Fire Ruben Amaro
By Matt Veasey
It’s an idea so simplistic that it has developed its own active Twitter hashtag of #FireRuben, and as the Phillies enter a 3rd consecutive lost September under his watch it is very fair for Fightin’s fans to start saying out loud and often. The team needs a new direction, from the top, and it’s time to fire Ruben Amaro from his position as General Manager of the team.
There have been a number of traditional media and blogger articles written in recent days and weeks on this topic, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time rehashing those thoughts. Here is one very simple question that you need to answer, if you are not sure about Amaro: were he to be released today, is he likely to ever again be considered for a GM job with any other franchise for the rest of his life?
The GM of a franchise in Major League Baseball can be properly looked at with two questions. First, what have you done for us in the past? Second, why are you the person to guide us into the future? A positive answer to the first is not always a good reason when evaluating the second, but it does give the incumbent a leg up on other possible candidates. I would put it to you that any honest evaluation will show that Amaro’s “past” is mediocre, and that his “future” should not happen at all.
There are two highlights over the course of the Amaro Era, which has lasted from his elevation to the position following the 2008 World Series championship through to the current day. Those two highlights would be an appearance in the 2009 World Series, and a franchise-record 102-victory regular season in 2011. The decisions made that put together the “Four Aces” and set the wheels in motion for that 2011 regular season are easily his high-water mark as GM.
What Amaro was doing for the most part during the period of 2009-2011 was tread water. He had a winning hand, dealt to him by his two immediate predecessors, Ed Wade and Baseball Hall of Famer Pat Gillick. He let Jayson Werth go, trying to replace him with Raul Ibanez. He orchestrated a trade for Roy Halladay, but traded away Cliff Lee on the same day. He stumbled and fumbled, trying to find the right combo, and nothing ultimately worked. The team still won with a core moving through its prime, but it couldn’t again win the big one.
Then came that 2011 season. We all know what happened. Riding those four aces of Halladay, Hamels, Oswalt, and Lee the team was able to go up against opponents almost every single game knowing it had the better starting pitcher on the mound. It showed in the results of a 102-60 regular season. But then came the Cardinals, and Chris Carpenter, and that 2011 Phillies team fell victim to the perils of an “anything can happen in a short series” playoff.
To that point, you can say that Amaro was doing okay. He hadn’t won a World Series of his own yet, but the streak of NL East crowns had stretched out to 5 in a row. But now some storm clouds were gathering. The core of players that had led the charge to the top over the last half-decade were all aging together. The pieces being brought in to support them were not working out. The decisions being made were beginning to show as poor. The Phillies weren’t winning any longer, and there was no help coming from the minor leagues.
There has been a slow, steady deterioration of results in the Amaro Era since that 2008 World Series victory. A return to the World Series in 2009, but a loss there. A return to the NLCS in 2010, but a loss there. A return to the playoffs in 2011, but a loss there in the first round. A .500 record in 2012. A losing record in 2013. Last place now here in 2014. All the while, the farm system has deteriorated to the point that it is consistently rated near the bottom by most talent evaluators.
When things go as badly in an organization as they so obviously have for the Phillies under the watch of Ruben Amaro Jr, there is only one place to lay the blame: at the top. He has made the decisions regarding player contracts, draft choices, free agency. He has done the hiring, or continued the tenure, of the team’s other talent evaluators such as coaches, his own assistants, and scouts.
August 2013; Amaro announces contract extension for Chase Utley. Photo: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
There are going to be many huge decisions that need to take place in order to turn this Phillies organization around, and to again fill up the stands at Citizens Bank Park. Those do not involve holding tribute night’s to Little League teams. They do not involve more Dollar Dog days. They do not involve giving away more bobbleheads. They involve building a winning organization throughout with impact prospects, and putting a winning product on the field in South Philly. Ruben Amaro is not the man to be entrusting with those decisions.
The Phillies need a General Manager who is not tied to the organization’s past, especially not to the 2008 World Series champions. They need someone who is going to be focused on tomorrow. They need someone who has experience, and who most importantly has good contacts throughout baseball and the respect of his peers, who has built those relationships and who can work with other GM’s.
Club President David Montgomery can thank Amaro for his work. He can fete Amaro’s rise from the son of a Phillies player, to a Phillies player himself, to an Assistant GM for a World Series winner, to GM of a record-setting team. Make it as positive as you want. But if you want positive results on the field in the near future, those will not come from the past. Certainly not from his past. The time has come for the Philadelphia Phillies ownership group to fire Ruben Amaro Jr.