Over at www.philly.com David Murphy has a fantastic article this morning on Why Ruben is Misfiring on Talent. If you haven't read it yet, stop what you're doing and click the link. It's well written and touches on the root of the problem with the franchise. The crux of Murphy's point can be summed up in this excerpt:
The Phillies take a sort of petulant pride in being an organization that prioritizes scouting over numbers, but shouldn't a good organization first and foremost prioritize reality? Or at least the closest approximation of reality that one can create using the two aforementioned tools? Nobody is arguing that a GM should make personnel decisions with numbers alone, just that he shouldn't accept the opinion of a subjective human being in spite of an accounting of what actually happened.
While Murphy doesn't go so far as to call for Amaro's head in this piece (Which isn't necessarily a road that a beat writer wants to take when the writing on the wall isn't necessarily written in permanent ink.) One could make a reasonable assumption that Murphy believes that Ruben is the wrong man to be steering the ship. And while I may be someone who has pointed out time and time again this season that Ruben Amaro has made some good decisions as well as bad, I fully concur that he's without question the wrong guy for the job right now.
But my feelings don't stem from Ruben being a nincompoop, or being unqualified, as some of the typical mouth-breathers would put it, my reasoning stems from one thing and one thing only:
Ruben Amaro is a dinosaur, in the way he does his job on a day to day basis. If it was 1995, Ruben would be a decent GM. But it's not, yet he's got the job.
All that said, there's one fundamental point that I feel keeps getting missed, doesn't get mentioned, and is tantamount to determining the future of the franchise.
Who's really at fault here, and what's the real problem?
Fast forward two months. It's October, the World Series is over, and Ownership decides to Fire Ruben Amaro, replace Charlie Manuel and completely overhaul the operational system. Heads roll. Here's the reality:
- the farm system is still a mid level system at best.
- The mistakes, in relation to contracts and roster construction are still there.
- The free agent landscape is the same.
- the scouting and development systems are the same.
- Ownership wants to win.
- The TV deal still looms large.
None of those things change. Whoever comes in and replaces Ruben Amaro, be it today, next week, next month, or next year faces the same obstacles. So in that vein, the person who does come in, should that happen, has to be someone who sees the errors in the ways of the Amaro administration, AND on top of that, can convince David Montgomery and company that HIS WAY is the right way, and that guy has to ACTUALLY GET AN INTERVIEW.
Think about this for a second. You are the owners of the Phillies, and you've decided to replace Ruben Amaro. You do an extensive search, and interview candidates, and actually decide to talk to people whose ideas and views on the way an organization should be run are diametrically opposed to everything you've believed in for years.
Candidate A comes in and tells you that the way you've been running your business is essentially outdated, antiquated, and needs a complete overhaul from top to bottom. All the things you have emphasized for years need to be thrown away, and new systems need to be put in place. 50% of the people you employ need to be let go, and you need to spend money in different ways than you've been doing. It might take some time, but within a few years everything should be good to go, but you have to trust that he knows what he's doing, believe that his vision is correct, and be willing to take a huge leap of faith with an impending TV deal in the works. He also has to say all of this in a way that's not only affirmative, but at the same time, isn't condescending, doesn't piss you off, doesn't offend you, and has to do it with the BALLS to make you believe that every intrinsic decision you've made for years has been wrong. Oh, and by the way, he has to say this in a way that makes you believe you can put a winning team on the field right now.
Candidate B comes in, and tell you that he can fix this quick. A few changes in personnel are needed, but he can go out and get the right guys to make you a contender immediately. He talks about the pride in the organization, makes a few comments about what Ruben did wrong and how he wouldn't make those mistakes. He shares YOUR views on sabermetrics, believes in the value of GOOD scouting, has a few of HIS guys he wants to bring in, and goes on to point out which big name free agents he'd target, and also tells you that he can control payroll within a few years, without hurting the on field production today.
Which guy gets the job? Or rather, which guy is more likely to get the job?
For Candidate A to be the guy, Monty and company have to be so pissed off at the current situation that they are not only willing to interview a forward thinking GM and give him consideration, they also have to be humble enough to hear someone tell them everything they've built, and the way they've built it is antiquated, wrong, and doomed to failure, while at the same time making such a strong, passionate case, that they also convince them that all the other traditional candidates are full of it, will come in here saying they can fix it but it can't happen.
Also, this guy has to REALLY, REALLY want this job, to go into this situation and turn a franchise upside down.
Now maybe I'm naive in this regard, but if my experience in the business world has taught me anything it's that people tend to hire people who tell them what they WANT to hear, not what they need to hear. For me that's the most frightening part about moving on from Ruben Amaro. Not in the sense that change isn't good, rather, that change is only change if it's really change.
I know this is simplistic as heck, but its also the REAL reality of the situation.
Whether ownership or Ruben pushed for the Howard extension, the Papelbon signing, the Pence trades, whatever, they both agreed to spend the money and prospects in a way that was counter productive to the future. By the same token, Ruben's biggest mistakes haven't been based on the big deals (mainly because he has an ownership group that's willing to spend money) they've been based on the INABILITY to complement those big deals with smart, affordable talent, and in analyzing the affordable talent they have.
