Was It Amaro, or Was It Us?

Here’s another article submitted by one our readers.  As always, the opinions stated in a submitted article are not those of the staff here at Phuture Phillies.  I expect that the opinion stated in the article could ignite a spirited debate.  But, keep in mind that it is NOT a defense of the unpopular GM.

Was It Amaro, or Was It Us?

by V1again

If you are like me, you haven’t been more excited for a new Phillies season in a while. The amount of young, controllable, high impact talent on this roster is extremely exciting. But as I was looking at the lineup recently, something odd popped in my head…every single player that I am excited about, was put on this team by Ruben Amaro. [note, this is not a defense of Amaro’s tenure…read to the bottom before jumping to conclusions]

Think about it…

Our outfield is pretty exciting. Nick Williams (rookie with an .816 OPS), Odubel (25 year old with 3 seasons of 3+ WAR, who is locked up long term) and Aaron Altherr (a 26 year old with an .884 OPS). Pretty exciting outfield right…well, we should say “Thanks Ruben”…as he traded for Nick, drafted Odubel in the Rule 5 and drafted Aaron in the Rule 4.

Let’s check out the infield. Of course, the excitement starts with Rhys Hoskins (who was a 5th round pick by Ruben’s regime). Caesar was signed as a FA while Ruben was the Assistant GM, but Scott Kingery was a part of Ruben’s last draft. JP Crawford was drafted by Ruben. Our 24 year old catcher of the future with a .761 OPS was acquired by Ruben via trade. Not sure what you think about Franco, but he too was signed by Ruben.

On the pitching staff, it is hard to find many better young, cheap and controllable pitchers in all of baseball than Aaron Nola, who at 24 years old is the 12th best starting pitcher in baseball statistically. Nick Pivetta might end up a high impact reliever, but he is clearly an MLB talent. Jared Eickhoff is also clearly a productive MLB starting pitcher. Ruben drafted Nola and traded for Pivetta and Eickhoff. And by the way, Ruben drafted Ken Giles, who was flipped for Vinny, another high impact arm.

By no means is this team a finished product. But damn…that is a pretty good base from which to build. There are not many teams in baseball with this quantity of young, high upside MLB ready talent.

I think we are in agreement up to here, right? Nothing really controversial. So why did I write this post?

Certainly it is not to defend the legacy of Ruben Amaro. He made his fair share of mistakes. My point is that maybe, just maybe, the issue was that we weren’t realistic on the time that it takes to rebuild a franchise which drafts at the end of the first round for nearly a decade. Maybe the reality is that there are cycles to baseball and we got spoiled and lost our patience.

We as fans had an amazing window where we could turn on the tv every night and watch future hall of famers play amazing baseball…and most likely, win that game. Five straight NL East Championships! A 102 win season for crying out loud. It was such a fun time to be a Phillies fan. Finally we didn’t have to be embarrassed to tell others at a party that the Phillies were our favorite team. And when it went away, almost suddenly, it hurt. It made us angry…and Ruben was an easy punching bag. He was the guy who signed Ryan Howard to that horrible contract (never mind that he was coming off his 4th straight season of being in the top 5 in NL MVP voting). He “let” Jason Werth go to the Nats (for a monster contract). He didn’t start the rebuild on time (according to national pundits who get paid to get clicks to their articles). So he must go. And out he went. He was our scapegoat. And boy did it feel good when he left…ha, ha, did you hear he is the first base coach of the Red Sox? Ha ha…what a loser!

But while enjoying the unceremonious ending to Ruben’s GM career, keep in mind that he built the team that we will be cheering next season. Pause and ask whether he was really as bad as we made him out to be. Or whether it just takes a while to rebuild a baseball team. Did you really give him enough time? It is important that we ask ourselves this, because while it won’t change the past…this exact circumstance will surely happen again.

128 thoughts on “Was It Amaro, or Was It Us?

  1. V1 isnt one of the guys running this site? He made it seem like he was. Perplexing. I will admit that I didnt read the article. (Editor’s note: Well I do run the site. And if you don’t read the article, then don’t comment on it. Just stay away from the discussion.)

    1. We know that you didn’t read the article because the FIRST SENTENCE WAS…

      “Here’s another article submitted by one our readers.”

      No where do I pretend that I “run the site.”

      Why don’t you try to have a little more intellectual curiosity and read an article that challenges dogma. Just read it and think about it.

      1. v1,

        Thanks for the article. I’ve enjoyed all of your recent articles, finding them informative and you viewpoints interesting.

        It also helps this site to have a variety of contributions. Jim does a super-great job, but the contributions from Gregg, you and any others who take time to write true analyses is very helpful.

      2. V1, lol I read the article. I have tried to shine light on Amaro’s hand in the rebuild on other sites… and well lets just say, roughly handful agree and the rest are usually typical philly fans. Bottom line, he made his mistakes, but I believe the light has been shined on how the FO was more than just Amaro… cough cough monty and his loyalty syndrome. I appreciate what he did. IMO, he could have mirrored what Klentak has been doing… waiting for HIS propsects to mature. At the end of the day he is wade 2.0. With that said, it was time to move on. Mainly from Monty… I’ll take Middleton at the helm, with Mcphail and Klentak. This offseason, I want to see them seperate themselves from the amaro era… in a good way. Put up or shut up time.

