Sometimes, I just don't know what is going on inside the mind of Ruben Amaro.
It's no secret that the Phillies have been looking for an American League team to take on Ryan Howard this off-season. The sales push has been ongoing and will likely continue through spring training. It's clear the Phils would like to move in a new direction, and no one should be surprised that the team wants to move on from a first baseman and clean-up hitter who slugged .380 last year, plays very bad defense and is owed at least $60 million over the next two years.
That's also part of what makes him a tough sell, although perhaps there is a team that would be willing to take on a player who is coming off a season in which he hit 25 home runs. As Bill Baer at Crashburn Alley noted today, the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles are two potential fits.
That's where Amaro's comments to 97.5 The Fanatic on Friday come into play (via Matt Lombardo of NJ Advance Media):
"We've talked to Ryan," Amaro said in an interview with 97.5 The Fanatic's Mike Missanelli on Friday afternoon. "And I told him that in our situation it would probably bode better for the organization not with him but without him.
Dude. That's harsh.
So, judging by this, there's no way the Phils are going to bring him back next year, right? I mean, if they can't find a trade partner, they'll just release him, because by Amaro's own admission, the team would probably be better off without him.
"With that said if he's with us, then we'll work around him, Amaro said. "We'll hope he puts up the kind of numbers that we hope he can and we'll see where it goes from there. No one's going to release Ryan Howard. That's not going to happen. Ryan Howard is too productive and too important a player to just release. You just don't do that with a player like that. But, we don't have any designs on doing that."
Hang on. I'm... I just... say what?
Last year, Ryne Sandberg wanted to move away from the Ryan Howard era and start utilizing Darin Ruf and other players at first, but was told not to do so by the front office. This is common knowledge.
But now, it sounds like the team's main spokesman, Ruben Amaro, is acknowledging that they are definitively moving on from The Big Piece, but instead of releasing him to make room for a new person, they're going to keep him around as, what, a relic of the past?
And how in one breath does he say that the team would be better off without Ryan Howard, and then in the next say he's "too productive and too important a player" to just release? I'm having trouble holding both of these concepts in my mind at the same time.
The fact there is no blue-chip first base prospect coming up the pipeline is beside the point. The team's general manager just said the team would be better off without this player, but then admitted they won't get rid of that player if they can't trade him.
Does it seem odd that Amaro would A) say this to Howard in the first place and B) then make that public to the media?
I think we all agree with Amaro that the team would be better off without Howard. I love the realism. Really, I do.
But maybe there's a middle ground between, "Ryan Howard is still a great power hitter," and "We're better off without Ryan Howard," as the team's two stated positions on the long-time first baseman.
And just what is Howard supposed to think now? He's been told the team is better off without him, but also has been made aware, via Amaro's comments on The Fanatic, that he could still be on the team next year if he isn't traded.
Clayton Richer of Baseball's Hot Corner suggested Amaro's comments warrant him being fired.
There is no question Howard has regressed, suffered from injuries and is a shell of his former MVP-self. However, what Amaro publicly did to Howard should cost him his job and there is no room for that bush-league behavior in sports. The conversation is one that should have remained behind closed doors with Howard and his agent not discussed on Sports-Talk Radio.
While I don't agree that this, in and of itself, is something that deserves the removal of Amaro from his position, I will agree that it is an unusual comment to hear from a general manager, especially about a player that same GM signed to a five-year, $125 million contract.
You don't normally hear a general manager say that his team would be better off without a player that he has under contract for another two years and $60 million.
Even if it is the truth.