My fellow Philadelphian Americans, I imagine that many of you rejoiced four years ago as history was made. The road we’ve traveled since then has been one full of promise, but in the end, we’ve endured challenges, disappointments and unrealized potential. The time has come for us to unite behind a candidate who represents true change. Forget Romney versus Obama—I’m voting Chooch in 2012.
Back in 2008, Carlos Ruiz became one of the folk-hero stars on the Phillies championship team that finally ended the city’s title drought. Since then, his legend has grown, mostly due to the masterful way he handles the Phils ace pitchers—note his role in Roy Halladay’s perfect game and post-season no-hitter—and his hustle, something we always admire in our athletes. It also helps that he’s built like a teddy bear (how could you not love this guy?) and has one of the best nicknames going (especially for this town, where cries of “Choooooooooch” sound just like another cheer we’re known for).
Something’s changed this season, though. Our cuddly masked man has transformed into the Hulk in red pinstripes, leading the team in batting average (.371) and RBI (31), and second in home runs. If I had told you back in March that Ruiz would be the obvious choice to bat clean up, you’d either have thought I was crazy or that half the Phillies roster was on the DL. In analyzing his offensive production prior to this year, we’d say he benefited from hitting near the bottom of the order, and that a move up where the big boppers reside would be more than Chooch could handle. We would have been dead wrong. This isn’t a hot streak. Take it from Cliff Lee, who said this after Wednesday night’s smackdown of the Mets: “He’s our best player right now and has been the whole time.” Ruiz wasn’t even in the starting lineup that night, but was the game’s top star with his pinch-hit two-run homer that led to victory.
Not only is Ruiz the Phillies most valuable player, he’s arguably the MVP of the National League. It should be a no-brainer that Chooch makes his first All-Star appearance on July 10th in Kansas City. But much like the presidential race, winning an All-Star election is more about popularity than platform. When it comes to the numbers, Ruiz and St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina are tied in home runs, with Molina holding a slim edge in runs (26 to 24) and RBI (32 to 31). Even though Chooch holds a sizable lead in batting average (.371 to .333), Molina is looking for his fourth-straight All-Star appearance, and St. Louis fans, mild as they may be, show a lot of support for their players.
That means it’s up to us to ensure that change really happens this year—at least in terms of who’s catching at the All-Star game—and push our man forward, into the spotlight he deserves. Luckily, Major League Baseball isn’t concerned with the basic tenets of democracy—you can vote up to 25 times before the polls close on June 28th. (I’ve only punched 13 ballots so far, but I’m working on it.) If Ruiz doesn’t win in the first round, there’s still a chance he could make the roster. But he’s performed like a first-ballot stud. Let’s make sure he’s working during the All-Star break. Our city, and our nation, will be all the better for it.