  2. Rueben does deserve credit for a lot of what will be the Phillies’ next contending team … just like Ed Wade deserves credit for the Gillick/RAJ playoff/championship team(s).

    Hopefully, MacKlentak will do a better job of taking care of the farm while fielding playoff/hopefully champioship teams.

  3. V1 is right of course, with his facts. It’s probably as selfevident that winning 5 straight division championships is very difficult to do by luck as it is that Amaro was not the GM during all of those championships. Interesting to know – unlikely to ever find out – the constraints ownership has historically placed on the Phillies GMs

      1. ….and how much input did MacPhail have in the Hamels trade?

        Ruben was a good old boy, IMO. Organization kid from his childhood, a familial loyalty and sentimental Phillies hire from the chiefs who held sway from the ’70s/80’s era – namely Uncle Bill and Monty. Other than being an underling of Gillick, Ruben was no more qualified to be a big league GM than the man on the moon. He was accessible to the media if a bit snarky. Likable guy overall. I place that blame entirely at the feet of his bosses who hired him with little or no regard to whether he truly was a baseball man. AAAA player? Sure. First base coach? Maybe. GM? Nah….

    1. from reading lots of quotes from the fallout, I’m pretty convinced that Monty had a huge say in the whole keeping the aging core… aging in a phillies uniform. The only thing i want to know is who had final say on the Lee trade to seattle. To me, it has Gillick fingerprints all over it. If I could change one thing about that era, I’d undo that move…or erase Lee coughing up the lead in 2011… I’d love to see how that team wouldve fair’d the rest of the post season

  4. V1…….thoughtful and realistic assessment of the situation that has transpired in these last 6/7 years.
    The oddity…Ruben was GM during a three year stretch were the Phillies had the highest winning percentage of any of their teams (winning almost 292 games), perhaps with the exception of a three-year period in the late 70s…and on the other hand , he also was the GM for a Phillies team in a three year period that had one of the worst winning percentages in their history (winning only 143 games).

      1. First, thanks for the article – I know you put a lot of thought into it and defending Amaro leaves you open to a lot of potential criticism, including from folks like me.

        But, wait a moment on the patience issue. Even if you assume that Ruben is the person who should be given credit for the current crop of players (I could debate it, especially with respect to the last half year, where he was essentially serving as a de facto assistant GM to Andy MacPhail and all decisions were made by a team of folks who had lost confidence in Amaro, who was a lame duck at that point), aren’t we forgetting a little thing here? The team has now been dreadful for half a decade. As a fan, I understand having a down year or even two, but from around 2012 through August of 2017, this team has been just horrible – indeed, practically unwatchable and when all is said and done the team will have had a period of about 7 or more years where they had no shot at making the playoffs. Given this team’s financial resources and fan base, this type of lull is absolutely inexcusable and was not necessary – at least not to this degree.

        I don’t want to get into a rant (which I could easily do) because it’s unproductive, but Ruben Amaro consistently pushed all of his chips into the middle of the table and sacrificed the future without having a practical long term continuity plan and we, the fans, have paid for that with years of horrible baseball. We can’t treat the last 6 years as if they never happened.

        If you look at the really well-run franchises, they are always simultaneously planning for the present and the future. The Yankees, had a down year last year, bam, they reload and now they are contending again. The Cardinals are having a down period, but because they have a productive system, they are still competitive, and the Dodgers are, to me, the model, because even while they were winning championships they didn’t mortgage the future. Instead, they continued developing winning players such as Seager and Bellinger and Urias AND they managed to trade for younger players who turned out to be excellent such as Turner and Taylor.

        1. I disagree on the lull. 5-8 years is about right, 10 gets to be too much. I prefer the way they rebuilt. Of course, It could have gone better, but I think they have done better than most. The next two offseasons will be very telling. Of course you can reference this for an “I told you so”, but I think the Phillies are instore for another great 5 year run. They just need to keep adding the right pieces, and I believe they will. They can go a few different ways. Klentak was handed a cake GM job, nobody saw it coming either, but a monkey could get it right from here on out. He better not screw it up.

      2. I wrote an extended response, but it didn’t post, perhaps because it was a little too long. (Editor: Sorry Catch, sometimes the app decides your responses are spam and sometimes not. I can’t figure out why.)

        Cutting to the chase, I don’t think it’s right to ask fans to wait 7 years between teams who have ANY chance of going to the playoffs and that’s where we are and it’s all directly attributable to decisions made by Amaro. A down year or two is understandable, but when you start losing close to a decade, the GM needs to be blamed for a lack of a reasonable continuity plan and that GM was Amaro. I could continue to go on, but it will just lead to an endless back and forth.

        If you want to look at a model franchise, look at the Dodgers (there are others, but that’s the best right now), while they were winning division titles, they continued to draft well and retain players (rather than trade almost all the best prospects every year for veterans as Amaro did time and again), and, rather than just trading for veterans, they put together trades for younger players who excelled such as Turner, Taylor, and Grandal. Now, that’s what we want our GM to do. Not develop a team whose best players are all 32 plus without another group of players immediately behind them to fill in. There was no reasonable succession plan here – that’s on Amaro.

        1. So you knew that the 102 win season would be the immediate end of our run. That we should have torn it down immediately and started a rebuild in 2011?

          I think you can cherry pick a few great franchises.

          And yes, it would have been nice if it wasn’t 7 years but rather 4 years of a rebuild.

