And just like that, it was over…
Poorly negotiated contracts that severely overpaid aging players, seemingly eternal deals that kept the old guard around for too long, and fruitless trades that left the team in weaker positions after the fact nailed Amaro’s coffin shut in Philadelphia. Among other moments, the Ryan Howard contract and Cliff Lee trade stick out as two of the more destructive moves in the last ten years.
But should Amaro have been given the chance to make things right?
After the 2012 season, the Phillies had a record of 81-81, a core of veterans that were aging rapidly and the highest payroll in the majors to go along with an incredibly depleted farm system. Rather than trading Cliff Lee, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley or Carlos Ruiz, Amaro simply stuck with the core players and hoped that Father Time would pass them by.
That didn’t happen, of course, and we all saw Utley’s knees and numbers deteriorate, Rollins’s legs disappear and Halladay’s effectiveness wither away, start after start. The 2013 Phillies were a disaster and in that same year, we saw the most beloved manager in team history fall on the sword. Charlie Manuel was fired and Ryne Sandberg had been hand-picked by Amaro himself. We all know how that turned out.
You would think Amaro would’ve learned his lesson, but by 2014 it was clear that the Phillies were still holding onto the same aging players. Even as teams approached Amaro with interest on Cole Hamels and Lee, he turned them aside and continued to trot out the same old, injured roster day after day.
So an Amaro Apologist might say, “Well he can’t control player injury. He had a core that had won a World Series and stuck with them. Can you blame him?”
In 2009, Amaro made arguably his best trade to date when he sent four middling prospects to Cleveland in exchange for Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco. Lee was a pivotal piece in the 2009 playoff run and damn near won the World Series himself. He became one of the most popular players in Philadelphia and one of the most valuable pitchers in baseball within the span three months.
Then Amaro traded him for JC Ramirez, Tyson Gillies and Phillippe Aumont, only to sign Lee again in free agency just a year later. Odd strategy, Roob. How about Shane Victorino? Amaro traded one of the best defensive centerfielders in baseball for Josh Lindblom, Ethan Martin and Stefan Jarrin. Victorino was aging and past his prime, sure; but that’s all they received for a gold glove defender?
Then there’s Hunter Pence, for whom Amaro traded Jarred Cosart, power hitting first baseman Jon Singleton, Josh Zeid and current top-100 prospect Domingo Santana. Pence was a Phillie for all of 12 months before he was traded for Nate Schierholtz, Seth Rosin and “Catcher of the Future” Tommy Joseph. Joseph has a career .250 batting average in the minors, is battling concussion issues and has officially been moved from catcher to first base. To make matters worse, he still has yet to gain any MLB experience at 24 years old. So while optimism has finally sprung as the Phillies have rejuvenated the farm system through trades, let’s not forget that the same GM who made said trades once moved Cliff Lee for Phillippe Aumont.
Amaro lacked the foresight to see that an aging veteran team had run its course, and started a rebuild process three years too late. Amaro humiliated Ryan Howard when he publicly stated that the team would be better off without him (Amaro himself was the one who signed Howard to that monstrosity of a contract) and to top it off, he had the audacity to insult the fanbase by saying they don’t understand the game.
The Phillies are currently on pace to become the first team in MLB history to lose 100 games four years after winning 100 games, and Amaro was at the helm for the entire ride into the sewer. Pat Gillick and Ed Wade, among others, built a shiny, red Ferrari and it took a magical ride down Broad Street on Halloween 2008. Then they gave that car to Amaro and he drove it off a cliff: a steep, horribly jagged cliff, and it exploded and burned and we all cried and cried and cried.