Time Is Running Out for Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr.
The 2014 baseball season in Philadelphia passed without a whimper.
The last game was a Sunday matinee where Cole Hamels pitched another gem … and lost. And the Phillies resigned themselves to the fact that they had finished in last place with a dreadful 73-89 record that doesn’t figure to improve that much in 2015.
Do you remember when Citizens Bank Park used to be a cool place to be? The Phillies had the biggest attendance drop of any team in major league baseball this year — about 600,000 fewer people came to the ballpark than in 2013.
Now I will never be the owner of a major league baseball team. But if I could be, and I was one of the major parties that owned the Phillies, I would not be happy with this kind apocalypse. And I would be kicking some ass.
The Phillies fired scouting director Marti Wolever a few days ago. Now certainly Wolever needed to go. The last homegrown, everyday player the Phillies minor league system produced is Domonic Brown. They have exactly two promising prospects in their system right now: third baseman Maikel Franco, who may start with the big club next year, and J.P Crawford, a shortstop who’s probably still two years away.
Do you know how difficult it is not to produce more players than that? Frankly, it’s almost impossible. Consider that the major league draft last 40 rounds. That’s 40 players selected on a yearly basis. The Phillies have five minor league teams. That’s 125 players in your system per year. And you can’t cultivate more than two players. Who’s scouting these players, the Phillie Phanatic? And who’s coaching them at the lower levels, the Insane Clown Posse? And don’t give me that they traded away prospects to get the likes of Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. Aside from Jon Singleton (who may or may not be a decent player; he certainly didn’t light it afire this year with the Astros), most of those prospects have sucked, too.
So yeah, Wolever had to go. But what about the man who rode with him all these years?
Ruben Amaro Jr. simply has not been a good enough general manager to keep his job. Unless it comes out that Phillies ownership demanded that he keep this old, tired team intact instead of trying to reconfigure it after their brief run of success, then Amaro has to take the hit. This isn’t a personal view. It’s only business.
A good general manager has to see three chess moves down the line. He has to prevent a team from getting stale by remixing the energy – even if it takes moving on from popular former stars. Amaro’s plan of attack this season was flawed on multiple levels. Not only was it misguided to think that these older players would get more productive as they got older — even if they miraculously didn’t get injured — but he was wrong to think that fans wanted to keep seeing these players. Phillies fans are smarter than this front office seems to think. They knew the era had been played out and would have welcomed a fresh reboot.
Amaro’s probably not talking to me these days because of a little row we had in a radio interview a few weeks back. In that interview, I cited statistics that conclusively indicated how older players decline in production, then asked Amaro how he could have ignored that. He went on the assault and told me that I didn’t know what I was talking about and that I was “uninformed.” When I implied that I could have been an alien dropped onto earth from a lighted pod and that my eyes could read the standings showing the Phillies in last place, he said that my eyes were “not informed.”
All righty then.
Ruben Amaro is probably going to keep his job into next year because the Phillies pulled a fast one and snuck Pat Gillick back into the picture. They will spin it next year by saying that Amaro answers to Gillick and they know we all trust Pat Gillick and blah, blah, blah. They’ll live with that decision and Phillies fans will all suffer for it.
Enjoy the major league baseball playoffs everybody.