My parents raised me to respect authority. Not just respect, but have trust and confidence in the many levels of authority. That English teacher I had that I thought was so shitty? She couldn't be all that bad, because she was hired to do that job, and the people who hired her *must* know what they're doing, right? Wrong. She was a shitty English teacher, and the people who hired her were idiots. (And my research paper on the hypocrisy of Ronald Reagan was BRILLIANT, DAMMIT.)
Somehow, I failed to apply this lesson to other areas of my life.
For years, I believed that Ruben Amaro was misunderstood. The people who hired him had a huge financial investment in the team, and doing well was important to recouping that. They couldn't be morons. They had to know what they were doing. They couldn't have hired an idiot, or someone so grossly unqualified for the job that it's laughable. Someone so mired in the ways of the past and fooled by the illusion of experience that almost every move seems designed to take the team backwards, not forwards.
That couldn't be happening, right?
Of course, now I feel like an idiot.
I honestly couldn't believe that the team I so loved was being run by people who were completely unable to see not just the way things were trending in the future, but the very present they were supposedly existing in. It was easier to assume that everyone had a larger plan and that I just couldn't see it yet. I am just a fan. Things cannot be so bad that I'd actually notice, right? Of course, I am not the average fan. I write for a Phillies website. I watch every game. I read a lot about the Phillies and pay close attention. But still I didn't feel like this qualified me to judge what Ruben Amaro Jr, a man clearly smarter than me, was doing with the team I have adored since birth and spent untold thousands of dollars (not to mention thousands of brain cells) supporting.
Back in 2009, the signing of Raul Ibanez puzzled me. The team was kind of old. They'd won the World Series the year before, yes, but Raul Ibanez? Pat Burrell was a legend in the City of Brotherly Love, but wasn't the point to sign someone better than him? And also younger who could stay with the team awhile without going on Social Security and joining the AARP? I wasn't quite sure how a player four years older than him would solve the larger problems of the team. And yeah, it worked out for awhile, but I kind of felt like Amaro got lucky. But there must be a point to this, I told myself. A point to spending $31m for... that? Yes. There must be. I just didn't see it. I didn't understand. One day it would be revealed. Right?
And yes, trading for Halladay in 2009 turned out to be insanely fantastic. But of course, he sent away Cliff Lee. Which just seemed... stupid. Especially in light of what happened a year later. It seemed really fucking stupid in light of his resigning. Which was awesome and fun! Remember how fun that night was!? It was so great. I had fun. You had fun! We all did. And when it occurred to me later that that this guy was on the team not too long ago and now the Phillies were paying a 32 year old pitcher truckloads of money until he's at least 36, it felt better to just STOMP THAT THOUGHT RIGHT DOWN BECAUSE IT WAS MAKING MY BRAIN HURT OUCH.
To believe there was more than I was seeing meant completely ignoring the Ryan Howard contract, because what fucking sense did that make? Howard was two years away from free agency! TWO YEARS! And they were going to ink him to a five year extension THEN?! Amaro must have a crystal ball. Someone must know that he's going to continue to be awesome. That he won't get hurt. That he won't decline. And that he'd actually, seriously command more than that on the free agent market in two fucking years. The only way this made sense is if Howard's contract was a steal or at least somewhat of a discount, and that being an elite first baseman was a title you held your whole life regardless of your actual performance. I swallowed it, even though I knew it to be false. I knew that the contract would most likely cripple the team financially going forward. But there had to be more. This could not be it. Howard was a homegrown player, one of the faces of the franchise. Keeping him in red pinstripes had to be worth at least some of what he was being paid, I told myself.
Hunter Pence was a hard pill to swallow. He did so well in his first half year in Philadelphia that I almost thought it was going to work out. I could see it in the distance! The plan! THE CONSTANT VALUING OF EXPERIENCE AND AGE OVER YOUTH! IT COULD WORK!
And then it didn't. SHOCKER. Things went horribly wrong as Pence backed off of his torrid 2011 pace and became a pointless, aimless blur of spaghetti limbs constantly falling over in right field and swinging at pitches too, well, everywhere. He'd swing at balls up near his head, and in the dirt, and at his hands, and in the next goddamn county. But the players were gone and the money was spent. There was no going back. There could be no regrets! Paying attention to what was actually going on would be horribly painful! But if you've traded away your farm system and you have no money to buy actual good players, that leaves you with, well...
Laynce Nix! Ty Wigginton! The collective bane of my existence in 2012. Laynce Nix with the nonsensical Y in his first name, and Ty Wigginton with all the sucking and being shitty at baseball. The team was OLD. Utley has no knees! Howard had no foot! Everyone was over 30! But for some reason, Amaro didn't seem to trust the guys under 30 to do, well, ANYTHING. God forbid they be given a chance. Not they. Him. Domonic Brown. Instead of giving him a chance, Amaro signed Nix and Wigginton, two guys from the abandoned, lonely, pathetic bargain bin in the corner of the sale section of the surplus and salvage store. Everyone has already bought the good stuff. The remaining items are grubby from being moved around so much while people look for things of actual interest and value. The person stupid enough to buy them thinks that the dirt can be cleaned off, but it can't, it's permanent, and one of the toys is fat and stupid and can't fucking do anything but fall over at third base all the damn time. Then there was Mike Fontenot and his flesh colored beard. Nate Schierholtz and his enfeebled toe. Hey, how about that guy over there! In the stands! He's got some gray in his beard, he has to be at least 35, and he looks wise! I'm sure life has taught him a lesson or two! Let's have him play in the outfield instead of the young player we refused to trade!
Things were unraveling. There was no plan. The Phillies were bad. I could do nothing but hope that the offseason would bring a smart signing or an intelligent trade, anything to restore my faith that THE PEOPLE RUNNING THE TEAM I LOVED HAD FUNCTIONAL BRAINS.
The combination of Delmon Young and Michael Young were the straws that broke the camel's back. And I feel like a fucking idiot for having faith in the authority figures of the team for so long. I had to believe that there was more than I was seeing, because if there wasn't then WHAT THE HELL WAS GOING ON?! Some habits are hard to break. And this one makes me feel pretty stupid.
Seriously, Delmon Young and Michael Young? As starters? In positions they haven't been regularly playing? Is anyone paying attention? Anywhere? Does anyone know what they're doing? IS THIS IS A RUDDERLESS SHIP!? THE MAST IS ON FIRE SOMEONE PLEASE PUT IT OUT OH GOD SOMEONE SAVE THE PARROT.
I wish I had the optimism of our own Joecatz. The man doesn't see a shitty Amaro move. Instead, he sees the fifty moves that could be made subsequently. It's a mixture of optimism and a deep obsession with trades, but it's something I wish I had. Because now all I see is a mindset that will continue to drag the team down. Amaro won't be happy until the average age of the starters is 40. Then they'll truly have the EXPERIENCE to guide the team... to a 65 win season.
So now I've made my full confession. It wasn't easy. And I feel pretty stupid. But now the healing can begin. And I can begin rooting for the end of Amaro's tenure in Philly with a full heart and two tiny fistfuls of revenge.