LOS ANGELES-When Juan Uribe was traded last season from the Dodgers to the Braves, Yasiel Puig was brokenhearted and his performance suffered. Uribe was his good friend and boosted his morale. This season, Puig was sent down to the minors and now might be on the threshold of departure.
Recently, Dodger catcher A.J. Ellis was traded to the Phillies for catcher Carlos Ruiz. Another surprising trade that sent shockwaves throughout the Dodgers clubhouse. Will Ellis’ departure have the same affect on pitching ace and close friend Clayton Kershaw?
Kershaw has not pitched since late June because of a herniated disk in his lower back, but is now feeling better and hoping to make a return soon. It was a sad day on Thursday as Ellis bid farewell to his teammates, but especially discouraging for Kershaw. Ellis was his personal catcher.
He and Kershaw shed some tears together in the dugout before Ellis left the stadium to join the Phillies and then the next day Kershaw shared some of his feelings with reporters.
“It was hard, man. It was really hard,” Kershaw said. “Carlos Ruiz is awesome. Heard nothing but great things, but it’s a tremendous subtraction from the team. There’s no doubt about it. Just what he brought to the team, and one of my best friends.”
One reporter told Kershaw that Ellis mentioned that the hardest part of the trade was knowing he would never catch you again. His response when asked what was it like pitching to him.
“That’s just the guy he is,” Kershaw said. “The pitcher-catcher relationship is pretty one-sided. We get all the credit, and then we take all the blame, and the catcher’s just kind of there, and that’s the way it is. But A.J. thrives on that. He prepares harder than anybody. He prepares harder than all of us do for our own individual starts or bullpen roles. He does that for 12 different guys, every single series.”
“He takes a lot of pride in it. He has a servant’s heart. He really does. And so it’s not going to be easy not throwing to him anymore, for sure.”
After receiving the news of the trade, Ellis met with reporters in the dugout.
“It’s really hard,” Ellis said. “I’m almost out of tears now. To know that in all likelihood I’ll never get to catch him (Kershaw) again is without a doubt the most devastating thing I’m feeling right now.”
Then it was Dodger manager Dave Roberts turn to meet the press.
“We are a family, but as an organization, we made a decision to give us the best chance going forward,” Roberts said.
Andrew Friedman, Dodgers president of baseball operations, also gave his perspective on the trade and got a bit teary-eyed while speaking about Ellis.
“It’s a tough decision on a personal level, but we felt that from a baseball standpoint, Carlos Ruiz fit our team very well,” Friedman said. “In terms of leadership ability, ability to call games and run a pitching staff, he rates extremely well on those things and has experience.”
More will be revealed as time goes on, post-trade, but it seems to me that the chemistry of the team has been severely altered, especially the synergy Ellis and Kershaw had. It’s like telling Michael Jordan that the organization has decided to trade Scottie Pippen. It’s usually not a good idea to mess around with that special chemistry.