Not gonna lie, I’m only posting this for two reasons:
(1) Because, unbeknownst to me before now, people are calling this guy “Babe Ruf,” which is awesome; and
(2) Halladay’s Bicepts was whining on Twitter that I wouldn’t mention it because of this site’s apparently obvious and longstanding eschewing of Phillies news. Or something.
Anyway: the Phillies have called up Darin Ruf, who wowed the Eastern League this year by smacking 38 homers at Reading while posting a line of .317/.408/.620.
Now, why I wouldn’t normally post this but for the nickname and the taunting? He’s 26 and he’s playing in Double-A, for starters, and that’s really old for that league. And because he has no defensive credentials or, with the Phillies anyway, much of a future.
Indeed, he has played mostly first base in the minors, and since Ryan Howard isn’t going anyplace, he won’t be playing first in Philly. If he had left field chops the Phillies would have made sure he was playing a lot more of it to prepare him for the big club. That they didn’t means that he is either unsafe at any speed out there or else the Phillies really don’t see him as part of their future.
My guess for the best case scenario: he showcases his one skill — mashing taters — by smacking a bunch of homers against expanded roster bullpens and then Philly tries to deal him to a team that has a place for a 1B/DH in his late 20s with almost zero major league experience. The Royals would have bit at that once but they don’t really need it anymore. But someone will at some point, so he’s worth the audition. Maybe you get a bullpen arm out of him or something.
Or, heck, they could do the sensible thing and platoon him with Howard, but that would probably make everyone on the planet kinda mad.
Recently two more fans suffered serious injuries as the result of hard-hit foul balls at major league games. One of those fans was hurt at a White Sox game at Guaranteed Rate Field earlier this month. In response, the White Sox have taken it upon themselves to do that which Major League Baseball will not require and extend protective netting. From the Chicago Sun-Times:
The White Sox and Illinois Sports Facilities Authority are planning to extend the protective netting at Guaranteed Rate Field down the lines to the foul poles, according to a source.
Exact details will be announced later, but the changes will be made as soon as possible this season.
If recent history holds, they will not be the last team to do it.
Major League Baseball has taken a laissez-faire approach to protective netting over the past several years, requiring nothing even if it has made recommendations to teams to do something. The last time it made a suggestion was in December 2015 when teams were “encouraged” to shield the seats between the near ends of both dugouts and within 70 feet of home plate. In the wake of that recommendation only a few teams immediately extended their netting, primarily because if you ask a business to do something but say it is not required to do anything, it is not likely to do anything.
It would not be until September 2017, after a baby girl was severely injured at Yankee Stadium, that the rest of baseball was inspired to extend protective netting in keeping with MLB’s recommendations. Indeed, it was a land rush, with all 30 teams extending their netting by Opening Day 2018. While a generous interpretation would have everyone seeing the light simultaneously, my slightly more experienced eye saw it as a “don’t be the only team not to have extended netting by the time the next lawsuit hits” approach.
In the wake of the two recent injuries Major League Baseball issued a statement about how it “will keep examining” the matter of additional protective netting while, again, mandating nothing. Now that the White Sox are extending netting to the foul poles, however, it’s not hard to imagine a situation in which other teams follow suit. Sooner or later, enough will likely have done so to create critical mass and make any team which has not done so to make the effort out of self-preservation.
Or, more generously, good sense.