          But the fact remains, we have an elite core of young, high upside players, zero payroll commitments and a great farm system and that is largely due to Ruben Amaro.

          1. No, we didn’t know if it would last through 2012 or perhaps even 2013, but what we knew almost for sure was that when it collapsed it was going to be a freaking disaster for a very long time because he didn’t have the players in place to succeed the next generation nor did he have any reasonable financial flexibility. The point is, aside from his many other stupid moves and failure to embrace analytics, he was reckless as a fiduciary of this franchise. And, yeah, I don’t give a guy a free pass who inherits a franchise that just won a WS, has nearly unparalleled fan support, and the highest level of financial commitment and runs it into the ground so thoroughly that the team will be 7 years between sniffing a wild card spot, all the while acting as if he created this team, which he didn’t.

            I could also go on for a while refuting that it was Ruben, as compared to others, who is responsible for putting together this current group. As for payroll flexibility, that was hardly his doing. It’s just an artifact of surviving some of Ruben’s bad contracts and having the discipline, through the new group in charge, to maintain that flexibility. He gets no credit for the current group outlasting his incompetence.

            1. Even if it took a few extra years…the fact remains, we have a collection of high end, young MLB players the likes of which few franchises have. All of which are here due to Ruben.

            2. We could have a very long debate about the “due to Ruben” portion of your statement. I would tend not to agree that he should be given primary credit for the current crop, especially any players obtained on his way out when he was acting as a virtual assistant GM to the real man in power, Andy MacPhail.

          2. By the way, I DO want to thank you for writing this and stating your position eloquently. Amaro is a figure who provokes many feelings but you raise issues that should be discussed and I always enjoy the banter that ensues!!!

        2. Catch,

          I generally agree with your points. I also know we can go on for quite a while pointing to Ruben’s good, bad and questionable decisions. But I’ll make my analysis very brief:

          Ruben waited too long to begin the rebuild.

          Now, that might not be entirely his fault, as there has been considerable speculation that guys above him were stuck on their favorites from the Glory Years and wanted to hang on hopefully. But the GM is the guy publicly responsible.

  5. But the fact remains fans want someone to blame when things go bad and the ones to blame are usually the owners. You see owners love to play a shell game with the fans by never really letting them know who is calling the shots.

    In the case of the Phillies back then you had the venerable Dallas Green in the ear constantly of Dave Montgomery. You weren’t going to get anything done analytics wise with those 2.

    Just look at how the Eagles operated over the last 10 seasons and it’s pretty routine throughout pro sports. Oh it was Reid, Oh it was Banner, no he only did the contracts it was Howie blah blah blah.

    Even John Henry of the Red Sox likes to create his own house of mirrors.

  6. I’m more curious about the notion that drafting in the latter half of the first round is such an enormous obstacle to overcome. How is it possible that teams such as Giants, Yankees, Red Sox, and Nationals seem to be perpetually drafting in 2nd half and either continue to compete (with only one or two off years between competing teams) and/or have some of the best farm systems? If we say it’s due to a high payroll, Phillies shouldn’t be hamstrung by an inability to pay top talent. If we say it’s because they hit on drafts where they were bad for a year or two, well Phillies were only above .500 for a 5 year stretch (not the better part of a decade that you embellished a bit).

    Also, 2 of the players you mention, Williams and Alfaro, were acquired with a new president who would be picking a new GM so it would be hard to argue that they let a lame duck GM in Amaro solely make the call on a Cole Hamels trade that would impact the next regime greatly.

    Last, the Ryan Howard contract isn’t excusable by using MVP voting as a statistic to show how good he was at the time. A) His decline as a player was already showing for a couple of years and B) his contract wasn’t expiring for another 1.5 years so they had time to see further proof of a decline vs a blip in production.

    As for mention of VV, he now seems targeted for the BP which means a lower ceiling on his future contributions to this team.

    1. I agree with what you are saying about allowing RAJ to make that trade all on his own. No way they do that knowing he’s not going to be here for the future, that just wouldn’t make much business sense. My question would be this, would I ever want RAJ back as a GM? Never.

      1. Eric – that’s the best test I’ve seen to date as to whether he was a good GM.

        Would you want him back? Seriously? There’s no way in hell I’d ever want him back and it’s such an easy call.

      1. Exactly…drafting down in th 20s can be hazardous to an organization’s long term well being….well at least the percentages are against it.
        Phillies draft positions first pick, thru the the years
        2013-16th-JPC
        2012-40th
        2011-39th
        2010-27th
        2009-75th
        2008-24th
        2007-19th
        2006-18th
        2005-65th
        2004-21st-Greg Golson
        …odds were against getting a mega-star.
        But also the org decided to go cheap in the int’l market until 2011.
        That was also a mistake.

            1. Guru…..they busted on the two Korean pitchers in 2001 or 2002 and must have got gun shy…Wade was GM…..but Giles/Monty/Dallas were more or less running the show….then it was Gillick after Wade’s exit….. Ruben did not get involved with any authority, if you want to call it that, until after Nov 2008.

    2. The Giants have been living off Bumgarner and Posey for the last 8 years. They sign big money FAs, get lucky with some players here and there (Sandoval, Cain) and purge their minor league system in trades (Pence). Make no mistake, the Giants decline is already here and will last awhile. But at least they have 3 titles.

      Red Sox have the money to spend big on everything. Their drafting haven’t been that great, but they really cleaned up giving huge money internationally. They spend like no tomorrow.

