On Tuesday night, the Nationals beat the Phillies 4-2 in a London-esque foggy haze that will not be remembered for anything other than Darin Ruf.
You know, Darin Ruf, right? He’s the guy that does nothing but pile up extra-base hits and homers but can’t really play baseball because he’s 26 years old.
In the Phils’ last three games against the Nationals, Ruf has accounted for all seven of the Phils’ runs, and has hit three home runs in just 11 games with the big league club. He’s also hitting .355 (11 for 31) with nine RBIs in those 11 games.
This comes after a record-setting season in AA in which Ruf broke Ryan Howard’s Reading Phillies record with 38 HRs in 139 games, while also hitting .317.
Man, he’s gonna be a bust.
Are his Major League stats coming from a small sample size? Of course.
But does it make any sense to dismiss them out of hand and ignore what this kid is doing? Absolutely not.
Of course, Ruf is a polarizing figure. The critics point to his age, saying he isn’t a real prospect because he’s been too old for every level at which he’s played. They also point to his defense in left field as a work in progress, even though many of these same people are the ones who defended Domonic Brown’s atrocious outfield defense coming into 2012.
Thinking Ruf has a chance to make the 2013 roster
— Mike(@MikeFrohwirth) October 3, 2012
It’d be neat if some AL team gave the Phils another reliever or decent utility option for Ruf this winter but eh
— Paul Boyé (@Phrontiersman) October 3, 2012
Now listen, I respect the opinion of the critics. I get why they have their doubts, and I think it’s very important not to get your hopes up about Darin Ruf. He’s only played 11 Major League baseball games. His defense in left field does need work. And I don’t think the Phillies should guarantee anything to Ruf before Spring Training rolls around. If he wants to start in the Majors, he’s going to have to earn it in Clearwater.
But there are some who are completely dismissing what he has done this season. And not only is that not smart, it’s a self-crippling prophecy.
Hasn’t everyone been lamenting the lack of cheap, homegrown power options in this franchise? And while Ruf is no sure thing, is his age really the only reason to close the door on his potential as a Major League player?
All I’m asking is that people keep an open mind, and not get so lost in the “Darin Ruf is just another Mike Costanzo” narrative that they ignore what they’re seeing happen right in front of them.
Thankfully, there are some people who get it.
— Nate (@DelcoNate) October 3, 2012
look, every guy ive ever ranked in my top 100 prospects has made a major league impact. so im right damnit. ruf never sniffs a meaningful ga
— I’M THE GREATEST TWI (@riserandgrinder) October 3, 2012
Oh Darin Ruf, I find you delightful.
— Liz Roscher (@lizroscher) October 3, 2012
Of course, Bill Baer from Crashburn Alley asks the most important question…
Can Ruf play third base?
— Bill Baer (@CrashburnAlley) October 3, 2012
Ruf will go to Venezuela next month to play winter ball, presumably to work on his defense in left field. But hey, it’s Babe Ruf! I say throw him at the hot corner and let him pick a few!
At the end of the day, though, what we think about Ruf is irrelevant. It’s what the Phillies, Ruben Amaro and Charlie Manuel think about him. They seem to be mighty impressed and anxious for Ruf to at least provide some much-needed competition to a few players who might think positions on this team are owed to them.
“When you see somebody hit like that, I know if I was a player I’d pick it up,” Manuel said. “This is a dog-eat-dog game. I think a lot of guys don’t understand that these days. If you’re hungry and mean you can take somebody’s job in a New York minute.”
“He’s interesting. Forty-two home runs and .300 – that gets your attention. He’s hitting his way into us getting a look at him.”
Manuel also says Ruf should be able to learn left field well enough to at least be serviceable, although one hopes his comparison ends up being a little better in the end.
“I think with some work, he can be an adequate outfielder, like a Raul Ibanez.”
Even if Ruf is only as good as Ibanez defensively, that would be acceptable if he slugs the ball this way.
And by the way, for all the hype Domonic Brown has gotten over the years, he has never had as productive an 11-game stretch in the Majors as Ruf has had in his first 11. I’m just sayin’.
So, whether you’re a true Ruf believer or a vehement skeptic, everyone needs to keep an open mind here.
No one is saying anyone should give Darin Ruf left field next year based solely on his AA stats and 11 Major League games. That would be foolish.
But don’t close off all possibility that the guy can be a productive Major League hitter. If Ruf was two years younger, the critics would be defending his defense as fixable and proclaiming his power potential from the rooftops.
Darin Ruf is a great unknown. Give him the chance to prove him himself.
And open your minds.