With Ray Lewis’ NFL career in the history books following last night’s Super Bowl win by the Ravens over the 49ers in New Orleans, Ruben Amaro Jr. saw an opportunity.
And once again, Amaro has shocked the world.
Early Monday morning, as Lewis celebrated his career-defining second Super Bowl championship in The Big Easy, the viciously inspirational linebacker agreed to a three-year, $20 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, with a team option for a fourth year that could push the deal to $25 million.
“Clearly, whenever you can get a guy like Ray Lewis, a guy who can single-handedly will a team to a championship with only his stirring oratory and the occasional threat of violence, it’s a move you simply have to make,” said Amaro immediately after speaking to Lewis by phone last night.
“Obviously, we expect Lewis to play left field and, while he’s never actually played baseball before, we’re sure his ability to inspire and intimidate the opposition will be a big asset for our team.”
The move is a shocking one for the Phils, who continue to have an interesting and unpredictable off-season. While not as shocking a move as the Delmon Young signing, Ray Lewis’ arrival could signal that the team plans to go with a veteran outfield, rather than allowing youngsters Darin Ruf or Domonic Brown to earn a shot at playing time.
Although, Amaro said no one is guaranteed being a starter.
“Ray Lewis is going to have to earn a starting spot on this team,” Amaro said, still visibly shaken and emotional after his conversation with the super-charged Lewis. “We realize he’s never swung a bat before or put on a glove, but our hope is he’ll be our everyday left fielder in 2013.”
“We’re pretty much putting all our eggs in the Ray Lewis basket.”
The Phils have lamented the lack of leadership in the locker room over the last few seasons, and the hope is that, despite his obvious shortcomings as an actual player of baseball, Lewis’ mere presence in the clubhouse, his ability to properly apply eye-black in a menacing way, and his overall fearsomeness, will help the team maintain focus throughout the grueling 162-game schedule.
Charlie Manuel, for one, welcomed the news.
“Do I think Ray Lewis can play baseball? Yeah, I think he can play baseball,” said Manuel. “I’ll tell you what, he can’t be any worse than Delmon Young, right? I mean, that guy can’t throw or field, and he makes more outs than pretty much anyone in the game. But [Lewis] is a big guy and, with some luck, I think he can hit 20 to 30 home runs in our ballpark.”
“Everybody says this place is a bandbox. I guess we’ll see, right?”
Amaro said he was not scared off by Lewis’ past, one in which he was accused of double murder but instead agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors. Lewis testified against the two men he was with the night Richard Lollar and Jacinth Baker were killed after Super Bowl XXXIV in Atlanta.
“No, we’re confident Ray has put that behind him,” Amaro said, in response to questions about Lewis’ controversial history. “It’s like it never happened.”
Lewis could not be reached for comment at the time of this writing, likely still celebrating the Super Bowl victory he pretty much won on his own Sunday night in New Orleans.
Amaro will surely take some heat for signing a 37-year-old player to a three-year deal, with Lewis playing the 2015 season at 40 years old. But the Phils’ GM says he’s not concerned.
“Ray Lewis is a freak of nature,” Amaro said. “He’ll be playing sports until he’s 55 years old. We feel he’s got plenty of baseball inside him, especially when you consider he’s never actually played the game before. That means there’s A LOT of baseball still inside there.”
While this move will be seen as unconventional by those in baseball circles, Ruben Amaro said he believes bringing aboard a “winner” and a “great clubhouse presence” like Ray Lewis will translate into victories on the field, hopefully propelling the Phillies back to the top of the NL East.
Could Ray Lewis be the missing piece?
Only time will tell.