Ruben Amaro says he is hoping for the best, but planning for the worst.
In an interview with The Daily News Wednesday, the Phillies' GM said there might have to be a "disaster plan," with the Phillies this year. After acknowledging the ownership group has given Amaro all the money he needs to field the best team he can...
AP figures have Phillies opening 2014 with MLB's third-highest payroll at $180 millon. (It's more when calculated for luxury tax.)— Matt Gelb (@magelb) March 26, 2014
... Amaro said ownership realizes the team might have to change course if things go south.
...they ... understand there might have to be a disaster plan. There might have to be something.
DN: But you don't have a folder that says, "Disaster Plan," do you?
RA: Listen, we talk about these things all the time. I believe in karma, so my thought process is to stay positive. Things are going to go well and Ryno [Ryne Sandberg] is going to be a helluva manager - which he's already showed signs of - and our guys are going to buy into it and we're going to stay healthy enough to be contenders throughout the season and who knows what happens at the end of the year. But we also can't be so blinded to the fact that if this doesn't work out we're going to have to make some tough decisions.
Aside from his misunderstanding of what "karma" actually is, it is somewhat heartening to hear him admit there is some kind of disaster plan in place and say that tough decisions may have to be made. No, it's not exactly a message of "hope and change," but it's an understanding that the team may not live up to its $180 million payroll, third highest in baseball this year.
For a guy who has said he doesn't believe in five-year plans, it sure sounds like he understands they may need one now.
That's important, because right now it seems more likely the disaster plan will have to be implemented. Of course, the hope is Ruben Amaro will know how to implement it when the time comes, because it's hard to imagine a scenario in which Amaro loses his job before his contract is up at the end of 2015.
The good news is, based on his moves this off-season, he did not do anything that would further hinder his ability to enact a "disaster plan." Also, there are pieces to sell in A.J. Burnett, Marlon Byrd, Cliff Lee, Jimmy Rollins (if he agrees to a trade), Jonathan Papelbon (if he doesn't suck) and maybe even Cole Hamels (if he stays healthy) as part of the disaster plan.
It is a bit unseemly to look too deeply at how the Phils could enact a disaster plan just days before Opening Day. We want to be optimistic and hope that this group can give the fans one last ride. But frankly, the disaster plan is much more of a reality than a playoff run is. And now, for the first time, Amaro seems willing to at least acknowledge that possibility exists.
Things may have to change now. I'm not so blind to not know that at some point we are going to have to transition out of some of the older players and from some of the other guys on the other side of the slope. I still believe they have enough young talent around them to contend. We'll find out. And when we find out we'll have to make a decision.
Amaro also seemed to indicate the Phillies were ready to move into the 21st century as part of this "disaster plan," without coming right out and directly talking about sabermetrics and analytics.
People think I'm this stubborn guy who doesn't want to make changes. But I think I learned from Dallas Green that if things aren't working a certain way, you have to try and look for ways to improve. And I think one of the things we did this year, we had a full-blown organization meeting in November after not having one for a bunch of years. Not necessarily to revamp the Phillies way, but to enhance it. Particularly in the player development side.
It was a natural time for us to make some changes and to sit back and look at our organization more globally and say, 'OK, what do we need to do with our young players, with our older players, what are the things we need to do with the game changing.'
Not having an analytics department for years while the rest of the baseball world developed one helped make the Phillies dinosaurs. But with the hiring of Scott Freedman and the beginnings of a real analytics team, it seems as though the team is realizing they need to use other methods as part of the disaster plan.
And after all, acknowledging a "disaster plan" is actually necessary may be the biggest step of all.