Late one night, Matt Klentak slides into a booth in a sparsely populated diner somewhere in southern New Jersey. His jacket’s hood is over his head, and he has sunglasses on his face. He nervously glances around for a minute before another hooded man slides into the booth across from him. The man pulls back his hood to reveal former Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro.
Amaro: You said you wanted to talk, so let’s talk.
Klentak: What are you doing? I told you to come in disguise! I can’t be seen talking to you!
Amaro: You don’t think it’s more conspicuous for two guys to be sitting at a diner with hoods and sunglasses? We’re going to get called into the FBI looking like that.
Klentak: But what if someone recognizes us?
Amaro: (Glances around) By who? There are two other people in here, and I don’t think either of them are under 80 years old. Unless you think our waiter Gladys has a direct line to Buster Olney or something? Now get to the point.
Klentak: As you can probably guess I’m a little desperate.
Amaro: You wouldn’t be talking to me if you weren’t.
Klentak: You’ve probably seen that Middleton is really intent on us signing either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado.
Amaro: Heh. Middleton would get like that sometimes. He’d really be keen on signing someone, and make a big show about it. You know it was all his idea to sign Cliff Lee? I never liked the guy. That’s why I traded him in the first place.
Klentak: I thought the owners told you they couldn’t afford both him and Halladay?
Amaro: Nah, that’s just what I told the press. Seemed like a better explanation than saying I traded away a postseason hero because he was an a-hole.
Klentak: So what do I do?
Amaro: What do you do? You sign one of those guys! What the hell do you think you should do?
Klentak: But we met with Machado, and his demands are way out of line with our valuation analysis! My team has run the numbers over and over, and we can’t justify spending that kind of money on one player, especially one whose underlying statistics reveal significant causes for worry.
Amaro: (Shakes head) You just don’t get it, do you? Those numbers don’t matter. Do you think I gave a crap about statistics when I was running the show? People would come up to me all the time talking about numbers and statistics, and I didn’t pay them any attention. And that’s why we were privileged enough to have Ryan Howard play his entire major league career with the Phillies.
Klentak: ..But the Howard contract is universally acknowledged as one of the worst contracts in baseball history. In fact, according to several calculations...
Amaro: Come on, nobody really cares about that stuff! The fans may have acted like they were upset, but deep down they were happy that they got to keep wearing their Howard jerseys. The people who complained are the same one who complained that we got rid of Ryan Madson, even though his arm exploded the second he left town.
If you want to keep your job, then you’d better sign either Machado or Harper. And if you want to do that, when they ask you for a certain dollar amount, you write a check for that much.
Klentak: But we think Machado prefers the Yankees, and we certainly can’t match their financial resources.
Amaro: (snorts) You let the Yankees get involved? Oh man, you’re already dead then. Better get that resume ready.
Klentak: But didn’t you beat the Yankees once?
Amaro: Yeah, I did...I did. Remember what I said about Cliff Lee before? Well, I didn’t want to sign him, but Middleton and Monty were insistent upon it. So I deliberately tipped off the Yankees as to what our best offer was.
Klentak: You told the Yankees to top your offer?
Amaro: Let’s just say, I really didn’t like Cliff Lee. We didn’t need him! We had the best record in baseball without him! I figured this way I could just tell Middleton that we gave it our best, but there’s just no beating the Yankees.
Klentak: So what happened?
Amaro: Lee’s wife happened. She hated the Yankees, so she made him sign with us. So we got the Four Aces, and I was forevermore hailed as a genius in Philadelphia.
Klentak: Um, I don’t know if it’s true.
Amaro: Sure it is. They pretended to blame me when the team started losing, but deep down, they remembered that with me in charge, the Phillies were playing with the big boys for once. That’s what they really want. And that’s why you’re not going to last much longer if you don’t bring in a big name.
Klentak: You’re telling me I should just ignore every statistical model and trend I have, and just try to outspend the Yankees?
Amaro: Well, you can try to outspend the Yankees. Like I said, once they’re involved...Good luck. How about Harper? The Yankees want him too?
Klentak: No, but he’s a Boras client, and we believe -
Amaro: Boras? Oh man, speaking of a-holes, that guy was the worst. If you’re dealing with him, you’re totally screwed.
Klentak: We actually have a decent relationship with him. Several members of the big league club are his clients and we’ve found-
Amaro: You’ve got more than one Boras client? Oh, that’s not good for job security.
Klentak: You’re not making me feel better.
Amaro: I’m not here to make you feel better. I’m here to tell you what to do: Call up Boras, get him one-on-one, and then start kissing his rings, his butt, and anything else he wants kissed. Then start writing zeroes on a check and hope the Yankees are happy with the outfielders they have.
Klentak: This just goes against everything I believe about the sensible way to build a baseball team.
Amaro: You think I built a 102 win team by being sensible? Baseball isn’t a sensible game. If it was, some guy named Cody Ross wouldn’t hit three home runs in the NLCS.
Klentak: (Sighs) Fine. I just have one question: Why are you helping me?
Amaro: (Laughs) Who knows? Maybe I just still feel an attachment to the Phillies and want to see them succeed? Maybe I see you struggling and I’m feeling strangely emphatic? Maybe I want you to sign these guys so that I can leak that I was helping you, and then I’ll get another GM job? It’s hard to know for sure.
Klentak: Fair enough.
Klentak drops a twenty dollar bill on the table and departs the diner. Amaro grabs his glass of water, takes a sip, and then leans back with a very satisfied grin on his face.