The impact of Rich Dubee the last nine seasons hit more than a few players, more than just the Phillies' pitching staff. The now-former Phillies pitching coach also developed strong bonds with the team's catchers -- most notably Carlos Ruiz, who under Dubee's tutelage developed into one of the sport's elite game-callers.
Dubee was the Phils' pitching coach from the day Ruiz stepped into a Phillies uniform until Monday morning, when the team announced it would not renew his contract. It was under Dubee's watch that Ruiz three times finished in the top-three in the NL in catchers' ERA from 2008-11. The level of praise routinely bestowed upon Ruiz's game management by his pitchers is uncommon, and Dubee was no small part of that.
Standing alone in the Phillies' clubhouse Monday morning, Ruiz, a free agent, spoke about losing a staple of the coaching staff.
"He was talking to me during the stretch in Atlanta," Ruiz said. "It was hard, you know, because usually we would say hi and bye [at the beginning and end of seasons]."
Dubee will likely surface elsewhere -- he's too smart and talented a pitching coach not to. Roy Halladay credits Dubee with teaching him the changeup that allowed the future Hall of Famer to reach another level in 2010 and 2011. Dubee is also credited with turning Kyle Kendrick, a pitcher who couldn't throw strikes to or retire left-handed batters his first three-plus seasons, into a major-league caliber pitcher. And it was Dubee who gave a brutally honest, midseason pep talk to Ryan Madson in 2008 that helped Madson emerge into one of the game's top relievers from then through 2011.
But the Phillies' pitching staff took major steps back in 2012 and 2013, seeing its ERA increase from 3.02 to 3.83 to 4.32. The starters and relievers this season both combined for the second-worst ERA in the National League, to the Rockies. The young relievers didn't progress as quickly as expected and Halladay in particular couldn't pitch well enough to fortify the rotation.
Dubee wasn't a scapegoat, but he was another face the Phillies felt needed to change as they transition from the Gold Standard of 2007-11 to the future. And for the first time in a decade, when Phillies pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater in mid-February, it won't be to Dubee.
"Life continues, and it's hard, because you spent a lot of time with him," Ruiz said. "But that's what it is."