There are a lot of things that can turn a pedestrian sports article into a great one. Amusing anecdotes from athletes or coaches, interesting historical tidbits, behind-the-scenes-looks at the happenings of the front office or coaching staff. That certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a start.
Paul Hagen’s article on the importance of Carlos Ruiz in Thursday’s Daily News covers many of them.
He supports his thesis – that Ruiz might be the most important player on the Phillies because of the unique role he fulfills as a catcher – using a variety of techniques. He recalls the 1980 season, when the Angels didn’t adequately replace starting catcher Brian Downing (their decision to promote minor league catcher Stan Cliburn was ultimately made due to certain parts of his wife’s anatomy). They “finished sixth in a seven-team division” that year.
Hagen goes on to list many of the attributes that make a catcher so important to a team. But he also mentions that “an imperceptible sigh of relief ran the length of the dugout” when a potential collision at home plate involving Ruiz and the Yankees’ Randy Winn was avoided. A small detail, but one that gave readers a glimpse of how much a club values the health of their catcher.
Hagen notes facets of Ruiz’s game that the catcher could improve. He lists the Phillies options at catcher should something go wrong with Ruiz (they are thin at the position). He gives GM Ruben Amaro Jr. the opportunity to speak on the team’s lack of depth at catcher. And he draws on history to illustrate how quickly injuries can deplete a team’s catching reserves.
A HOOT! for Hagen, who supported his thesis in a comprehensive and informative manner. Ruiz may have avoided his collision with Winn, but Hagen certainly covered the plate.
– Timothy Rapp