What Does Carlos Ruiz Suspension Mean for 2013?
That Carlos Ruiz will miss the first 25 games of 2013 isn't what's most troubling about the announcement Tuesday that he was suspended for using amphetamines.
Of those, 16 will be against non-2012 playoff qualifiers. Erik Kratz, the fastest catcher ever to hit eight home runs, is a more than capable spell for the meantime.
What's most discouraging is that Ruiz was one of the club's dishearteningly few sure things heading into next year.
As that status fills with doubt -- if you think stimulants in any way enhanced his near-MVP start -- the chances that the team bounces back most certainly sink.
Granted, the mystery in the timing of Ruiz' use clouds that conclusion. If drugs were in his system for the 80 games in which he hit .358 with 11 home runs and 43 RBIs, skepticism about whether he can replicate such production next year is justified.
If the test in question took place after his injury, though, when Ruiz outwardly admitted he was trying to slim down -- something hardcore stimulants would certainly aide -- confidence in him shouldn't falter, considering his best work was behind him.
We'll never know. That's how baseball drug tests work.
Ruiz may well restore optimism. If he were to be clinically diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed Adderall, an option through MLB's Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) process, he'd be allowed to use the drug without fear of reprimand -- or a coming down to earth 2013 season.
That's seems feasible. In 2011, Major League Baseball granted 105 TUEs, about nine percent of big league ballplayers, greenlighting Adderall and Ritalin use.
This, of course, assumes he was actually afflicted with the disorder and wasn't using to get an edge.
If not, then what? What's there to bank on for 2013?
That Roy Halladay's arm will erase memories of the worst season of his career, and the iffy state of his shoulder that caused it?
That Chase Utley's knees will hold up throughout 2013, two years and 124 missed games since they first started yelping (publicly)?
That Kevin Frandsen's coming out party -- he hit .338 in 55 games, most of which fell in the Phillies magical August -- has an encore in store?
Much is vested in Freddy Galvis, whose ability and availability next year are up in the air after a 50-game PED ban and pars fracture. Maybe too much.
Even if the team lands free agent B.J. Upton and promotes minor leaguer Darin Ruf, expectations for both can't be better than toss-ups. Not to mention the fact that they'd share an outfield with Domonic Brown, arguably the least certain commodity in the sport.
Save for Cole Hamels, the rest of the staff is a shrug.
Cliff Lee's 3-1 record and 1.04 ERA to finish 2012 could prove the norm in 2013. Then again, so could his 0-6 record and 4.13 ERA out of the chute.
Same thing for Kyle Kendrick. Will he sport the unhittable change-up he did in August, when he went 4-1 with a 2.95 ERA? Or will he be who he was in Septemer -- he sank to 2-3 with a 4.39 ERA -- and who, frankly, he'd been for five years prior?
That's become the unfortunate organizational mantra now.
With luck like this, the minor foot fracture that cost Ryan Howard the final five games of the season will need amputation.
More certain: Gold Glove season a year ago or not, Jimmy Rollins, 34, is due up to start showing his age.
This is the sorry state of the Phillies, a team whose chances seemingly from favorable to doubtful in a snap.
Now, with the winter meetings less than a week away, the hope has to be that their appeal to free agents doesn't sour as quickly.