Monday, September 10, 2012

The Phillies call up Darin Ruf. It makes you wonder.

The Phillies, like a lot of teams, have what are called organizational players. 

The plain fact is that this is not tennis.  You can't play the game by yourself.  Baseball is a 25-man game (24 in some minor leagues).  If you have 5 real prospects on your roster you are doing well.  Who are the other 20 guys?  They are organizational players, guys who probably have little chance of getting to the majors but who cling to that hope, working their way up to the ladder to AAA where they hope they can get that chance to play in the bigs.  For some, like the legendary Moonlight Graham in "Field of Dreams", it is just to play at all in the big leagues, to fulfill a dream born in childhood.  For others, it is to try to carve out a career as a big leaguer.  Still, what drives a lot of these guys is the love of the game and the chance to play it at the highest level, for whatever their reason.

The Phillies just called up Darin Ruf.  Ruf is a 26 year old in AA.  Twenty-six year olds in AA are not really propsects.  They especailly aren't prospects when they are drafted in the 20th round as college seniors out of Creighton Universtiy.  The Darin Rufs of the world are organizational players.

Why do I care about the Phillies calling up Darin Ruf?  Because this is the organization that the Indians should be.  Charlie Manuel is all about the little guy, the guy who has never gotten a chance.  When he was manager of the Indians in 2000-2, he ran across one of these organizational players, Chris Coste.  The Indians sucked in 2002 but failed to give Coste, who was hitting over .300 for the second year in AAA, even a Moonlight Graham sniff of the majors.

Coste went on to get a WS ring and play in parts of 5 seasons in the majors with over 800 AB and a . .327/.416/.744 slash line. 

Charlie Manuel knows that you give these organizational players chances MOSTLY because they have worked hard and deserve it.  He gets that your organization makes a name for itself by giving its own a chance when that chance is deserved.

Let's look at the organizational guys the Indians have dissed since Coste with the ML record that year in parentheses after the year. 

2012 (20+ games under .500) - Jared Goedert - two good seasons in AAA
2012 (20+ games under .500)- Tim Fedroff - the jury is still out on whether this guy will get his chance, but he should  have had one this September and didn't get it.  Except for base stealing, Fedroff has it all over Ezequiel Carrera who will probably have 300 big league plate appearances before Fedroff, born 4 months earlier than Carrera, ever gets his chance.
2011 (80-82) - Jerad Head - 17 AB was all the Indians could give this guy
2011 (80-82 - Beau Mills - Probably a reach but it was the guy's best year in the minors.  We cut him the next spring.  Why not give him a cup of coffee on the way out the door.
2010 (69-93) - Wes Hodges
2010 (69-93) - Jose Constanza
2010 (69-93) - Josh Rodriguez
2009 (65-97) - Jordan Brown - He actually got all of 87 AB the next year but none in 2009 after winning, in succession, the league batting crowns in A, AA and AAA.  But no ABs in 2009 after hitting .336 at AAA.

There are a number of other examples, some of whom, like Coste, reached the majors once they left our organization (e.g. Jonathon van Every).

Then we have the very undeserved September callup of Nuiman Romero a number of years ago when other guys who performed much better never got called up, some of whom NEVER made it to the majors even though they deserved a callup more than Romero.

Add to those guys the prospects we have given away for virtually nothing: Brandon Phillips, Jeremy Guthrie, Willy Taveras, Luke Scott, Ryan Church, Macier Izturis, Cory Burns after giving them insufficient or NO chances even when they had sterling stats in the minors and you have a pattern of the Indians not giving their own real prospects a decent chance and not even giving their organizational soldiers who have performed a well-deserved 'cup of coffee'.

The problem is that, in those years we have had to endure the likes of Brent Lillibridge, Shelley Duncan, Chad Durbin, Aaron Cunningham, Travis Buck, Justin Germano and others, all when there were REAL prospects who could have gotten a chance.

We just aren't real good at giving our own prospects a decent chance...or even giving our producing organizational guys their afternoon in the sun.

As I have said before, this is an organization that is gaining the reputation of favoring AAAA guys over its own prospects and not giving its organizational guys their ML experience. 

I am pretty sure prospects in the Phillies organization are much more positive about their chances of getting to the majors if they perform well than similar prospects in the Indians' organization.

When you are a small market team you can't be doing these things or you become the Kansas City Royals who, BTW, are ahead of us in the standings now with us playing Lillibridge, Hannahan and Kotchman and the rest of the AAAA guys we have been parading through here in recent years.

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