It all began in 1998.
At that time, who would have thought that an $8,000 investment would be such a huge success 10 years later, making that money seem like change when the world saw what the Philadelphia Phillies got in return.
That investment was Carlos Ruiz.
Ruiz found out on Thursday that he would be heading to Los Angeles for another catcher, A.J. Ellis, a minor league pitcher in Tommy Bergjans, as well as a player to be named later. And although Ruiz had a full no-trade clause in his contract, Ruiz knew his best shot at another World Series title with former teammate Chase Utley would be with the Dodgers.
“My heart and everything was in Philly,” Ruiz said in an interview with MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki.“I’m definitely going to miss the fans, the city, my teammates, the organization. It was tough to make that decision. It’s sad to leave, but another part of me is happy, because I’ve got an opportunity to go to the postseason and the playoffs and have a chance to go back to the World Series.”
Ruiz and the 2008 squad, including Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels, worked together to win the 2008 title, as well as the National League pennant in 2008 and 2009, and five consecutive NL East titles beginning in 2007. And although he wasn’t the best player on any of those teams, he was certainly one of the most popular on the field, with the fans, and in the clubhouse with his teammates.
Chooch caught the final pitch of the 2008 World Series; Roy Halladay‘s perfect game in 2010, as well as Doc’s postseason no-hitter in 2010; a combined no-hitter in 2014; and Hamels’ no hitter in 2015 in Hamels’ final start in the red-and-white pinstripes. He was also a member of the 2012 NL All-Star Team.
In 1069 games with the Phillies, Ruiz hit .266 with 213 doubles, seven triples, 68 home runs and 401 RBIs. He was the Opening Day starter eight times (2008-2012, 2014-2016), not starting in 2013 due to serving a 25-game suspension for Adderall. In 11 World Series games, he hit .353, with four doubles, a triple, two home runs, and five RBIs, as well as a 1.194 OPS. He delivered a walk-off RBI in the bottom of the ninth in Game 3 of the 2008 World Series, as well as a three-run home run off Dodgers star Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 of the 2009 NLCS. Ironically, Ruiz’s replacement, Ellis, was the catcher that Kershaw requested to be his catcher.
With the fame and hits that Ruiz has earned and accomplished, he still says the greatest moment of his Phillies career was the $8,000 signing bonus he received, because that’s what started his 18-year run with the team.
“They gave me the opportunity to be a professional player,” said Ruiz. “That was the biggest thing. They gave me that firs step. There definitely were a lot of good memories with the Phillies. They were like a family.”
Last weekend, the Phillies approached him about the possibility of a trade, giving Ruiz the opportunity to speak with his wife, family, and agent, Marc Kligman, about the deal.
After thinking about it for several days, Ruiz met with Phillies manager Pete Mackanin and general manager Matt Klentak in Mackanin’s office at U.S. Cellular Field on Wednesday and said he was ready.
Klentak said the trade was doing what was right for Ruiz.
“He has meant so much to this organization,” said Klentak.
Although Ruiz has mixed emotions, he will be joining a team that has the chance to win the World Series.
“I feel like we made the right decision,” said Ruiz. “I cannot wait to go there and do my best to help the Dodgers go to the playoffs. But I’m definitely going to miss Philly.”
In a usual Carlos way, he made it a point to give a message to the Philadelphia fans before taking off to L.A.
“They’re a big part of my career,” Ruiz said. “They were unbelievable. They were the best. They supported me and my teammates. I always tried to do my best to keep the fans happy by doing my best on the field. I think they knew that. I’m going to miss them, for sure. I’m going to miss the city. They meant a lot to me. I just want to say thank you for their support and everything. I love them, and I’m going to miss them.”
Besides Utley, Ruiz also will join former Phillies pitcher Joe Blanton in a Dodger uniform, leaving Howard as the only member of the 2008 World Series team left on the current roster.
“You play with guys your entire career, now you see them in different uniforms,” Howard told MLB.com’s Joshua Needelman. “It’s definitely something you need to get used to,” Howard said. “But that’s baseball. That’s the business aspect of it.It’s crazy, he’s going over there playing for a team that’s playing for another ring,”
Ruiz’s first hit as a Dodger
Remembering Ruiz’s greatest Moments:
(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
After Hamels’ no hitter, Phillies sideline reporter Gregg Murphy talked to Hamels about sharing the moment with Chooch, saying “You have shared a lot of things with Carlos Ruiz over the years including a world championship, but was it pretty special to have him a part of this as well?”