      The Yankees still have the money to make deals but they’ve been more prudent lately. Their older players have been remarkably productive, they have some decent young players, but their bullpen is the key. They have always had a killer bullpen and it shortens the game a lot. But hey, they haven’t won anything since 2009.

      The Nats have been living off Strasburg, Rendon, Harper, Zimmerman. Then they opened up the bank for Sherzer and Werth. Got crazy lucky that the Mets didn’t want Daniel Murphy. Gio Gonzalez has been productive. The Nats have been purging their system in trades. Their decline will come.

    3. Giant’s great run was built off of:
      – Bumgarner – #10 overall pick in 2007
      – Lincecum – #10 overall pick in 2006
      – Buster Posey – #5 overall pick in 2008

      Nationals Run is driven by:
      – Harper #1 overall
      – Strasberg #1 overall
      – Zimmerman #4 overall
      – Rendon #6 overall
      – Trea Turner #13 overall

      And 3 big time FA Signings

      Yankees and RedSox built by spending huge on both FA and prospects.

  7. My biggest problem with Ruben is that he had the resources to keep a winning team but blew it. Papalbon signing was bad, not signing Greinke was shortsighted and not getting in the Cuban/Japanese market was a mistake. I enjoy your work V1.

  8. I always laugh at the notion that Ruben didn’t want to get involved in the Cuban market. You do know Ruben’s father came here from Cuba right? the Amaro’s are proud of their Cuban heritage.

  9. In hindsight, I still feel good about my thoughts on Ruben at different times. I wanted him gone after he traded for Hunter Pence in (I think) 2011. When the team started rebuilding, I thought he made a series of solid moves to get things going in the right direction.

    His problem wasn’t that he didn’t handle the rebuild well, it’s that we needed such a drastic one in the first place. No, a team with the Phillies’ resources shouldn’t have to follow a period of success with a period of equal or longer futility. If Rube had managed his assets better when the team was good, we could have avoided a lot of the pain of the last six seasons.

  10. My simple answer is Yes and Yes…

    Yes, it was Amaro and Yes, it was the fan base…

    It was the fan base in that the expectations that there would not be a down period after an historic run of division championships was unrealistic as was the expectation that all draft picks would become stars and they would dominate every trade…

    Amaro’s main failure was that he tried to hold on to past glory much longer than he should have, and stretched the payroll to the point where he had to trade Cliff Lee to get Halladay and then dumped Pence for a poor return in what I suspect was also a salary-related move.

    The contract for Howard was a major mistake, made worse by the fact that he could have easily waited another year before making the decision. Signing Papelbon was also a mistake mostly because he was a bad personality fit for the team and the city. Ironically, he seemed at times to make decisions based on what the local media and fan base was calling for rather than what was best for the team long-term.

    In the end, his short-sightedness made the down period much worse than it should have been. As a big market team, they should not have gone from a 100 win team to a 90 loss team in just 2 years and then stay there for another 4 years…

  11. Amaro was SOOOOOOO bad. I understand the logic presented, but a few things:

    1) The trade of Cole was done with MacPhail having heavy heavy influence (at least that was the scuttle).
    2) We gave up at least 2 first round picks to overpay for Papelbon and Ibanez
    3) He was fleeced in almost every single trade he made: Pence, Victorino, Lee (who should have never been traded).
    4) One of his trades involved a player who was accidentally included as PTBNL (Domingo Santana)
    5) His early picks were generally bad (Anthony Hewitt, Collier, Costanzo(sp?), Perci Garner, Kyrell Hudson, Mitch Guellar, Shane Watson, the pitcher from Rice who they ultimately tried as a hitter and it didn’t work out – with few exceptions (maybe Crawford). Theme: drafting athletes over baseball players.
    6) Held onto players way too long and ultimately got no return value: Lee and Halliday (nothing), Utley (bad return), Chooch (bad return), AJ Burnett (nothing).
    7) Guy was just a jerk. He acted like the fans knew nothing whatsoever, and was incredibly thin skinned.

    In summary; he was really really bad despite being handed a tremendous big club and a loaded farm. The reason we’re in the situation we’re in is almost entirely on him, and there is a massive reason he didn’t even get a whiff of another front office job.

      1. Nope – that doesn’t work for me – I don’t agree that it was something special about Ruben that brought value here.

        On draft picks. Marti was here when Ruben was hired. It was status quo. I give Marti credit for the Altherr, Nola, Crawford, and Hoskins picks. Did Ruben really pick them? Not really – he just hadn’t yet fired the guy who did. I’m not giving him credit for players picked by a guy he inherited and hadn’t yet fired.

        On the major late trades – they were all supervised and orchestrated by Andy MacPhail. Amaro’s described role during this process was as an information gatherer who allowed Andy and those he trusted to make a decision. By the time we entered 2015, Amaro was a glorified assistant GM – and one on his way out the door. He was a voice in the room, but he had lost his power by then.

        So, no, I’m not seeing how Ruben did all of this.

          1. Nope – not what I said.

            What we are trying to figure out is how well Ruben Amaro performed. It can be difficult to disaggregate what he did and is responsible for and what others did and are responsible for. It’s especially hard because Dave Montgomery may have influenced what we viewed as some bad decisions and, at the end, in 2015, he really had very little power (this was essentially admitted by MacPhail during the time – Amaro’s job at the end was to gather information and present it to Andy – that’s not really being a GM). It is also more difficult because he came into a situation where basically everything was in place and the team was winning.

