How Ruben Amaro ruined tomorrow
MANAGING SPORTS EDITOR
Thursday, Sept. 10 was a defining moment in the Phillies season. It wasn’t anything that happened on the diamond—the Phillies-Cubs game scheduled for that evening was postponed—but still fans rejoiced. In fact, the last time Phillies supporters were this happy Chase Utley was dropping the F-bomb on a parade float in the middle of Broad Street.
So what could get Philly fans, a notoriously difficult group to please, to cheer during another dismal season during which the 56-88 Phils are again stuck in the NL East basement? The news that Rubén Amaro, Jr., arguably the most reviled man in Philadelphia, would not be returning to the team next year.
Since taking over after the 2008 season, the man sarcastically nicknamed “Ruin Tomorrow” had drawn the ire of Philly fans. After making questionable contract decisions, questioning our intelligence and overseeing the team’s unprecedented fall from grace, Amaro learned what many before him had already discovered: the City of Brotherly Love hates to lose. And once Philadelphia turns on you there’s no coming back.
Fans expressed their frustrations on social media—there was a Twitter account dedicated to the cause (@FireRubenNow)—signed petitions and complained to anyone and everyone who would listen. Finally, it seems, someone did.
Amaro took over at what many considered the ideal time. After a meteoric rise to the top that culminated in a World Series championship in 2008, the Phils looked ready and able to sustain their dominance in the National League.
The newly-appointed general manager then decided that the way to win was through pitching. An odd conclusion considering that in addition to World Series M.V.P. Cole Hamels, the 2008 World Champions’ starting rotation included Brett Myers, Kyle Kendrick, Joe Blanton and Jamie Moyer.
Still, by 2011 Amaro had assembled “The Four Aces,” a pitching staff consisting of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. It started well enough—all but Cole Hamels won their first start of the season. In fact, the experiment looked to be a success for much of the year as three of the four aces made the All Star team, and the team went on to win 102 games. By the time the playoffs rolled around, however, the team’s over reliance on pitching and lack of timely hitting was blatantly obvious to all who watched the team fold in the National League Division Series against the Cards.
The downward spiral began, as did the finger pointing. Things went from bad to worse—possibly the worst ever.
Among Ruben’s shortcomings was his failure to recognize that the same players that dominated the National League East from 2007-2010 will not win you games in 2015. Yet, entering the year, the team’s money was wrapped up in those older, fading stars. Roughly $108 million of the team’s $131 million payroll to start the 2015 season was invested in six players (Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon) whose average age is 34.7.
Of those six players, only three remain and they haven’t exactly been a bright spot for the Phils.
Howard, who has a career-high .276 batting average in September and October, is batting an atrocious .065 this month. Chooch is batting just .219, which would be tied for the worst season of his career. Meanwhile, Cliff Lee hasn’t started a game since July 31—of 2014. To top it all off, the 2015 Phils lost more games before the All-Star break than any other team in franchise history.
The hole Amaro’s left the team in will be difficult for the Phillies to dig themselves out of, but the long overdue firing has given fans something to smile about—at least temporarily. To quote the great Harry Kalas, that man is “outta here!”