I wrote a short game recap as well as a short picture post over at the Fanhouse but I thought I'd comment here about Brian Dawkins. Sitting behind the Eagles bench gives you an amazing look at the passion Brian Dawkins brings on every play. When he's not in the game pumping his teammates up he's on the sideline making sure everyone is focused. Dawkins is one of the best players to ever put on a Philadelphia uniform -- in any sport.
The Phillies were one strike away from winning the World Series and Citizens Bank Park was in a full roar.
Carlos Ruiz trotted to the mound for a quick chat with closer Brad Lidge.
Lidge wanted to try to put away Tampa Bay’s Eric Hinkse with his signature slider, a pitch that had helped him go 48 for 48 in save chances during that magical season. Ruiz was in complete agreement. After catching the pitcher all season, he knew how good Lidge’s slider was. He also knew that Lidge threw three versions of the pitch, a get-me-over offering that he used to get a first-pitch strike, a backdoor bender that he used against lefty hitters, and The Good One, a sharp, downward-breaking dagger that left hitters flailing at air as it cork-screwed toward the dirt.
On that spectacular October night nearly eight years ago, Ruiz looked into Lidge’s eyes and issued a directive: Give me the good one. Lidge complied. Hinske swung over the vicious slider. Ruiz fished it out of the dirt and Harry Kalas shouted, “The Philadelphia Phillies are 2008 World Champions of baseball” as the stadium erupted in euphoria. Ruiz, the kid who wasn’t even a catcher when the Phillies first scouted him in the summer of 1998, sprinted to the mound, collapsed to his knees and joined Lidge in a joyous hug, the image of which will remain emblazoned in the minds of Philadelphia fans, well, forever.
Ruiz’s words to Lidge — Give me the good one — gained new resonance on Thursday because the veteran catcher, beloved by teammates and fans, was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for catcher A.J. Ellis, minor-league pitcher Tommy Bergjans and a player to be named later (see story).
Ruiz spent 11 seasons with the Phillies and when you consider where he came from and what he accomplished, well, he always gave the team and its fans the good one.
“I’m excited, but also sad,” Ruiz said moments after the trade became official.
Excited because at age 37, and firmly in the twilight of his career, he has the chance to join a first-place team and get to the postseason one more time.
And sad because, “I have so many memories in Philadelphia.”
The greatest, of course, was the World Series championship, catching the final out and rushing to the mound to join Lidge as the pitcher dropped to his knees, looked to the heavens and shouted, “Oh, my God, we just won the World Series!”
But there were so many others.
Ruiz was a backbone member of five NL East championship teams and the best catcher a Cy Young winner named Roy Halladay ever pitched to. Halladay said it himself. Ruiz caught four no-hitters, including two of Halladay’s. He was an All-Star in 2012.
All in all, it was a pretty good run for a guy who signed for $8,000 off a sandlot in Panama in 1998. That same year, the Phillies signed Pat Burrell for $8 million. Ruiz would have signed for nothing.
“All I wanted was a chance to play professional baseball,” he said. "I'm thankful the Phillies gave it to me."
At the time of his audition for the Phillies, Ruiz was a 19-year-old second baseman. Phillies scouts were skeptical of his ability to make it as an infielder. They warmed to him when he said he’d give catching a try. He learned the position on the fly and made a steady progression up the ladder until arriving in the majors in 2006 and becoming a regular in 2007, the year the Phillies broke a 14-year playoff drought and won the NL East.
Ruiz was a favorite in the clubhouse for his good nature and team-first attitude. He would do anything for the team, anything to win, and you can’t fake that stuff. That won him the admiration of teammates. In 2012, Jonathan Papelbon expressed his love for Ruiz in typical Papelbon style. He called Ruiz “a Panamanian redneck.” Years later, Cameron Rupp, the man who supplanted Ruiz as starting catcher, praised Ruiz for his mentorship. It’s not easy for a player to groom the man who will take his job, but Ruiz did it earnestly and graciously. Today, Rupp is arguably the most improved player on the Phillies’ roster.
“Carlos was the everyday guy for more than eight years,” Rupp said. “I’m sure it was hard. It can’t be easy. But he never stopped helping me. There might be guys who wouldn’t do something like that, but not him.
“I can’t tell you how much he helped me. He’s awesome.”
Ruiz’s hustle, his non-stop effort, and, oh, yes, his place on championship teams — that’s what Philadelphians love most — earned him a special spot in the hearts of fans. Cup your hand to your ear and you can still hear those fond shouts of Choooooch from the stands.
They will be heard again when Ruiz goes on the team’s Wall of Fame someday. But for now, he heads off to Los Angeles to join another former Phillies fan favorite and champion, Chase Utley, in a late-career run at one more moment of postseason glory.
You gave us the Good One, Chooch.
CLEVELAND -- Barkevious Mingo never really fit in with the Browns.
The Patriots will try to find an ideal spot for him.
A major disappointment in Cleveland, Mingo, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2013 draft was traded to New England on Thursday.
The Browns received a fifth-round pick in the 2017 draft for the linebacker.
Mingo, a former LSU standout, has recorded just seven sacks in three seasons and spent much of last season on special teams.
