Tuesday, September 23, 2014
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Darin Ruf, and why the Phillies are still adrift in an ocean of illogic

Let's say you are the owner of a baseball team, and you are looking to hire a person who will be in charge of putting a quality product on the field. Call the position a general manager, call it a president of baseball ops, it doesn't really mattter. The baseball buck stops with this person. If each of your interviews was limited to one question, what question would you ask?

Darin Ruf, and why the Phillies are still adrift in an ocean of illogic

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. (left) and manager Ryne Sandberg. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images file photo)
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. (left) and manager Ryne Sandberg. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images file photo)

Let's say you are the owner of a baseball team, and you are looking to hire a person who will be in charge of putting a quality product on the field. Call the position a general manager, call it a president of baseball ops, it doesn't really mattter. The baseball buck stops with this person. If each of your interviews was limited to one question, what question would you ask?

How about: What's your plan? 

That's what I would want to ask this person. I am looking to hire somebody who will inherit a mess. I want to know how this person plans on fixing this mess. I will then judge this person on how well they execute their plan, and, ultimately, whether or not the plan is successful. 

This is not a revolutionary concept. I imagine that each one of us would begin with some sort of iteration of a what's-your-plan question. We stink. We would like not to stink. What's your plan for escorting us out of Stinkville?

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Now, what if you asked a candidate to detail his plan, and the candidate responded, "First and foremost, I am going to make sure that everybody in my organization understands that our number one goal is to win that night's game, and that we will never shortchange the present in order to build for the future. Because 71 wins is better than 70 wins, and 72 wins is better than 71 wins. I do not believe in lost causes and sunk costs."

I would kick them out of my office, and I suspect you would too. And if that's how we would deal with a candidate to become our next BC, there is no sensible reaosn why we would not deal that way with the current BC. And when you look at the Phillies from that perspective, they become even more of a mind-scramble, because every time Ryne Sandberg opens his mouth he indicates that the Phillies have yet to train their entire focus on the future. 

Ryne Sandberg yesterday on Darin Ruf's role in the future: "The situations he's been in the last couple of years here, not being able to have a string of at-bats, it's hard to really get a gauge still."

Ryne Sandberg yesterday on the obvious remedy for that difficulty (allowing him to have a string of at bats): "That's the tricky part about making lineups and also trying to win a game."

Don't think about those quotes too hard or you might find yourself wandering the city streets late at night talking gibberish to yourself. 

I'm going to say the same thing about Darin Ruf as I said about Domonic Brown. Forget about the player himself. Let's focus on pure logic. Sandberg admits that he does not have enough information at his disposal to render a judgment on the viability of Player X as an everyday major leaguer. He admits that the only way for him to render that judgment is to give Player X consistent at bats. But he expresses a belief that the Phillies might be in a better position to win that night's game with somebody other than Player X in the lineup. 

The fact that this exact situation has yet to be addressed says something damning about one of two parties: Ruben Amaro Jr., or his bosses. Either the bosses have yet to ask Amaro about his plan, or, worse yet, he has been asked, and this is part of his plan. Present day wins over future day information. Maybe the manager has barricaded himself on the bridge and is ignoring direct orders. There's a simple fix for that, one that is under direct control of the GM. 

Look, sitting Darin Ruf against Jared Weaver because Weaver is good against righties and Ruf hasn't proven himself to be better against righties than Grady Sizemore isn't the kind of individual decision that derails the future of an organization. Same goes for pinch-hitting for Ruf against Jeurys Familia, even if the precise names of all involved make you want to ram your head into a storm door. But if the manager acknowledges that he might gain some useful information for the future by playing Ruf, and he decides not to play him so that he can play a chronically-injured 32-year-old free-agent-to-be who currently has more plate appearances than he has in any season since 2009 and has a .670 OPS to show for it, and his rationale for that decision is that it gives the Phillies a better chance to finish the night 13 games under .500 instead of 15 games under .500, well, all of that suggests that there could be some larger issues in play. 

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