Former Phillies GM Ruben Amaro is back in Philadelphia to finish out a four-game home-and-away series with the Red Sox which is, as you’ve seen, just going really great.
But with the “Phillies suck” narrative pretty played out at this point, we turn to the subplots surrounding each game. And in this case, one of them was the return to Philadelphia of Ruben Amaro, the former general manager who inherited Pat Gillick’s World Series regime and departed from Philadelphia having witnessed its collapse.
You may not remember, but for a long time, Amaro was the protagonist of the Phillies narrative (more so in the off-season). At his highest, he was draped across the seats of Citizens Bank Park for a spread in Philly Mag touting his ability to acquire the games best pitchers and put them all in the same room. At his worst, he made bad trades multiple times, a reputation he solidified by putting a terrible deal together the moment he stepped onto the field last night.
Cool moment here as Ruben Amaro returns, gets a stuffed Phanatic from the original, then gives it to a kid in first row— Kevin Cooney (@KevinCooney) June 14, 2017
There was a time when every other headline or blog post in this realm was Amaro-centered. As the Phillies fell out of contention starting in 2012, we vented our anger by directing it at him and also by occasionally starting several small fires. In the end, Amaro put the wheels in motion for the current rebuild - a bit later, we presume, than other people would have - by trading Cole Hamels to Texas, but we’re not here to review and recall Amaro’s Phillies legacy.
The point is, strong opinions on Amaro do still exist, and get this: They don’t all align.
Cool moment here as Ruben Amaro destroyed any chance that kid had at seeing a competitive team until like 2025 https://t.co/uXZCT4k997— Arkansas Fred (@ArkansasFred) June 14, 2017
Ruben Amaro assembled three of the greatest Phillies teams ever and lost zero prospects of consequence.— Dash (@DashTreyhorn) June 15, 2017
However, there was a time when Amaro could have returned to Philadelphia and faced a wall of vitriol and garbage unseen outside of ancient myths. But enough time has passed and a new direction has been chosen; the Phillies have taken enough steps away from Amaro’s tenure to insulate the frustration toward some of his moves. Also, the team is bad. That tends to kill the nerves.
A GM, cloaked in a polo shirt with a small logo and a tertiary team color, not the uniform the players wear, becomes the face not necessarily of a team, but of a movement or a direction. Amaro’s smirk from the Philly Mag story in 2011, just after acquiring Cliff Lee for the second time, reflected the cocksuredness and swagger we felt like the team finally had, and all it took was four of the best throwing arms on the planet. Alternatively, Amaro’s weary gaze out toward batting practice while Mike Fontenot slapped a few soft liners encapsulated the dissatisfaction of 2012-15. Therefore - and because he was the one, you know, making the moves - he, like a lot of GMs, was the beacon for every emotion we had about the team as a whole. I am sure there are people for whom a rare image of Matt Klentak - arms folded, shades on - leaning against a wall at BP is starting to become quite the trigger.
Amaro didn’t see that vitriol on Tuesday, standing on the field at CBP, and that might serve as a barometer for how numb this team has made people. Another five-inning start from a Phillies pitcher; another 0-for-4 night from Maikel Franco; another emotionless loss that felt like a loss from the moment the team stepped on the field. Part of that was probably the lead-off double by Mookie Betts and the five runs the Red Sox scored in the first two innings.
But when the dead-eyed stares of Phillies fans drifted from the horizon to the man coaching first base in a Boston uniform, there was, for a brief moment, nothing more than a passing memory. Rather, a gateway opened, allowing passage into time gone by. It’s interesting to look at Amaro and see the past to which we still constantly compare current players: Odubel Herrera infuriates people like Jimmy, Klentak infuriates people by not fixing the team like Ruben, everyone infuriates people by not being Chase.
The Phillies will be good again some day, but right now, they’re as low as ever, to the point that no one really has the will power to acknowledge with Philadelphia fervor the return of one of the city’s most common sources of conflict for years. Amaro is just a guy now, from the before time. We’ve got bigger problems at the moment. And that’s fine, because the reexamination of his legacy since its conclusion here has led to a much softened stance on it by some. Others, no. But nothing balances - or deadens - emotion like the passage of time. Or losing eight games in a row.
Amaro’s move from front office to a uniformed coaching position was unorthodox, but not surprising. After years in a stressful role, he probably just wanted to remind himself what he loved about the sport in a less scrutinized position that let him stand on the field.
Because love, like anger, like wearing a suit to work, and like winning division titles, can be fleeting.
“They love me now,” Amaro said back in 2011, after reacquiring Lee - a deal many argued wouldn’t have had to have been made if he had not traded Lee to Seattle in the first place. “We’ll see what happens in three months.”