Ruben Amaro Jr Has Got to Go

I wish my work computer had Photoshop or at least GIMP, but it seems that I’m just going to have to make do with Microsoft Paint, to attempt to organize my illustration of Philadelphia Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr.  As the photo suggests, he’s basically a spineless dunce that should not be a part of this organization anymore, as he is almost singlehandedly running it into the ground. Let’s go back, and get some background on the GM of my favorite professional sports team…..

At the conclusion of the 2005 season, owner David Montgomery decided not to renew former GM Ed Wade’s contract, and instead brought in Pat Gillick to run his team. He inherited a squad that had mixed success over the previous years, yet had failed to make the playoffs each year in a division dominated mostly by any team outside of Washington/Montreal and Philadelphia. The team had some young talent in the minor leagues, led by Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels, and featured some popular veterans on the roster such as Jim Thome and Bobby Abreu. The pitching staff was spotty at best, with Jon Lieber, Vincente Padilla and Brett Myers anchoring a mediocre rotation, with Billy Wagner pitching lights-out in the ninth. Without a doubt, the team needed some major work.

And, despite the consequences, Gillick got to work. It took him one season of re-working the team to get them to the playoffs, and at the conclusion of his third season (2008) he had his third World Series Championship under his belt. How did he manage to turnaround this team so quickly?

His very first move was to deal fan favorite veteran Jim Thome. Although not a popular move, with slugger Ryan Howard waiting in the minors this was a no-brainer. He also let Billy Wagner leave after the 2005 season, bringing in veteran closer Tom Gordon to work the ninth until 2008, where he signed Brad Lidge, who didn’t blow a save the entire 2008 season. The anchor of the Philadelphia outfield since 1998, Bobby Abreu, was even traded halfway through 2006 to free up more cash and gain more prospects for the team’s farm system. Gillick then (cheaply) signed highly touted but oft-injured outfielder Jayson Werth, and cheap but quality journeymen such as Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton to help bolster the staff, which Gillick cleaned house on since inheriting the team. With Howard and Hamels now in the majors, and system talent such as Pat Burrell, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins hitting their prime, the Phillies had one of the most, if not the most, formidable offense in baseball. And as 2008 hit, when their pitching rotation started to click, following a fall playoff push, the Philadelphia Phillies won the division and the following World Series.

And then, to screw the Phillies over for the next 10 years, Pat Gillick left, retiring as General Manager and turning the organizational keys over to his assistant, Ruben Amaro Jr.

To be honest, things started out great for Amaro and the Phillies, as they were back in the World Series in 2009 with great pickups such as Cliff Lee and Raul Ibanez. Even though they lost the Series, they had great success and reason to believe in the next year’s squad, as in the offseason they added Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt, making a fantastic pitching staff even with the loss of Cliff Lee, as Cole Hamels remained a constant on the rotation. Although, Amaro’s questionable decisions started in 2010. Ryan Howard was signed to a mammoth 5 year $125 million contract extension at the age of 31, extending his 3 year $54 million contract he signed the previous year, tying the Phillies up with him through 2017, when he will be 38 years old. The pitching buzzsaw seemed unstoppable however, as Philadelphia cruised to the best record in the league, aiming their sights on a third straight World Series appearance. In the playoffs, after cuffing the Cincinnati Reds bats in the NLDS, they ran up against the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS, who sported a much better pitching staff than Cincy. In what ended up being a six game series, the Phillies scored 20 runs in six games, with 11 of them coming in two games, one of those two ending up as a loss. Aside from Jayson Werth who was somehow involved in more than half of the Phillies runs scored in the series, their offense was pathetically lethargic , batting .216 with their AVG w/ RISP being even worse. Heading into the offseason, the hope was that Philadelphia would pursue some hitting to go along with their dynamic pitching rotation.

So, in order to bolster their lineup, Amaro (again) signed Cliff Lee and let go of their best postseason hitter in Jayson Werth. Those moves would definitely help the teams hitting, right?? It wasn’t until panic-time hit (see, when Chase Utley was injured for a good part of the season) at the trading deadline that Amaro realized he needed another bat, and traded for outfielder Hunter Pence. With this addition, the Phillies set a franchise record with 102 regular season wins, and were again poised to make a lengthy playoff run as they matched up against the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2012 NLDS. After scoring 11 runs in the first game of the series, it looked as if the offensive woes of the previous year had been solved, until over the next four games the Phillies only managed to squeeze out ten runs, being shut out in the finale by Chris Carpenter who pitched a three-hit complete game. Ryan Howard injured himself on the last play of the season, and again the Phillies got to watch the rest of the playoffs on their own personal television sets.

