Darin Ruf might help to revitalize the Philadelphia Phillies' 2013 lineup. Those who believe that isn't possible apparently haven't been paying attention, or think that they know too much.
Fall ball and spring hopesBefore anyone busts through this digital dimension, let me be very clear: I don't know what Ruf's future is and neither does anyone else. The longer his great story continues, the harder it will be for all "Babe Ruf" detractors to continue holding their pessimistic signs somewhere in the left field seats.
It was nice when this first baseman hit a combined 12 home runs in rookie ball and at the Single-A level in 2009 and 2010. It was encouraging when he hit 17 home runs exclusively at Clearwater last season. But, hitting 38 regular season home runs for the Double-A Reading Phillies, three home runs in the major leagues and a league-leading four home runs in eight games in Venezuela so far this fall has been outrageous.
As long as no other team convinces general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. to relinquish him in some type of offseason trade (anything is possible), Ruf will wear red Phillies' pinstripes in spring training. If he proves that he can handle his left field responsibilities and continues to hit, it wouldn't be shocking to see him on the opening day 25-man roster.
Everyone can offer all the doubts, historical comparisons and contrarian points that they want to. But make no mistake, we may have already witnessed the birth of the next Phillies' impact bat.
All seasoned fans realize that Ruf is 297 home runs away from Ryan Howard's career total. He's also 545 home runs away from Mike Schmidt, 711 home runs away from the real Babe Ruth and 759 home runs away from Barry Bonds.
So, it's foolish for anyone to conclude that people who believe Ruf has a chance to become a big leaguer are somehow overly optimistic. In most cases, those personality types dismissed Ruf earlier this season and are now increasingly looking like they were the ones who made a rash judgment.
Turning doubters into believers
I've found it best to associate with those individuals who appreciate baseball, but don't embrace it as some type of religion. Properly balancing priorities is hardly easy and no one seems to do it perfectly, but developing common sense helps in this regard.
Along these lines, balanced family members and friends understand that no team wins (or competes) for the World Series every year. We were all disappointed when the Phillies' playoff streak ended this season, but we still love the game and are enjoying how this postseason is playing out.
We haven't heard a lot from Washington Nationals' fans lately and we're not naive, because we know that emergent team and its growing fan base will remain prominent parts of the National League East for the foreseeable future. The Atlanta Braves are solid and we shouldn't dismiss the Miami Marlins, or New York Mets as future competition.
Because a number of teams in the National League were better than the Phillies this season, Amaro obviously will try to strengthen his roster so that a real playoff run can take place next season.
Ruf is far from a guaranteed commodity, but he's converted many honest doubters into interested believers in just one season. I don't know how he will perform if he does become a permanent part of a major league team. But, I do know that his quick hands, good baseball instincts and deep heart gives him a better chance than most other minor league prospects to make it.
Sean O'Brien is based in the Philadelphia region. He began his professional career in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons' front office (the Philadelphia Phillies former Triple-A affiliate), later worked as a freelance sports writer and is currently a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo Contributor Network! You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and also read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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