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Ruben Amaro, Jr. has helped build a World Series championship team and was part of the front office that turned the Phillies into an annual contender. But that was when he was merely an assistant general manager, playing the Robin to Pat Gillick‘s Batman. Since his promotion to the head job in 2009, Philadelphia has gotten worse every year, and the team is saddled with several contracts doing nothing but weighing it down. If Phillies ownership wants to see a winning team again in the near future, they need to rid themselves of their general manager.
After winning the World Series in 2008, the table was set for Amaro to win multiple championships as he took over for the departing Gillick. Instead, it’s been completely downhill since then. In the ensuing years, the Phillies lost in the World Series, lost in the NLCS, lost in the NLDS, and have missed the playoffs altogether with increasingly worse win totals. Right now, they have lost six in a row, sit at the bottom of the N.L. East with a 24-34 record, and have baseball’s worst run differential of -54.
This declining success has been all Amaro’s doing. A combination of criminal overspending, misguided trades, and underwhelming drafting have turned the Phillies into a Philadelphia mess. And it hasn’t gone unnoticed. Just last week, The Sporting News ranked Amaro the worst general manager in the Major Leagues. Many of the team’s fans feel the same way, too. A group has taken to starting a petition on change.org to demand a change.
Among the most egregious contracts Amaro has given out include the five years for $125 million to Ryan Howard through 2016 and the four years and $50 million to Jonathan Papelbon through 2015. The Howard deal was a colossal misjudgment which never remotely began to pay off. Papelbon, though he has been better this season, has seen his velocity continue to decline and often clashes with his manager.
In addition to those, there is also the Cole Hamels albatross. He signed and a six-year,$144 million deal through 2018, and he has yet to live up to that. If he doesn’t turn it around, he will never be worth the $23.5 million annual value, and runs the risk of becoming another Howard. Amaro’s real crime here was not locking up Hamels earlier to a more team-friendly deal.
Amaro’s track record on the trade market has been hit or miss. His deals to bring in Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay are hard to criticize, however his subsequent trading away of Lee and his acquisition of Hunter Pence are equally hard to defend. But his stubborn refusal to trade Lee over the last year may have doomed any potential deals this season now that the 35-year-old has question marks about his health as he battles elbow soreness.
The Phillies are also in their current situation because Amaro has been unable and unwilling to move the team forward. By re-signing so many players, like Howard, Lee, Hamels, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Carlos Ruiz, the team ages with them, which hasn’t been good. And the GM’s drafting abilities need improvement. Most organizational rankings place the Phillies in the mid-to-low end of those in the game.
So with all the work that needs to be done with the franchise, one might think Amaro would have a plan for the future. But it’s hard to believe he does. Between not trading Lee, and giving not-insignificant multi-year contracts to past-their-prime types like Ruiz, A.J. Burnett, and Marlon Byrd, he is sending a “win now” message in what should be a rebuilding situation.
And it will be tough, if not impossible, to turn any of those aging veterans into pieces for the future. Lee would be the only potential difference-maker for a contender, and his trade market has taken a bit of a hit with his new injury concerns. Overall outside interest in any Philly is minimal.
So Philadelphia is stuck with trying to find a way out from the downward spiral the team is mired in. It’s not going to be an easy or quick process, but it’s one the organization needs to be committed to. It’s a direction the team should have been headed two years ago. But Amaro decided to stay in contender/pretender limbo, leaving things worse off now than they were then. It’s time someone else comes in to get the franchise back on track.
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