This is not a piece advocating the Phillies keep Ruben Amaro as the team's general manager after this season. Let's just get that out of the way.
But this is a piece that asks an important question. Would it really be so bad if they did?
Amaro has been at the helm since 2009, and the franchise has gone from being a world champion, to one that is rebuilding and competing for the No. 1 overall pick in next year's draft. He has said many things along the way to make you question whether or not this job fits him like a glove, and until recently, his standing among most baseball observers outside of Philadelphia was not flattering.
But here we are, as the season slips into late August, and the trade deadline is behind us. Over the course of the last year, the Phils have shipped off some pretty big names, including Jimmy Rollins, Marlon Byrd, Antonio Bastardo, Cole Hamels, Jake Diekman, Jonathan Papelbon and Chase Utley. This after everyone and their mother claimed the Phillies were asking for too much in every single deal and that Amaro basically didn't know which end of the phone to talk into.
However, now that the dust has settled (assuming a Ryan Howard or Carlos Ruiz trade isn't coming in the next few days), it turns out the Phils knew what they were doing and read the market pretty well. They included money in many of the deals, thereby getting themselves better prospects in return. And speaking of those prospects, nine of their top 16, according to MLB.com, have come via trade over the last year.
That includes the three top players in the Cole Hamels deal, Jake Thompson, Nick Williams and Jorge Alfaro. Jared Eickhoff, one of the five prospects they got in return for Hamels and Diekman, has already made his first career start for the Phils, pitching six shutout innings against the Marlins last week. The Phils also managed to get a decent prospect back for Utley, a guy with full 10-5 no-trade rights, who really only wanted to play for one team.
For a man who really sucks at his job, that's not too shabby, eh?
Of course, after years of claiming the Phillies would never go into rebuild mode and that the team would always be putting a roster together to compete for the playoffs, Amaro and the Phils radically changed directions after the 2014 season. Not coincidentally, that's also the time former team president David Montgomery was removed from his position and replaced, on an interim basis, by former GM Pat Gillick.
Later, John Middleton assumed more of a leading role in the direction and future of the team, and helped hire the team's future president, Andy MacPhail, who will take over in a couple months. It's assumed that once the season is over, MacPhail will put his own man in the general manager's chair, and Ruben Amaro will be reassigned to another duty somewhere in the organization.
And honestly, that may be for the best. The Phils appear to be itching to get more involved in the use of analytics, and just last year it appeared as if Amaro didn't know the difference between an "at-bat" and a "plate appearance" was, let alone WAR, wOBA and wRC+.
But it seems clear that many of the mistakes of the Amaro early years (Howard's extension and the Lee trade specifically) may not have been his decisions, but rather, decisions forced upon him by Montgomery. That he's never outed Montgomery as the man behind some of those bad decisions is commendable as well.
So if MacPhail decides to keep Amaro as the GM, would it really be the worst thing in the world? Here's why it wouldn't.
I don't think there's a single person that can argue Amaro hasn't had a good two years. Really, what has he done wrong or bad in the last 24 months? Is the team not better off now than they were 12 months ago? Amaro helped rebuild a farm system that was one of the 10 worst in baseball into one of the 10 best in one calendar year.
People think that in order for a team to look more at advanced analytics and sabermetrics, their general manager needs to be some pencil-necked geek with five degrees from Cornell. But what's most important in any team president or general manager is that they be good "baseball men." In that, they know how the game is played in the 21st century, and are willing to put the people in place around them that can educate them and provide the expertise in the areas in which they are not strong.
In other words, the Phillies could keep Amaro as the general manager and utilize his negotiating skills and ability to work the phones, while at the same time surrounding him with a true sabermetrics department and a strong team president that can help round out Ruben's areas of weakness.
Front offices are really no longer one-man wrecking crews. It is a collaborative process, and under MacPhail it would be no different.
So if Amaro remains the front man, with a real baseball grownup in MacPhail calling the shots and a strong analytics department behind him, would it be so horrible if Ruben Amaro was not replaced at the end of the season, as most suspect he will be?
Despite having a positive last couple years, keeping Amaro as GM may be so unpopular with the fanbase that the whole conversation is a non-starter. And there may be a candidate or two who is better suited to this particular type of situation than Amaro is.
But if they do decide not to make a change, perhaps the world won't end.
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