Anyone who has read my work in the past knows I am no Ruben Amaro apologist. But I do try to be fair.
The Phils' brutally rough homestand, one in which they went 4-7 and lost four out of five games to the equally terrible New York Mets, has ramped up calls by many Phillies fans for the General Manager to be fired, and has generated many a snarky comment in Mr. Amaro's direction as well...
Last year I made a joke about Ruben Amaro turning the Phillies into magic beans. Now I realize that I may have set the bar too high.— Mike Gianella (@MikeGianella) June 3, 2014
Hearing: Ruben Amaro to be fired. From: my cat. (Has his ear to the ground.)— Eno Sarris (@enosarris) June 2, 2014
Unfortunately, Amaro being fired seems to be in the loose rumor stage, as far as I can tell.— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) June 2, 2014
Here's the bulletin, guys. Ruben Amaro isn't going anywhere, anytime soon.
Make no mistake, this is not a SHOULD the Phillies fire Ruben Amaro? piece, this is a WILL they? piece.
No, Amaro is staying, even though, as CSN Philly's Ruben Frank noted, the Phillies have not won more than three games in a row in a year, when they won five straight from June 2-6. Since that time, they are 66-89 (.426). And according to MLB.com's Todd Zolecki, since May 4, when the Phillies were 15-14 and just 1.5 games out of first, they are 9-17, the worst record in the National League.
Despite all that, Amaro's general manager seat is not "hot."
Now, I have no inside information on this. This is just my speculation and my opinion. But if you look at the history of the Phillies, their loyalty, and their conservative nature, it seems obvious to me that, despite the Phillies' struggles, Amaro isn't getting fired tomorrow.
In 1988, the Phillies hired Lee Thomas and fired Woody Woodward, who was just a temporary GM after Bill Giles stepped down from the role after the 1987 season. Thomas lasted 10 years as the Phils' GM, despite just one postseason appearance, the 1993 Macho Row group that basically made Thomas' nut.
Ed Wade followed and was the Phils' GM from 1998-2005, spanning eight years. Wade's tenure helped bring about a new era of Phillies baseball but, after eight seasons and no playoff appearances, it was clear Wade was not the right man for the job.
Pat Gillick was an unusual hire. The Phils don't usually go outside the organization for their general managers, but in this case they did, and it worked out spectacularly. Gillick led the team to two playoff appearances and one world championship in his three years in Philadelphia before retiring and handing the team over to Amaro.
Amaro is now in his sixth season as general manager and in that time reached the World Series, made the playoffs three times and was in charge when the Phillies posted the most wins in a single season in club history, 102 in 2011.
Thomas, despite just one playoff appearance, lasted 10 years.
Wade, despite no playoff appearances, lasted 8 years.
Amaro has made three playoff appearances, and he hasn't yet completed 6 years.
That's why I think he isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
Thomas was fired at the end of his contract, at a time when the team was playing at Veterans Stadium and their payroll was among the lowest in baseball. The Phillies fired Wade with two years left on his deal, but you could argue there was even more urgency for results then, as the club had a collection of young talent they thought was on the ascendency.
The stakes for Amaro are also extremely high, but in a different way from Wade. The payroll, now at $177 million, is the highest it's ever been in club history, and it's likely ownership expects results for that kind of payout. But Wade got eight years to try to make it work. Amaro has had a little under five-and-a-half.
And even if the Phils fire Amaro, who would replace him? Would the team go outside the organization for his replacement like they did with Gillick? Would they try to poach a bright young assistant general manager from Boston, St. Louis, Tampa, Oakland, or any of the other franchises that have had consistent success? Or would they just hand the keys over to Scott Proefrock, Benny Looper, or Marti Wolever or someone else already in the organization and continue on with the way they've always done things?
That may be the most important question of all.
Firing Ruben Amaro sounds like a good thing to do because it shows something is happening. It shows the team recognizes the situation is dire. And at the end of the day, it may just be the right move for the Phillies to make. The anger of the fan is a powerful tool and has spurred many a front office change throughout sports history.
But based on their past actions, I don't see the Phillies firing Amaro this year, and I don't think it happens until after his contract runs out at the end of 2015. Even though payroll is at an all-time high and the team is hemorrhaging attendance, it would be out of character for the team to make such a reactionary move.
It's just not what they do.