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I know I’m in the minority here, but I don’t think Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. is delusional.
Maybe I’m incorrect in my assumptions or merely projecting my own feelings onto Amaro. Maybe before the season, he looked at the team he had assembled and genuinely believed that this was a playoff team.
A healthy Cliff Lee could have made a huge difference. Image Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
I suppose even that wouldn’t have been completely out of line. It wasn’t asinine to talk yourself into thinking that the Phillies could make the playoffs. A rotation of Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, A.J. Burnett, Kyle Kendrick, and Roberto Hernandez projected to be one of the better units in the league. And if veterans like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins could come close to their old form, then the lineup might have had some fight in it.
I didn’t think it would happen. I thought the Phillies would see some of their veterans rebound, but they’d also struggle with some injuries, and the team would be end up around .500.
Based on his actions this past offseason, I believe that Amaro’s expectations were probably similar to mine. I think he is legitimately disappointed by how they played, because he expected mediocrity, and the team would need to improve greatly just to reach that level. But did he really think the Phillies were playoff-bound in 2014? I doubt it.
Yes, he publicly stated that he expected the Phillies to be contenders in 2014, but Amaro has been notoriously dishonest in his tenure as GM. What good does it do a general manager to come out and say that his team may struggle? Lowered expectations don’t sell season ticket packages as well as optimism.
Amaro was recently interviewed by radio host Mike Missanelli. The interview quickly became hostile as Missanelli attacked Amaro for depending on too many veteran players. Missanelli seemed to imply that Amaro didn’t understand that players often decline as they get older.
I know that many people think Amaro is an idiot. But I think that he does understand that aging players often decline. I also think that he didn’t have any other choice but to hope that the Phillies’ veteran-laden roster could somehow defy the odds.
Based on quotes from team president David Montgomery, it’s become fairly obvious that a total rebuild was never an option for Amaro. He was left with no choice but to patch the obvious holes as best he could and hope that those aging veterans could indeed defy the aging process.
Shin-Soo Choo would probably not have lifted the Phillies into contention. Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports
A truly delusional man would have gone “all in” and signed a big name free agent. The Phillies payroll might not be infinite, but I suspect they could have found a way to fit an elite free agent like Shin-Soo Choo or Jacoby Ellsbury into the payroll if they so desired.
To do so, they likely would have had to give the player a lengthy, back-loaded, contract, and it would have required the sacrifice of a draft pick. Unless you’re fairly convinced that your team is only one or two players away from a championship, it’s foolish to jeopardize the future in that manner.
It’s not like Amaro is scared of the free agent market. In the good old days of 2009-2012, the Phillies were a legitimate contender, and they attacked the free agent market accordingly. The fact that they shied away from expensive players this offseason is a good indication of just how much confidence Amaro really had in the team.
Instead of the big names, he went after older players who didn’t require long-term deals or draft pick compensation. Guys like Marlon Byrd and A.J. Burnett were never designed to be difference makers. But if the core of the team could somehow recapture their past magic, then they would hopefully serve as strong supporting pieces.
I can’t deny that Amaro has made some mistakes along the way. And based on the team’s poor record in 2014, I can understand if you don’t think he’s the right man for the job. But if you’re one of the critics who thinks Amaro doesn’t have a firm grasp on the realities of baseball and the Phillies’ roster, then you might be the one who is a bit delusional.