Again, the question was how to solve postseason and clutch hitting in the lineup. And again, Amaro’s decision was to let go of Raul Ibanez and sign closer Jonathan Papelbon to another lucrative and ludicrous deal, at four years and $50 million. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Roy Halladay spent the majority of the season on the disabled list, and the ace of the staff in Cliff Lee was provided with so little run support that in one game, he pitched ten shutout innings and the Phillies still lost the game. Injured for the better part of this season and the one previous, the Phillies have more than $10 million a year tied up in Utley at this point, not to mention the money due to Halladay and Howard, and the more than $20 million/year tied up in Cliff Lee, who is the only one actually earning his insane amount of money. This, on top of the $11 million/year due to Jimmy Rollins, and at the trading deadline of 2012, the now $20+ million/year due to Cole Hamels, makes the Phillies players some of the most expensive, and oldest (Papelbon, Howard, Utley, Rollins, Halladay and Lee are above age 32) overpaid players in all of baseball. With Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino departing via trades at the 2012 deadline, Amaro had started to clean house with some of the smaller contracted, less popular players, but was balking about doing the job completely. The Phillies finished third at the season’s end, with hope for a rebound the following season.

In 2013, the Phillies core needs were outfielders, a third baseman, and some bullpen help. To assist in the bullpen, Amaro signed 35 year-old veteran Mike Adams to a two-year, $12 million deal. Another poor investment, Adams sat and is sitting on the DL for most of the year. He also signed Delmon Young to a cheap deal, but Young put on some weight and outside of the batter’s box is a detriment to the team, on the base paths and in the field, not to mention the fact that he sat on the disabled list for the first month and a half of the season. Amaro also traded for Michael Young, to fill the gap at third base. Although 36 years old and with most of his power lost in his youth, Young was a good utility pickup to hit for average wherever he’s at in the lineup. In another marginal move, Amaro traded for Minnesota Twins outfielder Ben Revere, adding speed to the Philadelphia outfield. As it would turn out however, Howard and Halladay would be parked on the DL for another good portion of the year, as Revere would also miss a month and a half due to breaking his foot. Amaro’s chief problem continues to be the fact that he does his best George McClellan impression, and does NOTHING AT ALL.

The Phillies have three things currently. Old players, fat contracts, and a losing record. Of these things, two of them could and probably should change (you can’t make them win ballgames). They need to dump a good amount of these fat contracts, or else be cursed to continual losing seasons with a depleted farm system. Lee, Utley, Howard, Young, Young, and Papelbon ALL have value to other teams and should be traded accordingly. I understand that both Utley and Lee are fan favorites in Philadelphia, but there comes a time when despite how many old stars you have on your team, people just do not come to see the games anymore, which generates less profit for your franchise. From 2007-2011, every single home game at Citizens’ Bank Park was designated as a sellout, something that the team couldn’t brag in 2012 or 2013 simply because they were/are not very competitive, which in turn did not bring as many fans out to the ballpark. Injuries to Halladay, Howard, and Utley are recurring problems, especially when it comes to Utley’s knees being at second base. Although they may have to eat a portion of their contracts, there are plenty of teams out there willing to take any of the players aforementioned. The two I would hold onto would be Lee and Halladay, Lee simply because no other team will take on the full amount of his ridiculous contract and he pitches the best consistently, and Halladay to see how he performs coming off of surgery toward the middle of August.

Other than that, Amaro needs to set up shop and start a fire sale with Utley, Howard, Young, Young, and Papelbon. Unload some huge contracts and stock up on young talent for the farm system, as it’s fun to watch good young players such as Dominic Brown come up and play for the big league club. The money tied up in Rollins is basically chump change and on par for a shortstop of his caliber, and young players who have shown promise such as Revere and Brown need to be rewarded when the time comes. Darin Ruf is a viable option at first base, and anyone in the horrid Phils’ pen can do just as well as Papelbon, seeing as he hardly needs to pitch with the Phillies winning as few games as they have been recently.

Bottom line is, Amaro needs to take a page out of predecessor Pat Gillick’s book and start to clean house. Gillick wasn’t afraid to part with beloved stars such as Thome and Abreu, in which case Amaro shouldn’t be afraid to part with Utley and Lee (and company) to restore the team’s future. In my opinion, if he can’t provide for the future of the franchise, then he shouldn’t be a part of planning the franchise for the present. He’s made mostly bad moves, and hasn’t had the balls to make the moves he should. Give him the rest of the season and the offseason following, and if he hasn’t done anything to restore the franchise to its former glory, then can him and move on. Amaro is simply wasting too much money and time into a team that simply does not win, thanks in part to him.

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