Philadelphia Phillies' catcher Carlos Ruiz has long been one of the most talented under-the-radar players in all of baseball.
People around the Phillies knew that "Chooch" was special. But not until the Phillies acquired pitching talents like Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt, along with Cole Hamels, did the national media begin to recognize.
Perhaps the praise these pitching greats gave Ruiz helped the media and the casual fan pay closer attention. Perhaps the biggest plug for Ruiz was when Roy Halladay threw a perfect game and publicized how important Chooch was and is to his performance.
Via Phillies.com: "I can't say enough about the job that Ruiz did tonight, really. I felt like he was calling a great game up until the fourth or fifth, and at that point, I just felt like I'd let him take over and go with him. He did a great job. Like I said, it was kind of a no-brainer for me. I'd just go out, see the glove and hit it."
Chooch was then on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
I'm not sure I know who is the better defensive catcher between Yadier Molina and Carlos Ruiz. But I do know that if it weren't for Molina's long-standing "acceptance" by the media as the best defensive catcher, before Ruiz really came into his own, this would have been much more of a debate.
I mean, I would think Ruiz is deserving of at least one gold glove at this point.
Chooch had always been known as a guy who would bring it defensively, and anything at the plate would be a bonus.
But Ruiz became one of the more clutch batters for the Phillies, especially in the playoffs. And we all know how much postseason lure can catapult a player in the eyes of fans and media. His overall numbers in the playoffs aren't spectacular, .254 average with a .380 OBP though. But he showed what he could do in the Phillies' run to the World Series in 2009, batting .341 with a .491 OBP.
That postseason undoubtedly invigorated his career from the plate.
In the 2010 regular season, Carlos Ruiz had a career year. He hit .302, got on base at a .400 clip and he added 53 RBIs from the bottom of the order.
If you thought that was the best he had in him, think again.
It may be early, but a third of the way through the 2012 season and Ruiz has an average of .366 and OBP of .419, and he already has 7 homers and 29 RBIs.
It's safe to say he will play in this year's All-Star Game.
As of now, Ruiz's career average is .272, and that is certainly on the rise.
Of the 14 catchers in the Hall of Fame, Ruiz's average is already above four of them. Let's guess that he finishes his career hitting .282. He would have a better average than half of them.
Obviously this is not the only criteria, but it's good for reference in terms of where he stands in a position that is given a pass on hitting because of the rigors of being behind the plate.
The man may be 33 years-old, but it seems like he's got plenty left and his offense sure isn't on the decline.
Thanks to Molina, he may not have the hardware and he may not have the accumulation of All-Star appearances. But if Molina is a Hall of Famer, and I think he is, we've got to give Ruiz a look too.
It's a long shot, but he's got a chance.