Chad Qualls, JC Romero, Danys Baez, Jose Contreras, Delmon Young, Laynce Nix, Chad Durbin, Brandon Moss, Jason Grilli, Nate Schierholtz,.... the list goes on and on... Every one of those players shares one basic trait:
My six year old could have looked at baseball-reference.com to determine whether the add or drop made any sense. But all those mistakes have one thing in common, they were made solely using traditional scouting and "feel" to determine whether to add or subtract the player. No one looked at Nate Schierholtz' splits over the past two years and saw a change in his production that was blatantly obvious. By the same token, Delmon Young's pedigree was given more consideration than 7 years of data that, as Murphy points out in his article, allowed him to produce EXACTLY WHAT YOU WOULD EXPECT. And Ownership, as far as we know, has been fine with this approach.
I've heard the argument from other sides also, that yeah, a traditionalist GM might not be preferable but at least he won't be Amaro. I mean, look at what Gillick did!
Pat Gillick made smart small decisions, I'm not saying he didn't. And look, there's a chance that a traditional GM can be better than Ruben, or luckier than Ruben, if he makes smarter decisions. But Pat Gillick also worked in a severely different landscape just five years ago. There were few long term extensions for young players, different draft rules, completely different free agent compensation situations, and the international market was a severely different animal. . But here's the thing, Gillick's best move as GM, trading for Jamie Moyer, came not because he was a magician but because he had an intimate knowledge of both Moyer and Seattle, having served as their GM. At the same time, when Pat Gillick was GM, Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison, Neftali Feliz, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia were traded for a season's worth of Mark Texeira. That move was basically made by Frank Wren, considered by many to be the best traditional GM in the game.
Those types of deals don't exist anymore. Smart GM's horde their prospects like gunpowder in a zombie apocalypse.
Even if they did hire a really really goods traditional GM, that decision, that person, is still severely limited in his or her abilities to do the job as effectively as a GM using the tools at their disposal, not to mention the changing scope of the free agent market.
Simply put, if nine GMs are sitting at a poker table, and 4 of them are traditionalists, and the other five use sabermetrics, and analytics, combined with scouting, etc... The five players using the tools have hole cameras to see the four traditionalist cards, while the other four do not. The deck is stacked from the minute they sit down at the table.
If ownership does decide to replace Ruben Amaro with a similar traditionalist minded GM? In some ways, I actually believe that keeping Ruben around and hoping he's learned some from his mistakes is a better option than replacing him with a different person with a different Blackberry.
There is a fantastic piece by Anna McDonald here on John Mozeliak and the Cardinals. If you haven't read it you need to. The piece basically talks about how Mozeliak implemented sabermetrics into the Cardinals organization, and how they use them to determine how to construct a roster.
Now granted, Mozeliak was groomed for the position by Walt Jocketty, and the system was implemented before he took over as General Manager, but the Cardinals ownership group certainly had to believe it was worth using. At the same time, consider both the history of the franchise and look at probably the two biggest decisions Mozeliak has made.
1. Mozeliak replaced Walt Jocketty after the 2007 season. In his first big move as GM he traded a 37 year old Jim Edmonds, a seven year veteran, and fan favorite, who had been worth 25 wins from 2000 to 2005, had won 6 gold gloves, made three ALL STAR teams, and was a post season hero in 2006, after two declining seasons in 2006 and 2007. The player they got back was David Freese, who at the time was a 9th round draft pick in 2006, that had just put up a 302/400/489 line in A+ ball in 2007 at 24 years old. At the time, the deal was panned. Freese turned out pretty good though, and Edmonds played a role player part for the next three seasons.
2. Mozeliak was the guy who decided not to resign Albert Pujols. It was considered blasphemy at the time, the industry couldn't believe it, fans couldn't believe it, people called the organization cheap, you name it. It wasn't cheap, it was SMART. John Mozeliak had the tools at his disposal to determine EXACTLY how much Albert Pujols would be worth in the future, knew exactly how much they could reasonably spend on him, and made a clear cut case to his ownership group that there was a LIMIT and here's WHY. He backed up opinion with data. And Ownership trusted him.
And they were dead right.
Simply put, John Mozeliak had the balls to get rid of two of the most storied important fan favorites that franchise knew, backed up his reasoning with sound numerical evidence to ownership and seamlessly replaced both players and at the same time is able to accurately identify proper trade targets, because they look at more than just scouting reports.
The point in this is not to shout from the rooftops how amazing John Mozeliak is. The point is to say that until and unless the ownership group of the Philadelphia Phillies wises up and realizes that you can't effectively run an organization in the 21st century by telegraph, there's a good chance that history is doomed to repeat itself.
We all know that Ruben has to go. But maybe it's time to stop screaming for his job, and to stop worrying about the past and to make a conscious effort to force ownership to see the writing on the wall.
For me, this isn't about Firing Ruben Amaro. It's about NOT hiring him again.
So let's stop screaming fire Ruben and start shouting Don't hire another Ruben.
Because unless ownership sees the REAL errors in their ways, it's just a lot of the same.