MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 22:  Darin Ruf #18 of the Philadelphia Phillies hits a single against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on April 22, 2016 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
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Darin Ruf signs to play in South Korea

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The Dodgers acquired 1B/OF Darin Ruf from the Phillies for Howie Kendrick back in November. Today the Yonhap News agency reports that the South Korean baseball club Samsung Lions signed Ruf to a one-year $1.1 million deal.

Ruf made $527,000 in 2016 and fell 14 days short of Super Two eligibility. If he had made it, he would’ve been due a somewhat substantial raise through arbitration. Or, possibly, could’ve been non-tendered by the Dodgers, who may not have wanted to give him a big raise. As it was, however, he was likely to be renewed for roughly the same in 2017 as he made in 2016, with no obvious path to substantial playing time for a veteran-laden Dodgers team.

Despite his short service time, Ruf is no spring chicken. He turned 30 last summer as he hit a meager .205/.236/.337 with three home runs and nine RBI in 89 plate appearances and has played parts of five seasons in the bigs. While he has shown promise at times, his window to establish himself as a regular and to get through his arbitration years in a way that could make him some decent money was closing. As such, from a purely financial point of view, it makes sense for Ruf to head to Korea for that $1.1 million, either to spend a few years as a regular there or to change the impression an American big league team may have of him.

New Phillies hitting coach Matt Stairs shares his hitting philosophies

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 29:  Matt Stairs #12 of of the Philadelphia Phillies bats against the New York Yankees in Game Two of the 2009 MLB World Series at Yankee Stadium on October 29, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees won 3-1. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
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Former major league slugger Matt Stairs was named as the Phillies’ new hitting coach back in November. For the last three seasons, Stairs had worked with Tom McCarthy, Ben Davis, and Gregg Murphy (and Jamie Moyer) on the commentary for Phillies television broadcasts. Now, he gets to work hands-on with a team that last year ranked last in the majors in runs per game (3.77), second-to-last in batting average (.240), second-to-last in on-base percentage (.301), and last in slugging percentage (.384).

What hitting philosophies will Stairs impart to his pupils? MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki provides the answers:

“It’s more about certain guys hitting too many ground balls, or why isn’t the ball coming off their bat more solidly when they’re so strong?” Stairs said of those conversations with the front office. “We haven’t gotten too deep into the details, but you have to take baby steps. The biggest thing I’m teaching them right now is [hitting from] left-center to right-center and how to use the top hand when you hit. I think when they start realizing less body, more hands, that’s when the exit velocity jumps.”

[…]

“You want to drive the ball through a shortstop or second baseman,” Stairs said. “If I tell Roman Quinn, ‘We don’t want you hitting the ball in the air, we want you hitting ground balls.’ … We don’t want you hitting ground balls. What happens is you start guiding the ball through the zone and you top it and kill the ants and worms in front [of the plate], or you carve it and hit fly balls.

“The approach we have this spring is the first two rounds [of batting practice], I want you killing the second baseman and shortstop, up the middle and hard. Don’t think about hitting the ball on the ground. Think about having that good top hand, driving the ball through the infielders on a good line drive. And if you clip it a little bit, now you have gap power.”

Stairs also spoke of the importance of being positive. He said, “My job, at the end of every day, after BP, is give high-fives, give knuckles and walk out of that cage with something positive.”

As the stats show, the Phillies haven’t had much to be proud about in recent years as the club continued its rebuilding effort. And Stairs appears to be onto something about not hitting the ball on the ground. The Phillies tied with the Pirates for the fifth-highest ground ball percentage last season at 46.9 percent. Of the five teams ahead of them, three had bottom-10 offenses (Braves, Marlins, Royals) and two eked above the league average in runs per game (Pirates, Diamondbacks). The Phillies make it four out of six teams with the highest ground ball percentages ranking at or near the bottom offensively.

The Phillies were slow to embrace analytics, having only recently installed a full-fledged analytics department. But Zolecki notes in his article that the team is implementing statistics from Statcast and other sources into their analyses. It’s not apparent from his quotes that Stairs is a stats devotee, but his hitting principles are in line with what stats people have been telling us for years.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie: The Phillies “suck” and their ballpark is “unsafe”

WILLIAMSPORT, PA - AUGUST 25:  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie throws out the ceremonial first pitch before the start of the Little League World Series Championship game on August 25, 2013 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Even though a large part of the state he leads is in the Philadelphia metro area, New Jersey governor Chris Christie is no Philly sports fan. He roots for the Cowboys (and hates the Eagles) and he prefers the New York teams — Mets, Rangers and Knicks — to any of the professional sports teams that play in his state (or used to play in his state) or in Philly.

But geez, man, ya gotta be so obnoxious about it, Chris? From CSNPhilly.com:

Christie appeared on SNY TV on Wednesday night to talk about the New York Mets, another awful team he is a fan of. The topic of Philadelphia came up.

“The Phillies suck. Let’s just start with that,” Christie said. “They’re from Philadelphia. They’re an awful team. They’re an angry, bitter fan base and it’s not safe for civilized people to go to Citizens Bank Park if you want to root for the other team. Ya gotta believe what? Ya gotta believe we’re awful people.”

That last comment was apparently based on the Phillies painting the old 1973 Mets slogan, “Ya Gotta Believe” on their clubhouse wall down in Clearwater. Which, as I noted yesterday, is fine given the Tug McGraw connection, but we’ll leave that go.

I think most of you who have been around here for a while will remember that I am no fan of the Phillies and that, back when Phillies fans were rooting for a winning team, feeling their oats and talking big in the HBT comments every day, I liked to bait them a good deal. 100% guilty as charged. I’d like to think, however, that I was a bit more artful and less bile-and-spittle-spewingly crass about it than Christie is here.

In related news, there is a lot of speculation that Christie will be soon be brought on board the Trump Administration in order to calm things down. Seems right.

UPDATE: