People say that reporters are supposed to be unbiased, but that is a bunch of bunk, and by bunk I don't mean a cigar-chomping, whiskey-swilling, wise-cracking homicide detective. Reporters are humans, and humans have biases. The real goal is to prevent those biases from appearing in print. One of my biases is that I, like most of the Delaware Valley, have a soft spot for Carlos Ruiz. I like the guy. I don't know him well enough to serve as a character witness, but in his role as a professional baseball player, I can certainly testify.
Quick anecdote: the Phillies' gameday ops crew runs a program that allows nine kids to join each member of the Phillies at his position during the playing of the national anthem. They stand side by side, stare at the flag, then scurry back to the stands. During one day game, I looked down at the field while the kids were out there. Most of the players were standing like soldiers, hats over their hearts, casting shadows over the kids next to him. Then I looked at home plate, where Ruiz was standing with his right arm draped around the little shoulders of the kid standing next to him. That, in a nutshell, is why people like Carlos Ruiz.
One of the joys of covering the Phillies for the last five years has been watching Ruiz's evolution, as a player, as a leader, and even as an adoptive American. When I first started covering the team, Ruiz would sometimes use a translator to talk to big groups of reporters. He did not like talking in front of cameras. But he has made amazing strides in his English. Last night, after he hit his ninth home run of the season and caught eight strong innings from Cole Hamels, Ruiz bounded through the clubhouse, joking with Roy Halladay's son about his fastball and fist-bumping Brian Schneider's son. When a team official told him that the media wanted to speak with him, he strode to the center of the clubhouse, leaned against the island counter that sits in the middle of the room, and spent a few minutes fielding questions with a veteran's ease.
Thus far, it has been a career year for Ruiz. After last night's game, he ranked third in the National League in hitting with a .369 batting average, fourth in on base percentage (.417) and fifth in OPS (1.003). His wOBA, a stat that attempts to measure all of a hitter's contributions at the plate, was .427, which ranked fifth among all major league hitters.
Three months into the season, Carlos Ruiz isn't just the best-hitting catcher in game, he is one of the best hitters, period.
In a year that has been filled with turmoil for the five-time defending NL East champions, the performance of an ever-improving Panamanian catcher has been a huge bright spot.