            It reminds me a lot of what happened to George Seifert when he took over as the 49ers coach when Bill Walsh. Was Seifert a good coach? He was probably okay, but he inherited a great team with a great system. He just kept it going until the team failed and when he got another shot outside that team he failed again.

            It’s hard for me to give Amaro credit for the draft picks through 2014 because he didn’t hire the scouting director and I think most of the staff were holdovers. We also don’t know how much Amaro was responsible for determining who would be taken and who would not be taken. I don’t know. You don’t know. Only people who were involved in that process know how instrumental Amaro was in discerning between player A and players B and C. So, let’s call it a push. Which means I can’t rip him for bad drafting 2014 and earlier, but I can’t give him credit for those later drafts either.

            I think it’s completely fair to give Amaro credit or blame for 2015 because Almaraz is the guy he chose to do the drafting. So Kingery is on his side of the ledger. I’m good with that.

            1. You are proving my point…you bash Amaro for the bad trades and the bad draft picks, but give him zero credit for any of the good trades or good draft picks.

              The guy can’t win.

            2. And remember when he didn’t know the difference between a plate appearance and an at-bat? I learned he difference when I was 10, and I ain’t never been in charge of a pro sports team.

            3. I’m not giving him zero credit.

              The Halladay trade was fine. The Cliff Lee trade was very good too. And I think the Rollins trade was his and that was a perfectly well designed trade – regardless of whether it works out. Other trades on his watch were less good or bad.

              I’ll give him credit for the decisions I believe were his, but I’m not giving him credit for stuff where I think he was not making executive decisions. From everything I saw and read, he wasn’t the decision-maker during the middle of 2015 on trades. I’m not making that up. We heard it again and again AT THE TIME. When Andy MacPhail came in, he immediately acted as the de facto GM. So if you want me to give him credit for something where he was acting as a de facto assistant GM and an information gatherer – I’m not going to do that.

              But the 7 or 8 years before on trades – that’s all on Ruben. I’m not denying that.

            4. And the guy can’t win because HE WAS BAD AT HIS JOB. I’m not the one denying him even a marginal place in a major league front office. The other major league teams are doing that. He’s a laughing stock. Puh-lease.

          2. I don’t go that route either, but as I said, the bad outweighed the good. I don’t want to be the Pirates, Mets, Tigers, or Reds. I want to be like the Yankees, Cardinals, abd Giants (not this year) – and we had/have the financial resources to do it.

            When you do well in your job 30% of the time, but fail 70% the time in that arena you are considered a failure, or at best unsuccessful.

      2. Has SOME responsibility, but also much more so responsible for the shambles of the last 3 seasons. I don’t know if you can say that Williams and Alfaro are entirely his call because MacPhail was heavily influential in that trade.

        I feel like the 7-8 points I highlighted are pretty strong points as to how terrible he was, and while some of his draft picks appear to have worked out, the bad things he did far outweigh the good.

        If he was even remotely decent and/or respected he would be in a front office, not 90 feet down the first base line in Boston.

        All that being said, you backed your points well, and Amaro initially did some decent things. I just think he ended up becoming an abject disaster.

    1. I know the Amaro hate is strong, but I think you are over and understating some key points on Amaro. For instance, 1) Monty and Mcphail have both been quoted on Amaro’s role in the Hamels trade. He played a prominent role. Alfaro his 110% his pick. I don’t really want to get into that one but he from reading inbetween the lines, He sent the trade request to mcphail, he approved it. Done deal, they are his picks.

      3) He was a magician on trades. What did they give up for Halladay and Lee? Flatout robbery. Pedro? Rollins trade?

      5) Hoskins, Nola, Crawford, Giles, Kilome, Sixto, Cozens, Quinn, etc .. Basically the whole system everyone is gushing over minus – Moniak, Hasley,

      6) Monty was flatout the cause of the loyalty problems. He wanted butts in seats… and the championship core was what he believed would keep them philled. He want to always give it one more go…. read his quotes. He took ownership of it in 2013.

      Don’t get me wrong, he had his moments of failure. Lee trade away, neglecting the offense in a hitters park, etc, but I think what sealed his fate, and his legacy with the fans is how he rubbed them the wrong way. They ought to revise that worst GM ranking now that you can see how much of this 2018 is Amaro’s.

  12. I believe that the ownership (old and new-Middleton is part of both) was/is to blame for putting constraints on international spending for a very long time for many of our GM’s. Think of it as the modern day Orioles who signed no top international prospects and traded their international bonuses for many years.

    The Phillies were caught in in the middle with the new CBA which put the luxury tax on teams MLB payroll. We had to continue to spend for players or start developing our own international/foreign player system. The Phillies ownership did neither.

    It is amazing to me that our core players from 2006 to 2011 stayed so healthy and productive. DMAR touched on Ruben’s Cuban connection and how not signing players is inconsistent in the face of his past. You can’t tell me that Ruben, Pat Gillick and his crew did not know that our core players were less effective from 2012 to 2015. Ruben had to ask/beg to sign young international players but got only Sal A. to start developing the Phillies international market which has produced many current and future players.

    The Philadelphia fans and all major city fans are impatient and it takes a lot longer to rebuild your system in baseball than the other sports. We should acknowledge this fact and try to be more understanding of the process as we(the fans) are not the smartest people in a MLB organization.