“Always,” said Hamels. “He and I have always been on the same page. We have built something really special with just knowing how to pitch guys before he even puts down the sign. I think that’s something that really shows the work he’s done and the confidence that I have in him. This is something special. I know we have been to the post season and done that, but this is always something special and we are always trying to do something a little more.”
Current and Former Players React to the move:
Mackanin: “I met Chooch in 2009 for the first time and immediately sensed that he was a special player. But more importantly, over the years I grew to know that he is a special person. I’ll miss him.”
(Photo by Jed Jacobson/Getty Images)
Charlie Manuel: Chooch came to the big leagues and worked hard to become a regular, front line catcher, which is to be commended. He was easy to coach and fun to be around because he loves playing baseball. One of my great joys of managing the Phillies was being at the ballpark with Chooch. I hope he gets to play in the big leagues as long as he wants. We will all miss him in Philadelphia, but continue to root for him no matter what uniform he is in.”
Rich Dubee: “It is good to see that Chooch got traded to a team that he had so much playoff success against. Carlos was a real leader and backbone of those winning pitching staffs.
Ruben Amaro, Jr.: “Carlos was and is one of my favorite players and people in the game. His story is spectacular. Carlos grew from being a young, shy prospect to being a vital part of what should be regarded as the finest core of Phillies players ever assembled. The memory of Carlos catching the last pitch of the 2008 season and making that dramatic last play in the playoffs against Cincinnati to preserve Doc’s [Roy Halladay] postseason no-hitter will forever be imprinted in my mind and in my heart. I hope he gets another chance at October baseball.”
Jamie Moyer: “Carlos not only was — and is — a good teammate, he learned how to become the leader he needed to be behind the plate running a pitching staff. As a teammate, he always had that Ruiz smile that we all have come to love!”
(Photo by Jim McIssac/Getty Images)
Brad Lidge: “Chooch’s impact on Philly will never be forgotten. He was a legendary catcher and clutch hitter. No catcher took more pride in their pitcher’s performances than he did. No one worked harder, no one cared more. He’s a Phillie legend and one of the best teammates I’ve ever had.”
Roy Halladay: “Chooch was the little engine that could for a team loaded with big names, but no player was more valuable to the team as a whole than Carlos! He was so humble and grateful you couldn’t help but just want to do anything for him including win! He flawlessly handled one of the greatest pitching staffs ever assembled and was just as important offensively, as well. It was nothing short of miraculous that he could handle so many different personalities and approaches on a day-to-day basis the way that he did.
“He was the best catcher I’ve ever thrown to and, in my opinion, the best catcher in baseball in the years I was with him. It’s going to be sad to see him without a Phillies uniform on and not seeing him sitting in his chair in the clubhouse with a smile. And just the way the fans treated Chase last week, Chooch is also deserving of that hero’s welcome. They are my two favorite players of all time as well as favorite teammates. I was fortunate to have both of them in the clubhouse. I want to wish good luck to Carlos. Maybe one day when we’re old and gray we can come back to Philly!”
Chris Coste: “During his time with the Phillies there were plenty of superstars, but you could argue that Chooch was the most valuable. He was the rock, both on the field and in the clubhouse. Those of us behind the scenes were aware of his value, and although it took a few years, it was clear that the ‘Phans’ also knew what he meant to Philadelphia.”
Cole Hamels: “Carlos was such an important part of my growth as a pitcher. His preparation and instinct as a catcher set him apart as one of the best, and I feel fortunate to have pitched with him while we were teammates in Philadelphia. His positive clubhouse personality was infectious and he had great respect for the Phillies organization and the fans. He will leave behind a legacy for the catchers that come up through the Phillies’ system on how to play ‘the Phillie Way.'”
— Quotes were all given to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com.
Below is the message that Ruiz left for his Phillies Phamily on the Clubhouse whiteboard before he left for the final time.
(Photo by CSN Philly.com’s Jim Salisbury)