Mingo's size -- 6-foot-4, 240 pounds -- and speed have made him intriguing, but Cleveland's coaching staff couldn't find the best way to utilize him. The Browns moved the 25-year-old Mingo from outside linebacker to inside earlier this summer.
Cleveland declined to exercise the fifth-year option on Mingo's rookie contract in May. With the trade of Mingo, left tackle Joe Thomas and cornerbacks Joe Haden and Justin Gilbert are the only first-round selections by Cleveland from 2007 to 2014 that are still with the team (see full story).
NFL: Harrison, Matthews and Peppers talk with PED investigators
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison and Green Bay Packers defensive players Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers met this week with NFL investigators looking into allegations linking them to performance-enhancing drugs, the players' union said Thursday.
Matthews and Peppers met with league representatives on Wednesday, while Harrison did so on Thursday, according to the NFL Players Association.
Last week, the league threatened Harrison, Matthews, Peppers and free agent Mike Neal with indefinite suspensions if they did not meet with investigators. All of them were mentioned in an Al-Jazeera television interview with Charlie Sly, who worked as an intern at an anti-aging clinic. In the December report, Sly made claims of PED use by several athletes, including Harrison, Peyton Manning and the three others, but later recanted his claims.
The since-retired Manning was cleared after a separate NFL investigation in which he granted interviews and provided all records sought by league investigators.
The league's deadline for cooperation from the four current players was Thursday. The NFL first notified the four on Jan. 11 about the investigation into the Al-Jazeera report (see full story).
Dolphins: Team intensifies efforts for Zika control at stadium
MIAMI -- The Miami Dolphins and Miami Marlins say they've intensified mosquito-control treatments at their stadiums because of the Zika virus.
The Dolphins' stadium is more than 10 miles from the nearest area of the virus outbreak. Even so, the Dolphins say they decided weeks ago to undertake additional treatments as a precaution.
Construction workers are at the site daily completing the latest phase in a $500 million renovation. The first home preseason game is next Thursday against Tennessee.
The Marlins and Miami-Dade County have stepped up spraying in and around Marlins Park "in an abundance of caution," team president David Samson said Thursday. Treatments targeting the mosquito that transmits Zika are being used even though the Marlins play most of their home games indoors under a retractable roof.
Marlins Park is about 2 miles from the nearest area of virus outbreak.
Treatments at the 265-acre Dolphins stadium site include the parking lot and follow recommendations by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention using chemicals approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. Those treatments are expected to continue through the football season and beyond.
Vikings: New stadium sells out for inaugural season
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings have sold out their new stadium for the inaugural season.
The team announced on Thursday that they've started waiting lists for tickets and suites. The official capacity at U.S. Bank Stadium will be 66,655, with more than 60,400 seats committed for the entire season and the remaining single-game seats also sold out.
Returned tickets from visiting team allotments typically make a small number of seats available the week of each game.
The Vikings host San Diego on Sunday in an exhibition game, their first action at the $1.1 billion venue. The regular-season opener is on Sept. 18 against rival Green Bay.
RIO DE JANEIRO -- Brazilian police charged American swimmer Ryan Lochte on Thursday with filing a false robbery report over an incident during the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
A police statement said Lochte would be informed in the United States so he could decide whether to introduce a defense in Brazil.
The indictment will also be sent to the International Olympic Committee's ethics commission, the statement said.
The swimmer's publicists and his lawyer, Jeff Ostrow, did not immediately respond to calls and emails from The Associated Press seeking comment.
Lochte initially said that he and fellow swimmers Jack Conger, Gunnar Bentz and Jimmy Feigen were robbed at gunpoint in a taxi by men with a police badge as they returned to the Olympic Village from a party Aug. 15. However, security video suggested the four actually faced security guards after vandalizing a gas station restroom.
Lochte left Brazil shortly after the incident. Three days later, local authorities took Conger and Bentz off an airliner heading to the United States so they could be questioned about the robbery claim. They were later allowed to leave Brazil, as was Feigen, after he gave testimony. Feigen, who initially stood by Lochte's testimony, was not charged.
Lochte has since acknowledged that he was highly intoxicated and that his behavior led to the confrontation. It is not clear from the video whether a gun was ever pointed to the athletes.
Under Brazilian law, the penalty for falsely filing a crime report carries a maximum penalty of 18 months in prison. Lochte could be tried in absentia if he didn't return to face the charge.
The United States and Brazil have an extradition treaty dating back to the 1960s, but Brazil has a long history of not extraditing its own citizens to other nations and U.S. authorities could take the same stance if Lochte is found guilty.
That is currently the case of the head of Brazil's football confederation, Marco Polo del Nero, who faces charges in the wide-ranging scandal entangling international soccer's ruling body, FIFA. He has not travelled outside Brazil for more than a year to avoid being arrested by U.S. authorities somewhere else.
The charges in Brazil raise questions about the future for Lochte, who is planning to take time off from swimming but wants to return to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. He has 12 Olympic medals, second only to Michael Phelps among U.S. male Olympians.
Lochte lost four major sponsors early this week over the controversy, including Speedo USA and Ralph Lauren. But on Thursday he picked up a new sponsor -- Pine Bros. Softish Throat Drops. Pine Bros. said people should be more understanding of the swimmer and said he will appear in ads that say the company's product is "Forgiving On Your Throat."