    The biggest error that Ruben and the Phillies made was not rebuilding as soon as the Phillies were eliminated in the 2011 playoffs but ownership probably played a part in that decision.

  13. v1, you always provide well researched and interesting posts. Thank You. My feelings on RAJ are twofold. First, or probably second, yes, he brought back the prospects that we are all excited about. He deserves credit for that, and I really cannot wait to see the off season moves and the start of next season. But, he cannot be absolved for his mistakes. He waited too long to begin the rebuild. There was an opportunity to trade Cliff Lee, before he was injured, and while he would have brought back a very nice haul, and when we all knew the glory days were over. The Young brothers’ signings were terrible, and shortsighted. It was his job, in a large part, to see into the future. And, he never prepared properly while the team was winning. Drafting later in the first round has never been an excuse. There were ample opportunities to draft better in later rounds, and to use other means to acquire talent. He left the cupboard bare. And,beside Carlos Carrasco, there was not a single player traded that would make a difference now. So, the Pence and Doc and Lee trades did not damage the future. Poor drafting and poor management of the team’s financial assets damaged the future, and that is on RAJ.

        1. matt13:
          Villar had a brief spurt and trying to rebound now.
          JA Happ had some reasonable years.
          Travis d’Arnaud is a replacement catcher….but when healthy may be the equivalent of Cam Rupp.

          1. Romus he looked like a allstar last year . villar wonder what happen to him. Did the league catch up to him, or just a bad year.?

  14. RAJ always provides an interesting discussion topic. I agree with the basic premise that RAJ brought us some good players. However, he always seemed to lose in deals. The Howard injury was the beginning of the end but his injury combined with Utley’s knee injuries (how is he still playing?) and then the quick demise of Doc and Lee would have killed any team for several years, especially with the contracts they had to carry. For me, losing in almost every trade plus the bad first round picks were too hard to overcome. I’m still ticked off about Domingo Santana being included. We all knew on this site how good he could be. Why didn’t the GM?

    1. You make it sound like it’s so easy to hit on first round picks and win on trades. You can take any team, look at their past first round picks for the last 10 years, and I’m fairly certain not 1 team has hit on more than 4 of them in 10 years.

      As for trades, you win some, you lose some. If you’re trading for prospects, most of the time you lose. That’s the nature of the beast. The Phillies traded a lot of prospects and most of them haven’t panned out for the other team. You can say the same for the Blue Jays too.

      Domingo Santana? Really? You knew he was good? What about all the other prospects the Phillies traded away like Kyle Drabek, Jason Knapp, Lou Marson, Adrian Cardenas, Jonathan Singleton? You knew for a fact they wouldn’t pan out?

      1. Cardinals had a a slew of 1st round misses when I did a brief look a few years ago.
        But they also had more hits than the Phillies did between Cole’s draft year of 2002 and JPC’s of 2013….that there is a loooong dry spell.

        1. My main beef is the feeling that missing on first round picks and trades seems to be limited solely on Amaro. That is definitely not the case. All teams have failed on first round picks and trades. You could blame the contracts on Amaro or how aggressive he was in keeping the window open. I wouldn’t have traded for Pence but I can’t fault a GM that wants to go for it. I would rather have a GM that went for it than one who sat on his hands (hello Orioles GM).

      2. I Remember a lot of guys on here mad they included Santana, I Wasn’t one of them, cause I really didn’t know him. but a lot were mad, they saw a lot of upside.

        1. As a group, we were livid. I remember saying that this was the worst PTBNL I can ever recall – and, as it turns out, I was pretty much right.

            1. That was Ruben’s biggest loss with Ed Wade on trades. However, it took Santana six years to develop into a good player. Let’s see how the National League responds to this year and he deals with it before we crown him a star.

  15. Good post, v1. I’ll add this link to support your argument:

    https://www.fangraphs.com/tht/extending-ryan-howard-is-not-what-killed-the-phillies/

    RAJ was hired to win another WS. That’s it. He got the team back to the WS in 2009 but they lost. They led the majors in wins in 2010 and 2011 but were upset in the playoffs. I would argue that the 2007-2011 era simultaneously was the Phillies’ best ever and was still an underachievement.

    As you look at all the talent on the current squad acquired by RAJ, consider Klentak’s record. The Giles trade looks like a bust. The Hellickson contract tender was a costly miscalculation. Buchholz. Morton. Saunders. It’s a small sample, but I’m already worried.

  16. I have never held the belief that Amaro was the worst GM ever. He tried to keep the window open for as long as he could. I don’t fault him for that. Teams should always try to win. To say that we know when the rebuild should have occurred is hindsight nonsense. I put it at the same level as timing the market for stocks. Sure, Amaro has had his share his misses, but who hasn’t? In my opinion, he was an average GM who needed to go because he was there for enough time (6 years) to make his mark.

  17. V1, thank you for an intelligent and well written article. My take on Amaro is that yes, he is partially responsible for the incoming crop of talent but that some of the mistakes he made were so egregious that I think Billy King in the NBA will get another GM job before him.

    Was it fair that he was assigned blame for the disastrous Howard contract? Probably not. The general suspicion is that was dictated by the ownership. However, as GM, he could have mitigated the damage by inserting clauses into the contract that would have provided coverage in case of injury or proposed a contract of a shorter length.

