On Thursday it was announced that the Dodgers traded veteran catcher A.J. Ellis to the Phillies in exchange for another veteran catcher in Carlos Ruiz.
Alright, so Thursday was rough. When I checked my Twitter to see the news of the trade I was shocked, saddened and confused. Of all people A.J. Ellis seemed to be one of the best. While his stats did not jump off the page, he was the first teammate to be jumping in the dugout and celebrating his teammates successes and encouraging them through their failures. However, I am aware that baseball is a business and on paper this is a good deal. Ruiz is a better offensive player and he has a lot of experience. Ruiz has caught two no hitters and has some playoff experience that resulted in a World Series ring. He too is known as a great clubhouse presence and leader for an organization.
The biggest problem I have with this trade is how it all went down. Ellis had no warning and neither did any of his teammates. Asking a guy who is 35 years-old to pick up his entire young family and move across country for a few months to finish out the baseball season on a losing club is business, but it is rough. Ellis was in his last year with the Dodgers and a free agent come this November. Why trade him now?
So his numbers were obviously not the best. Ellis was batting .194 with a slugging percentage of .252. The last couple of years he was referred to as Clayton Kershaw’s “personal catcher”, which may have been kind of true, but you also cannot undermine Ellis’ ability to just that title either. Numbers are always going to be important when the main guys in the front office come decorated with economic degrees, but I am a firm believer that a baseball team is about chemistry not money. It is about teamwork and not individual accolades or stats.
Ellis was more than a “personal catcher”. He was a leader in the clubhouse. A guy that rallied around the rookies and encouraged them through their first season. According to Joe Davis, he was the kind of guy who bought a new broadcaster breakfast just to let him know he was doing a good job. He was the kind of guy that met Rob Segedin at the hospital just hours after his wife delivered their first baby and remind you not, he and Segedin had only been teammates for 18 days.
He was the kind of guy who boldly sat behind the plate to catch a focused and fired up Kershaw only to call it an honor every time. He was the type of clubhouse guy who you could ask anything to, even questions about how to deliver a baby in a car. Ellis was a man who knew it all, yet never took the praise. Baseball is a team sport and he was a great example of what a teammate should look like.
You see batting .194 is not going to get you any end of the season awards, but encouraging guys when they are down, doing your best for a team win and being willing to sit on the bench if the manager asks you to, well that stuff gets you to the playoffs and hopefully a World Series. There is no doubt Ellis is a man of great class and losing him in Los Angeles simply breaks my heart.
The hardest part about the whole thing was hearing about Kershaw’s reaction to the news. According to Ellis in an interview with Alanna Rizzo, he and Kershaw met in the dugout and wept together. They sat in silence and just cried. If you love the Dodgers, that has got to break your heart just a little. The simple image of the two men crying in the dugout together brought tears to my eyes. While baseball is business, they are still people. With Ellis heading to Philly, it means that his cheerful attitude will no longer be present, his hilarious comments and in game interviews will be done in a red uniform, but with it all comes the end of the best Dodger bromance between him and Kershaw.
So, Ellis I guess this is my thank you. Thank you for being a man of class at all times. Thank you for being a catcher who went out to the mound and then stared into the dugout when Don Mattingly took too long to pull a pitcher, but that was your hint to him that it was time. Thank you for your hilarious, sarcastic comments about teammates. Thank you for openly sharing your love for Los Angeles and Dodger Stadium and the great Vin Scully. Your humility, hard work and knowledge of the game was noticed by fans everywhere. Farewell to one of the best, now go kill it in Philly.