Ruf way — is when the manager spot starts you here, there and everywhere. First you're in left, then in right, next at first base, then back to left,  oh wait, back over to right, even a game at  third, then back to the outfield. Then you pinch hit.

At the same time taking on another position that you are not accustomed to and rarely played.

Le'ts compare plate appearances for Brown and Ruf:

          Brown          Ruf
2013    540             293
2014    512             117
2015    204             297
Total  1256             707

See the difference between the two ways?

Now here's the thing. In high school, Ruf played first base. I bet he even played it in Little League. He was quite the athlete in high school, playing football, baseball, and basketball. He was captain of both his high school football and baseball teams.

He signed with the Phillies in '09 and arrived at the Gulf Coast League as a first baseman. At Williamsport, first base. At Lakewood, first base. Clearwater Threshers, yes, first base. He skipped AAA and at Reading in 2012 — where he played first base — he hit .317, 38 HRs and 104 RBIs.

He was called up in September of '12.

Lookit. When he had that great year at Reading, he played in 139 games, which means he played every day. And he was comfortable at first.

In '12 the Phillies knew he was special — he got the Paul Owens Award as the Phillies' best minor league player and was the Eastern League MVP.

But when he got to Philly,  there was no room at the inn. Nobody moves the Piece off first, not with the sizable contract he had. Then the suits upstairs got the idea that since first was crowded, Ruf would be better in the outfield.

So they hit him some fungos and then put him in left.

Darin Ruf is not an outfielder. He may be better than, say, Delmon Young, or the Bull — oh where oh where are you, Jerry Martin? But with the outfield horses the Phillies have now and coming next season?

I don't think so.

So what happened to Darin Ruf? And what's the future for him?

Simple answer: He needs to play consistently, not herky-jerky.

The purpose of this is not to downgrade Dominic Brown. No one was more of a Dominic Brown fan than me. I told everyone that this kid — Brown — was a sure-fire future star in the Show. I wrote it and I said it.

I was wrong. If I were right about everything, I'd be writing this in an office at Citizens Bank Park. No, strike that, I'd be writing this at MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Instead of, well, in my South Philadelphia home, with two cats as researchers (who sleep all the time, and can't spell Dick.)

And with Ryan Howard, at 36, there's no future beyond this season — if there's even one this season. After this season? He collects his Powerball winnings of $25 million, and another $10  million buyout for 2017, then he'll either ride off into the sunset or become a DH in the other league.

My guess is the sunset — where you don't have to hit a killer breaking ball; in the American League you do.

The Phillies are thinking platoon for Howard and Ruf. I know because that's what the skipper, Pete Mackanin, said last week. But a platoon is like making love, but not actually  having sex. In a platoon, you go away frustrated.

Platoon isn't the Dominic Brown way, it falls back into the Darin Ruf way. Why platoon him with a guy who has no future?

Put Ruf at first and let him sink or swim. Why not? The team isn't going anywhere this season.

Besides, he deserves it.

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