    Similarly, with the trade of Lee initially, there were rumors that move was also dictated by ownership. If so, his hands were tied to a certain extent, What was his decision, however, was the contract offered to Joe Blanton that necessitated the trade of Lee, assuming the owner’s budget could not accommodate Lee. EVen failing that, why the rushed trade of Lee? The prospects we received from the Mariners were not a poo-poo platter, but if it was made generally known that Lee was available, it is a near certainty that other offers would have dwarfed what we received.

    Combine these huge mis-steps with his disdain for analytical models, his arrogant and dismissive demeanor, and there was little margin for error with him. Does he take too much grief for his time as GM? No, I think he is viewed fairly correctly as someone who was handed the reigns of a sports car and drove it off the side of the road. What should not be forgotten is how he also took that car to the dealership and had the repair work started so that the car may look nearly as nice as before. He laid the foundation of what could be the next great Phillies team and should be recognized for that accomplishment

      1. V1 – thanks for a thought provoking study. RAJ is indeed a controversial two sided baseball personality. Good, bad, arrogant, pawn, and anti-saberrmetric – but I do believe he had his heart in it all, just maybe not his head. Thanks….

      2. That is also what I consider his greatest error. Second greatest was waiting too long. The assumption here seems to be there comes a point, whether it be after 2009, after 2011 or 2012 when the switch gets flipped from “holding the window open” to rebuilding. I think that’s erroneous. Rebuilding should be a constant. RAJ did very little rebuilding for too many years. Those young, high upside players he obtained came so late in his tenure that they are only now impacting the roster after all the poor seasons since 2011.

        1. Rebuilding is a constant? What does that mean? So the Astros and Dodgers are rebuilding constantly? What have they done this year to “rebuild constantly”?

            1. Please. Bellinger was a 4th round pick(#124) in 2013. Was that brilliant rebuilding by those Dodgers or did they just get lucky?? Looking at the players drafted in the 4th round that year, only 6 of them have seen the majors, including Pivetta (Nationals) and Lively (Reds)

            2. Not to mention Bellinger was drafted under Ned Colletti’s regime. In fact most of the young core on the Dodgers right now was Ned.

            3. That’s the entire point. When you draft well and develop talent well year after year after year, it’s not just luck. Luck is the residue of design – and that’s damned well true.

            4. You guys are missing the entire point. I mean totally, completely missing it.

              The Dodgers are in a constant state of reloading. They draft well, they sign international free agents well, they sign free agents pretty well and they make value trades really well. And they didn’t just empty the cupboard of prospects every year for established veterans. They were always reloading. Why aren’t people seeing this? I don’t get it.

            5. But the Dodger’s haven’t drafted well, at least not in the last 10 years. In 2013 they got Bellinger in the 4th round. 2012 was Cory Seager at #18. 2010 was Joc Peterson (11th round), and 2008 was Dee Gordon (4th).

              That’s it. They got 3 core players on their current roster from the draft in the last 10 years and Dee Gordon was a trade piece..

              That isn’t drafting and developing draft picks. What they have done will is spend tons of money in the international market. Again was that decision ownership or GM?

            6. Well, by restricting the drafting to the last 10 years, you’re also omitting Kershaw, who may end up being one of the 5 greatest pitchers of all time – certainly he’s on that path. And you’re right that their “hit” percentage on draft picks isn’t that great, but when they’ve hit they’ve hit big. It’s a little like the last great Phillies team. There weren’t a high volume of good picks, but when they picked well, the player turned out to be great (Utley, Howard, Rollins, Hamels and Rolen before them).

              But it’s not just all about money. Not one person has addressed one of my central points and they haven’t because the point is unassailable as far as I can tell. The Dodgers have had more value trades for players than anyone else in baseball – by a long stretch – and these were not high dollar players. I mean look who they traded for at modest prices: Justin Turner, Chris Taylor, Alex Wood, Austin Barnes and Yasmani Grandal. None of these were considered high profile moves at the time and none involved buying high dollar players.

              The Dodgers have used all available sources to obtain talent. The Phillies need to do the same.

            7. This is nonsense.

              In terms of drafted players, the Dodger got about half of their core players from the draft, including Kershaw, who is one of the greatest pitchers who ever lived, Seager, who should be a perennial MVP candidate, and Bellinger, who owns the rookie homer record and should be a first division regular for years. They didn’t buy these guys (including Kershaw, who you cleverly omitted by limiting the draft parameters to only 10 years), they drafted them.

              Second, they didn’t buy another set of core players, they acquired them in low profile trades. This includes Turner (another MVP candidate), Wood, Taylor, Grandal and Barnes). None of these players were highly paid or even highly thought of when the Dodgers acquired them – the Dodgers just saw potential where others did not. So, no, your theory that the Dodgers have just spent a lot of money and that’s why they are successful is not really the case. They have made the best trades in baseball – by a lot – over the last few years.

          1. One of my beefs with the Phillies was the lack of money dedicated …and I mean big money (six figure bonus)…into talented LA kids from 2002 thru 2011. There are no guarantees with that…….but more could have come, more than Carassco, Chooch, Freddy, Cesar, Robinson Tejada, Villar, Franco et al ……all cheap signings incidentally. Most every clubs strikes gold on cheap signings…..Robinson Cano for one and also Phillies own Doobie by the Rangers.
            But all now, just water under the bridge…..and a new beginnings has emerged.

