I was with several friends over the past weekend and I discussed that the Phillies season would end with a Cole Hamels start on Sunday. Here are some samples of the responses I heard.
“They’re still playing?!”
“I stopped following the Phillies in May.”
The terms 'relevant' and 'Phillies' don’t look as if they’ll collide in a sentence any time soon, perhaps for the rest of the decade. They finished this season with the same exact record as last season, but this time it was bad enough for last place. So let’s take quick stock of the drastic and epic fall from grace for this collection of stiffs. In fact it will be real quick. The Phillies have finished in a worse position than they did the year before every single year for six consecutive seasons, but here’s the scary part, I don’t think they’ve even bottomed out yet.
We’ve gone over and it, and gone over it, but this collective failure really falls at the feet of one incredibly stubborn man. That man is Ruben Amaro Jr. He’s taken a perennial contender and turned it back into the perennial doormat it had been for the vast majority of its century plus old existence. Despite the facts that every single Phillies fan is familiar with¸ Ruben has been given a vote of confidence and will be coming back to try and get his team out of last place (barring a miracle he won’t) in 2015.
To quote Liam Neeson in Taken – the arrogance offends me.
There are literally hundreds of reasons why the Phillies should not bring back Ruben Amaro Jr but we’ll talk about the most relevant ones. There’s really only two that matter, take your pick as to which you think is a bigger reason why RAJ should lose his job. It doesn't matter that people within the organization like him, or that he is doing his best. His results speak for themselves, and its hard to imagine any other team allowing this kind of rope with which he's hanged himself.
First, he has taken a team with incredible talent and aside from obvious additions like Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Hunter Pence he hasn’t filled in the cracks with anybody half as talented as Jayson Werth or Shane Victorino. When the Phillies core four (Howard, Rollins, Utley, Hamels) were in their prime together they didn’t need a ton of help but Pat Gillick got it for them anyway. What makes upper management think that Amaro will all of a sudden turn his “bad luck” free agent signings and clear as day lack of talent evaluation skills around? Seriously, What. The. Fuck?! Makes them think that?!?
I’m at a loss there, I assume everybody else is too, except, astoundingly, the people who make decisions above RAJ’s head. Wow. Just wow. We’re dealing with incompetence on top of incompetence and then throw in a gallon of stubborn and you have the 2014/15 Phillies' management.
Second, the Phillies brass is removing all goodwill they built up with their fans during the sustained success by not firing RAJ. You could poll the 100 people who actually made it to the last Phillies home game of the year whether they’d have RAJ or literally anybody else who’s made a baseball decision in their life at the Major League level who they’d want to run the team next year, and 100 people and all of their moms would say literally anybody else.
So really, what do the Phillies have to gain by being loyal to a man who has run their team into the ground? They’re not going to find somebody who could do worse. But there’s got to be a decent chance they could find somebody who would do better. It’s like the Phillies have been eating out of the same opened bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos since 2012 and they love stale Doritos! They had a great run, but hey let’s see if we can find a new bag, maybe Cool Ranch, maybe something cool we don’t even know about yet.
This offseason will be an important one for the Phillies. Will they vie seriously for free agent talent? Will they go find a pitcher? Will they turn Ryan Howard lose and eat $60 million? Will they stand pat with lame ducks Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley? Will they find a competent outfielder that isn’t over 35 years old that led the MLB in Ks?* Will they employ a catcher than can slug over 370? Will they employ anyone who can slug over 400?**
I just don’t want Ruben Amaro Jr answering any of those questions. I can’t say I’ve come across anybody lately who disagrees.
*Marlon was second in the MLB in Ks. I’ll give you one guess who led the MLB in Ks, and that’s all you should need.
**Marlon did at 445 and Chase Utley technically slugged 407 but he finished the season with just 11 home runs and hit only 15 doubles after May, when he hit 21 in the first two months of the season.