Friday, August 16, 2013

Ruben Amaro Makes Next ‘Dumbest-Move’ of 2013

            Leave it to the Philadelphia Phillies, a team that seemed to make all the right moves just a few years ago, to make the dumbest and most ill-timed decision of them all.
            On Friday, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. – faking tears and all – acted as if this season wasn’t almost entirely his fault and fired manager Charlie Manuel with roughly a month-and-a-half left in the 2013 baseball campaign.
            I’m not 100 percent positive, but I don’t think Manuel was the front-office architect and put this atrocity together.  I doubt Charlie said, “You know, I am sick of all of these winning seasons.  I feel like losing one just to see how it feels.”
            I was able to sit in on a few post-game press conferences last year and got to see what Manuel was like in first-person.  He knew what he was doing.  He physically cared about the state of the team and his players.  Still, I had a feeling then, in the midst of what turned out to be an 81-81 season, that sooner-or-later people might start wondering if it was time to let him go.  But just from listening to him talk and react to some tough losses, and not forgetting all he had done during his time at Philly, I knew that if it did happen it would be a huge mistake.  He was the right man for this Phillies team and should be allowed to go on as long as he wanted.
            Current Red Sox Shane Victorino, who played with the Phils from 2005 to July of 2012, knew what kind of manager Manuel was. 
“He deserves a lot of credit for the player that I am,” said Victorino, who admitted that he nearly cried upon hearing the news.  “He helped me.  He gave me an opportunity.  He stuck with me. From that standpoint, it hurts to see his great run in Phillies history, his time in a Phillies uniform, come to an end.  It’s just sad.
“He was a player’s manager.  You hear that all the time.  But he knew how to bring the best out of us.  He knew when guys needed a day off.  He knew when guys needed a mental blow.  He knew his players.  People might think that he didn’t.  But he knew what he had in the room, what he needed to do to bring the best out of that room.  And he always made sure that his players got the credit, not him.”
            Before I get into what makes this decision so preposterous, let me remind you of what Manuel had done for the Phillies since taking over in 2005.
-          He is the winningest manager in franchise history with a 780-636 record.
-          He is one of only two NL managers in history to win five consecutive division titles (Bobby Cox, Atlanta).
-          In his eight full-seasons (05-12) as manager, the Phils had the NL’s best record at 727-569.
-          He set a franchise-record for most wins in a season in 2011 with 102.
-          He received Manager of the Year votes in every season from 2005 to 2011.
-          Other than this year and last year, the team never finished below second in the division.
-          Oh, and he won the franchise’s FIRST WORLD SERIES IN 28 YEARS IN 2008.  Not to mention going to another Fall Classic a year later.

However, Manuel must have forgotten the new rule for ball clubs that become relevant once again after being the laughing stock of baseball for ten years: IF YOU HAVE ONE LOSING SEASON IN YOUR NINE-YEAR TENURE YOU GET CANNED.  Maybe it was in fine print and he had forgotten his glasses that day.
Upon hearing the news, I had to go and make sure I had things straight.

Manager –noun
1.      a person who directs or managed an organization, industry, shop, etc.
2.      a person who controls business affairs of an actor, entertainer, etc.
3.      a person who controls the training of a sportsman or team.
4.      a person who has a talent for managing efficiently.

Coach –noun
1.      a person who trains an athlete or a team of athletes.
2.      a trainer or instructor.
3.      a tutor who prepares students/athletes for exams/games.

So the manager controls the business side of things and directs the organization, while the coach trains the players and prepares them for games.  Interesting.
I know the coach is the one who eventually takes the fall for things.  I could say that Manuel didn’t commit any errors in the field, give up any runs on the mound, or ground into ump-teen double plays this year.  I would be right, but in the end he is in charge of helping the players not do those things.  But what if the coach is set up for failure?  What if his players aren’t capable of not doing those things?
Maybe Amaro can refresh my memory.
Did Manuel decide against going after Justin Upton and instead sign 27-year-old grandpa-wannabe Delmon Young – who I might add is now released?  Did Manuel elect to give rapidly-aging and oft-injured first baseman Ryan Howard a five-year, $125M extension before last year?  (Note: Howard has played 151 total games since the start of 2012.)  Did he dish out $12M to a set-up man in Mike Adams?
Did he give utility man Laynce Nix $2.5M two years ago just so he can hit five homers and knock in 23 runs before being released?  Did he trade Hunter Pence for a major league outfielder (who is no longer on the team) and two minor leaguers who have yet to see the bigs?  Like the Phils couldn’t use a competent outfielder right now.  Did he release reliever Chad Durbin after posting ERAs of 4.39 and 3.80 only to bring him back a year later so he could record an ERA of nine?
The answer to all of those questions is no.
            It reminds me of what Karl Rentzheimer, my one-time Physical Education teacher and former Pleasant Valley baseball coach, used to say: “You can’t make chicken soup out of chicken (bleep).”  And that’s pretty much what Manuel was tasked with this year.
            Amaro was the one behind all of those moves and decisions.  Granted, I know he basically mortgaged the future for the present a few years ago in hopes of winning another World Series title.  I liked it.  Go for it while you can.  I would have him do it all over again in a second.  I could understand the pressure he must have felt following Ed Wade and World Series GM Pat Gillick.  The problem that I am having with this is now he is using Manuel as the scapegoat in order to save his own hide.
It has become obvious that as the players have become more of Amaro’s guys than Gillick’s, the team has declined.  Amaro had to have seen this coming.  He let the roster get too old and too rich for its own good.  Instead of trading declining players before they fall apart (i.e Roy Halladay, Howard) or giving incentive-laded deals, he just forked out the dough and thought everything was going to be okay.  Now that its not, he gets to keep his job by firing someone else.
            Most reports say Manuel was probably not coming back next year anyway, so the Phillies didn’t want him becoming a lame-duck coach.  My question is still why?  Why wasn’t he coming back next year?  One losing season in nine years has become the death sentence?  All I have to point to is the team’s 813-903 record in the 11 years before Manuel arrived.  Again, the Phils go from 100 games under .500 to 150 over .500 and Manuel loses his job after one sub-par, injury-laded season? 
            As a Cowboys fan, I have seen too much of this lately.  Jerry Jones wants to have his hands on everything and then wonder out loud why nothing is working out.  NEWS FLASH: It’s not always the coach’s fault.  You are the one who put the team together.  Look in the mirror.  Fire yourself.  Or at least go out with the coach together.
            Manuel must have felt a lot like Lou Brown from Major League did when Rachel Phelps bought the team.  Not that Amaro was literally trying to sabotage the club, but Manuel certainly wasn’t given much to work with.
Unfortunately for Charlie, it looks as if he will have it worse than Brown.  After all, there isn’t going to be a post-season trip for him in the end.  Thanks to Amaro, his movie has already ended.