            1. Romus,, I will go to my grave saying this. Bill Giles was the reason. he refuse to piss off the commissioner because his dad was a commissioner and he wouldn’t let them do it. I hate that guy

          2. The point is that there is a constant replenishment of talent. Constant. As I noted before, while the Dodgers were winning division titles they developed Seager, and Urias, Puig, Jansen and Bellinger and they executed outstanding, below-the-radar value trades for guys like Turner, Taylor, Grandal and Alex Wood. This is how you run a team. You avail yourself of all possible avenues to obtain talent without constantly giving up more than you get (which is generally what happens when you trade for an established star). The Dodgers have done this. They’ve nailed it.

            1. But catch with all their maneuvering and success stories in talent acquisitions…..when it is all said and done…..a ring for them comes down to one Clayton Kershaw…a 7th pick eleven years ago.

            2. I agree that the Dodgers have shown the ability to continue to add new talent to their roster while continuing to play winning baseball.

              Their biggest difference was the willingness to go hard in the international market. Is that ownership or the GM???

            3. The Dodgers have crazy money. They spend the money to get FAs so that they can keep the prospects they have. The Dodgers advantage is money. That’s it.
              Dodgers have a good team, but their payroll is $241M. Their 2nd, 3rd, and 4th highest paid players are on the bench or injured (Gonzalez, Kazmir, Ethier).

            4. This is so asinine. Years ago around here it was the “Cardinals this and the Cardinals that” now we’ve moved onto the Dodgers who still don’t have a ring since 88 and we’re somehow crediting their success to the wrong guy

              sheesh

            5. Again, DMAR, you’re missing the point. The Cardinals are good at this too and so are the Yankees – I haven’t forgotten about them. And a lot of the stuff I’m talking about is not big money signings, it’s about value trades. Justin Turner, Grandal, Wood, Chris Taylor. They freaking nailed it and not one of those trades for a big money guy.

  18. I will testify to the arrogant part. I saw him up-close three times, twice in ST and once in Pittsburgh. Tried a friendly “Hello Mr. Amaro” and had nothing in my hands like a program, autograph book or a pen or anything to indicate I belonged to that particular breed of stalker. Just a friendly greeting. It must have been that my superpower of invisibility kicked in because he looked right through me as if I wasn’t there.

    1. Hari, what does Ruben’s personality have to do with results? I had quite the opposite experience in Trenton (Reading Phillies playoff game) when I spoke to him for several minutes before he got a phone call. Tommy Greene was sitting with him and he was friendly also.

  19. Wow just wow. It’s one thing to not speak the truth and quite another to not want to seek truth.

    Why not try to swim a few laps in a puddle because that is about the depth of knowledge many of you are working from. LOL sorry I love you guys but I can’t believe what I am reading here today.

    1. DMAR….there hasn’t been this much heated discussion since the Tocci debates of 2015 and 2016..
      Ruben and Tocci draws it out of people.

    2. DMAR, I agree in your post about Ruben in that he did what ownership wanted. I am surprised people are not blaming Ruben for the past Solar Eclipse.

          1. Yep …great movie..great lines…..originally suppose to be Cheech and Chong….but re-casted with Bill Murray and Harold Ramis….mud wrestling segment was all improvisation.

  20. First off, thanks for that thoughtful article. Although I do not agree with it 100% I think it really frames the issues.

    My comment is about a tendency I have seen here (and on several other fan sites). There is a tendency on the part of many commentators to treat Ruben, or any other figure who is part of an organization, as if (s)he were a total free agent. This is also really common when people comment on media columnists, frequently treating them as through they were calumnists. (I want to acknowledge my late father as the source of that pun – it goes back to the 1950’s). Organizational constraints clearly limit the freedom of action of even those who are high up in the structure. I await a possible detailed study of the Phillies front office of that period, but since I am 75 I doubt that I will live long enough to see it. It is not only that other people in the organization have power and influence, but also that the need to keep the organization functional may make somebody go along with a decision even though (s)he does not agree with it.

    So, as many of you pointed out, we really don’t know how much freedom of action Ruben had. For all we know, he might have gotten the job because he was not a strong leader and would be willing to take direction from others.

    1. Judas – spot on. We will never know how much he was told to do, by whom and to what extent ? I simply cannot imagine that the owners, Dallas Green, and the host of other advisers would entrust autonomy in any sense of the word, to a young, inexperienced GM. Yes, he was a product of the front office and had come up through the ranks, but I cannot believe that he was fully battle tested even as the Assistant GM. The Phillies had way too much of an investment in its team (in $$$ and time) to let it be operated by anything other than a “politburo.” The reality is there were good decisions and bad decisions – but will we ever know why the minor league system was left bare ? the silly trade of Lee, Pence then the give away of Santana took place ? What we do know is that RAJ was often arrogant, thoughtless, and accepted ill advised guidance when he should not have. He opened his mouth and inserted foot on a number of occasions – these points can be substantiated. But the actual conduct of his office is difficult to fully ascribe to him in any truly legitimate way.

      1. Thanks for the reply, which was reading just for your use of the word “Politburo” to describe the former front office. That’s hilarious – but all too true I suspect.

        One thing that people are missing that I think is a silver lining. The fall from grace of this last administration was so rapid, so acute, so seemingly hopeless that it caused a complete restructuring of the front office and above. That was a change that needed to be made and it was about 20 years overdue.

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