This has been a long time coming.
After months, if not a couple of seasons worth of speculation, the Phillies announced on Thursday that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. would not have his contract extended and that the team would be going in a new direction.
In a press release announcing the move, incoming Phillies president Andy MacPhail had nothing but nice things to say about Amaro, but didn’t mince words about the decision either.
“It’s never an easy decision to make a change. Ruben has had a direct impact on some of the best years in the team’s history. He helped to create some great memories for Phillies fans with his accomplishments, but in order to return to a top-contending club, we believe this is the right thing to do as we continue the rebuilding process.”
To put it another, succinct way, Amaro was fired.
And it was about damn time.
Give Amaro Jr. all the credit you want for what he has done this season to restock the Phillies farm system and getting maximum returns for the players that are now with other organizations. But when you look at Amaro’s tenure as GM and the boneheaded decisions he made while in the job, the bottom line it that it was too little, too late.
The list of mind-numbingly awful calls that Amaro made while GM is staggering. Bad contracts, horrendous trades, extensions for players that just weren’t worth the money, the list goes on and on. Bringing in some decent prospects this season isn’t nearly enough to forgive or forget the mess he made of this once proud team.
And that’s what really hurts about the way Amaro Jr. is leaving this Phillies roster. He was handed a team that had literally just won a World Series. All he had to do was maintain, make adjustments as needed and know when the time was right to start moving on to the next generation of Phillies. Amaro did none of that. Instead he put all of the ownership group’s money into pitching in a bid to win another title, which included bringing back Cliff Lee after trading him away to the Seattle Mariners in one of the worst deals in team history.
Looking back, it’s really kind of tough to narrow down what was the actual worst deal Amaro had a part in. The Cliff Lee trade? The whole Hunter Pence debacle? The ridiculous contract he gave everyone’s favorite closer Jonathan Papelbon? Any of those would have to be at the top of the list.
But then there is the way Amaro Jr. just seemed clueless as too why the fans would be upset with him and the team. His infamous comments about Phillies fans and how “They don’t understand the game.” should have been enough right there for a one-way ticket out of town.
When you have fewer and fewer fans showing up to watch your team, you don’t then insult them by saying they “don’t understand the game” and then be shocked when the inevitable blowback happens.
This was a big part of the reason why ownership partner John Middleton truthfully acknowledged that yes, Amaro’s poor standing with the fans played a big role in the team’s decision to let Amaro go.
“All of us in this room exist because of fans. Fans buy tickets, watch games. It’s important to us. That being said, when you make a decision of this magnitude, you make it for a host of reasons. A lot of reason and thought goes into it and a lot of things are balanced and weighed. That’s what Andy did. It was not limited.
“We were certainly aware of the fans’ feelings,”
all quotes via CSN Philly
In most cases, when a sports team flounders and becomes a shadow of what it once was and suffers such a fast, steep decline, there is enough blame to go around. However, usually one person becomes the scapegoat and all the blame is heaped on his or her shoulders whether it is deserved or not. The finger is pointed at them and the fans are told it’s all their fault, blame them for what has happened to your favorite baseball team.
This is a rare case when all the blame is squarely aimed at the right person for all the right reasons and it is all very well deserved.
So long and good riddance Ruben. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.