The Phillies have found their scapegoat.
That scapegoat's name is Marti Wolever, the team's director of scouting, the man who has overseen every Phillies draft since October of 2001. In a brief statement by general manager Ruben Amaro, the Phils explained the reason for Wolever's departure:
"The Phillies announced today that the contract of Marti Wolever, Assistant General Manager, Amateur Scouting, will not be renewed for 2015. The Phillies express appreciation for Marti’s many years of service to the organization."
The Phillies fired their scouting director? Whoa, game changer!— FakeWIPCaller (@FakeWIPCaller) September 27, 2014
Yes, it's good to see that all the Phillies problems have now been solved.
Amaro said any further shake-up in the scouting department will happen once Wolever's replacement is hired.
"Everybody in our organization is being evaluated," Amaro said after Friday night's win over Atlanta. "We decided to make this change because we decided it's the best thing for our organization to move this forward. Player development and scouting has always been the backbone of every organization; it's been the backbone of ours for many years.
"We've had many players playing right now, our core guys, putting us in a position of success every year. They're all homegrown guys. We've got to get back to bringing that caliber of player back to our system. That's our goal."
Wolever's last two draft classes have largely been hailed as successes, with their two most recent first-round picks, J.P. Crawford and Aaron Nola, among the Top 100 prospects in baseball. Wolever also drafted much of the talent that was used in trades for Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence, and also was the man who led the drafts that netted the Phillies Ryan Howard, Kyle Kendrick and Cole Hamels.
Of course, like every director of amateur scouting, there were a number of misses for Wolever. Recent first-round picks Greg Golson, Adrian Cardenas, Anthony Hewitt, Larry Greene and Shane Watson were some of his high profile failures.
And the team has failed to develop any young talent to supplement the aging core, who actually performed better than expected in 2014.
Perhaps the biggest reason for Wolever's ouster was the controversy surrounding two NCAA pitchers last winter, Ben Wetzler and Jason Monda. It was revealed the Phillies told the NCAA that both players had involved agents during their failed contract negotiations with the Phils, resulting in a lengthy suspension for Wetzler. That revelation tarnished the reputation of both Wolever and the Phillies, seen as a punitive and petty move to injure the career of a college kid.
Of course, Wolever made the point that neither of these kids intended to sign with the Phillies and cost the Phils both a draft pick and the money allocated for that pick that could have been used on other players in the draft.
Regardless, Wolever is not the fall guy many Phillies fans wanted.
The man most want to see leave his position, Ruben Amaro, appears to have the backing of interim team president Pat Gillick, who said on Friday that both Amaro and manager Ryne Sandberg "absolutely will stay in their current positions."
Back in June, I said that if the Phils weren't going to fire Amaro at the end of this season, it would be better for both sides for Amaro to sign an extension. Here's what I wrote then:
If nothing changes, Ruben Amaro would enter the 2015 season in the last year of his contract as a lame duck GM. If you're Ruben Amaro, wouldn't you push for management to, at the very least, give you a one-year extension that takes you through 2016? Being a lame duck general manager gives Amaro no stake in the future and all but prevents him from really planning for the team's future. His primary focus would be on winning baseball games in order to keep his job, not properly planning for the next few years.
Being a lame duck also lessens your authority over the people around you. Why would you listen to, or take seriously, the guy who likely isn't even going to be around after this year? It's a terrible way to go about the job.
In other words, if they ain't gonna fire him now, they gotta extend him.
A lame duck situation causes nothing but distractions, and prevents all parties from doing their jobs properly.
Which is why, if the Phillies aren't going to fire Amaro now, it makes sense to extend him, even if it will send Phillies fans absolutely through the roof.
As for now, the Phils have found their fall guy.