Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Bittersweet farewells

Posted by Eric Fisher On May 13

Fisher column logo2The emotional homecoming for Carlos Ruiz on Tuesday and Wednesday was sweet. The fans showed their appreciation with ovations and by serenading the Mariners’ backup catcher with “Chooch!” – even after his bases-loaded double buried the Phillies during Thursday’s 11-6 victory.

But the wonderful reception for Ruiz was also bittersweet. It served as a reminder that we won’t have many more moments to pay tribute to the heroes of the Phillies’ 2008 World Series championship team.

Despite his four RBI Wednesday against the Phillies, Ruiz is in the twilight of his career. He is batting .118 and only had one RBI all season before the Phillies series.

Chase Utley is batting .197 with the Dodgers. Jimmy Rollins is out of baseball. Ryan Howard’s comeback attempt ended quickly last week after he was released by the Braves, who had signed him to a minor-league contract. Howard batted .184 during 11 games with Gwinnett, the Braves’ Class AAA affiliate. His career appears to be over.

This isn’t unexpected. The World Series title was nine years ago. That’s a long time in baseball life. Nearly all players decline as they age. The heroes of the 2008 World Series championship team aren’t exceptions.

Utley, Ruiz and Rollins are 38 years old. Howard is 37. The prime of their careers is at least five years in the rearview mirror.

Cole Hamels, the MVP of the 2008 World Series, is closer to his prime, but he is also having a difficult year. Hamels is on the disabled list with a right oblique strain that is expected to keep him sidelined for eight weeks, so the Phillies won’t face Hamels when the travel to Texas next week. Hamels was 2-0 in five starts, with a 3.03 ERA, before the injury.

The decline of the 2008 World Series heroes is an uncomfortable reminder that time doesn’t stand still. It’s a reminder that all of us are getting older. Teen-aged fans in 2008 may already have finished college and started families. Twenty-somethings when the Phillies won the World Series are approaching middle age.

Those of us old enough to remember the Phillies’ first World Series title in 1980 already received a jolt earlier this year with the death of the seemingly indestructible Dallas Green, the manager of the 1980 Phillies. Reminders of the decline of the 2008 World Series heroes seem like piling on.

If you’re looking for a 2008 Phillies hero who is still going strong, look no further than Washington Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth. But even that is bittersweet.

Unlike Ruiz and Utley, Werth’s relationship with Phillies fans after he left was never warm and fuzzy. Well, Werth is always fuzzy, but the relationship certainly wasn’t warm. Rather than receiving a hero’s welcome, Werth has been booed for leaving for Washington via free agency.

Werth, 37, has certainly seen better days, but he’s still batting .299 and has a .395 on-base percentage. He only has six home runs and 11 RBI this season, but it seems as if all of them have come against the Phillies.

It also seems as if the Phillies play the Nationals every weekend. This weekend’s series will bring the total of games between the two teams this season to twelve. After this weekend, the Phillies won’t face the Nationals again until September.

September is also the month when the Dodgers come to Citizens Bank Park. With Hamels in the American League, the Dodgers series might be the final opportunity for Phillies fans to bid farewell to the heroes of the 2008 World Series championship team – if Utley is still on the roster in September.

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