Ruben Amaro’s Big Problem
Ruben Amaro Jr. has an affliction that baseball people, far and wide, and through decades of time, call the “red ass.”
It is not a physical, but mental condition where emotions get inflamed very quickly. In the case of Amaro, last week, his red ass came as a result of his professional competency being questioned by fans who he felt had no business questioning his competency.
After all, he’s the general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. He’s the one with the baseball pedigree. And you’re just a schmoe fan who watches the game from your Barcalounger with a bag of Doritos perched upon your ample stomach. See, that’s just the type of thing that would give an insecure guy like Amaro the red ass.
The lynchpin to the blowup that stirred up Phillies came when Amaro was asked a fairly innocuous question by CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury regarding the progress of two of the Phils prize pitching prospects in double-A, Aaron Nola and Zach Elfin. Amaro had tried to explain that the two pitchers needed more seasoning in the minors when Salisbury countered with a thought that perhaps fans would like to see the pitchers in this year’s rotation already. Then came the boom.
“They don’t understand the game,” Amaro said about the fans. “They don’t understand the process. There’s a process. And then they bitch and complain because we don’t have a plan. There’s a plan in place and we’re sticking with the plan. We can’t do what’s best for the fan.”
Now, there are probably worse things you can do as a general manager of a baseball team that charges $85 a ticket. You can be Amaro, stand at your own ticket window, take the $85 with a sneer, and shoo the buyer away without as much as a “thank you.” You can take their money, then not let them into Citizens Park to actually watch the game and have your players play in silence. But there aren’t many things you can do worse than hinting that a fan knows nothing about the game and that pretty much they don’t count – which is what Amaro did with his comments the other day.
I have perhaps the only profession in America – sports talk host – that EVERYBODY thinks they can do. And I mean everybody. In truth, people who actually work in the sports industry probably know a little more than the average person because it is our full time profession, not just an avocation. But we have to roll with it because the fan is our customer and the customer is always right, whether he really is or not.
I know a little bit about baseball. I played the game for a lot of years and in fact still play it. But I’m sure I don’t know as much about the subject as Amaro, who has spent years in the game, as a player and an executive. He has more access to viewing players and watching video and talking to scouts. But the last thing you can do to your customer is insult them. They’re the ones investing time and money into your product. And I might remind Amaro that his product right now, well, sucks.
If you are Bill Belichick, you can tell fans to go pound sand and they willingly will go pound sand. Because at the end of the day, Belichick’s record is a winning record, and his organization is astoundingly successful. To question that would be silly. To question Amaro, in a year where the Phillies are likely to lose 100 games, is entirely appropriate.
In my interview with Amaro the other day on 97.5 The Fanatic, the Phils GM had a lot of positives he tried to shoot into the air, and a lot of excuses for the organization’s failures. Sure, he mentioned Maikel Franco, who looks like a blossoming star. But he also threw players at me such as Cody Asche, Darin Ruf and Freddy Galvis. Unfortunately, the listener could not see me rolling my eyes.
It is nearly impossible for me to believe that with more than 90 employees involved in player personnel, the Phils can’t produce any major league ready position players right now other than Franco. Amaro told me that a lot of that is because the Phillies, because they were so good for so many years from 2008-2011, had late picks in the first round of drafts. So I am to presume that only the teams with early first round picks can build organizations? How about hitting on a late first-rounder. Hell, how about hitting on a second-, third-, fourth- or 20th-round pick?
Truth is, Amaro right now is as insecure as a Main Line housewife behind the wheel of a monster-sized Land Rover. He knows his regime has failed. He knows his previous plan of milking the teat of older core stars failed. And now he is asking to execute another plan, building slowly and with young players. And he’s doing that perhaps as a lame duck general manager on the last year of a contract.
I get it. But he shouldn’t expect fans to get it.