Ruben Amaro Botched This Season, But Don’t Give Up on the Phillies Yet

It’s time to start anew.

If Ruben Amaro were smart–and since he went to Penn Charter and Stanford, it is reasonable to believe he is–he would hire someone to walk around Kansas City during the next couple days carrying a sign reading, “Everything Must Go!!” That way, he can let the MLB executives assembled for the All-Star Game know that just about every member of the Phillies is available as the trading deadline approaches.

The Phillies have staggered into the season’s unofficial halftime on a 1-11 bender and find themselves 14 games behind Washington in the NL East standings and 9 ½ back of the second wild card spot in this year’s bloated post-season. The National League could add three more extra playoff berths, and it wouldn’t matter. The Phillies are cooked. Worse, it appears that the next couple years are in danger of being messy, too. So, Amaro should hire a sign man and then begin swapping every available Phillies asset for pieces that will help reconstruct the franchise that gave fans five years of fun and happiness.

It is obvious that this team is incapable of winning. Amaro did an awful job in the off-season, refusing to construct a capable bullpen, neglecting left field, thinking Placido Polanco was a good enough third baseman and “believing” Chase Utley when he said his knee would be healthy on opening day. Amaro gave Jimmy Rollins a three-year deal, choosing sentiment over logic. He signed Jim Thome, despite the fact that all of baseball knew he couldn’t play first base.

Those players who returned have underachieved considerably–except, of course, for Carlos Ruiz and Cole Hamels–who are utterly blameless in this. Centerfielder Shane Victorino had a chance to be a hero in a contract year. Instead, he’s hitting .224/.287/.302 against righthanders (and has three times as many at bats against them as he does against lefties) and had the nerve Sunday to throw a temper tantrum when he was dropped to seventh in the lineup. Yo, Ruben, send him to Seattle for pennies on the dollar. Today. Cliff Lee can’t blame all of his troubles on everybody else. A lot of them are self-inflicted. Hunter Pence hasn’t met a low pitch he doesn’t love. And so on.

Then there’s Charlie Manuel. He has more wins than every other Phillies manager. Won a World Series. Was the perfect manager when the Phils were motivated and had some heart. But he can’t inspire this bunch. I’m not sure anyone can. Any team that is 0-36 when trailing after seven innings lacks the guts and character to succeed, no matter who is at the helm. It’s time for Manuel to go, for no other reason than he’s not the man to lead a rebuilding project. He’s better suited for coddling veteran players who need their egos massaged than he is at kicking people’s asses. Let Ryne Sandberg come down from Lehigh Valley and get a head start on the future.

Yep, it’s time to start anew. But it’s not time for fans to start abandoning the team. That can’t happen. As frustrating as it is to watch this club surrender leads and play uninspired baseball, it would be dead wrong for Philadelphia to contract short-term memory loss and forget how much fun the last five years have been. This isn’t some plea for St. Louis-style softness. I was at the park Friday night when Brian McCann hit the grand slam off Antonio Bastardo and was halfway up the steps from my seat before the ball cleared the centerfield wall. There is definitely a place for anger with the 2012 Phillies.

This is an infuriating season, one filled with so many mistakes, bad judgment and frustrating play that it’s almost as if we went to sleep over the winter and woke up Astros fans–when Ed Wade was the GM. Going to the ballpark stirs little of the same excitement that it did over the past several seasons, because it’s clear the Phillies aren’t going to get it done. I understand that.

But this is no time to become a bunch of front-runners. The Phillies may stink right now, and it’s hard to have faith that a front office that completely botched the off-season will make the right moves going forward. Get mad, and let that fury be known. But don’t write the team off, only to return when things start going right again. That’s what everybody around the country expects us to do, and it’s frankly as wrong as raising your child a Cowboys fan when the Eagles are going through tough times.

There will be a natural tendency to take all of the goodwill the Phillies have accumulated during the second-best run in franchise history (sorry, but 1976-83 is still better) and flush it. Don’t succumb to temptation. It’s okay to cut back the number of tickets you buy and also wise to complain about the ridiculous concession prices at CBP. But don’t quit on this bunch. Show some class. Show some character. Root, root, root for the home team.

And stand on the outskirts of town as what we can only hope is a parade of underachievers heads elsewhere. The market is open, Ruben, get to work. Fix the team the city loves.

SUCKER PUNCHES

  • Let’s hope the Sixers have another couple of moves in mind, because a starting lineup of Jrue Holiday, Nick Young, Andre Iguodala, Thad Young and Spencer Hawes isn’t quite going to get it done. There is still a lot of time left before training camp begins, but there is a lot of work to be done.
  • This could be a bad week for Penn State. The Freeh Report could be released, and it looks like the school is going to be painted as the very football factory it swore it would never become under Joe Paterno. What was that old adage about absolute power?
  • Let’s hope ESPN is a little understated in its coverage of tonight’s Home Run Derby. (Of course that’s like wishing it won’t be hot in July.) It’s time for Chris Berman to realize that a batting practice home run is not on a par with a cure for the common cold. Stop screaming every time someone hits a 350-foot homer, Boomer. Please.

 

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