How odd it was spotting Ruben Amaro Jr. back at Citizens Bank Park earlier this month. There he was, wearing that ugly orange-and-blue Mets uniform, clapping his hands in the first base coach’s box.
Most Phils fans probably didn’t even notice their former GM without his white dress shirt and sunglasses. And Amaro certainly preferred it that way.
In a sports town that brings the heat, no one got tossed on the griddle like the man whose nickname became “Ruin Tomorrow.” The former Phils’ bat boy who grew up to play for his hometown team became its general manager days after we celebrated the 2008 championship. He led it through some good times – creating that four aces rotation by acquiring Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Roy Oswalt. The four-man rotation helped the Philies win 102 games in 2011, a franchise record.
But as players aged and the need for a rebuild grew obvious, Amaro desperately tried to patch together a contender with shortsighted moves and foolish signings (hello, Jonathan Papelbon). Whether it was his master plan or an edict from above is debated. The bottom line is the Phillies fell from worst to first and Amaro became an answer to the question, “Who do fans despise more than Rick Kotite, Eddie Jordan or Ed Wade?”
Of course the reviled Wade — GM from 1998-2005 – looked far better in the rearview mirror, as the Phils won those five straight division titles after he left them with a roster of talented players. And now the same applies to Amaro.
As the young Phils climb toward contention, it is worth noting that 19 players on the current 25-man roster date back to Amaro’s tenure, which ended with the 99-loss season of 2015. He drafted J.P. Crawford in 2013, Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins in 2014, and Scott Kingery in 2015.
Odubel Herrera, hitting .332 currently, was stolen by Amaro as a Rule 5 pick in 2014. When you applaud new sensation Seranthony Dominguez, note that Amaro signed him as a 16-year-old Dominican free agent back in 2011. Same with Cesar Hernandez, who was a 16-year-old Venezuelan when he was signed in 2006.
And then there were the trades. Months before he was axed, Amaro got Jorge Alfaro, Nick Williams and Jerad Eickhoff for Cole Hamels. He also stole Nick Pivetta from the Washington Nationals for Papelbon and snagged Zach Eflin from the Los Angeles Dodgers for an aging Jimmy Rollins.
With the notable exceptions of Jake Arrieta and Carlos Santana, the Phils team traveling to the West Coast this week is the product not of current GM Matt Klentak, but of his maligned predecessor.
None of this is a pitch to bring back Amaro. Hey, I still hold a grudge for him firing manager Charlie Manuel and giving the job to the robotic Ryne Sandberg. I generally applaud the current direction of the franchise.
But maybe it’s time to reassess Amaro’s legacy. Near the end of his tenure, in a 2014 Philly.com poll of more than 10,000 fans, 93.6 percent voted that Amaro should be fired. While it was time then to move on, maybe it’s time again to move on with our opinion.
The Mets return to town in mid-August, when both teams could be in the pennant race. When you spot Amaro in the coach’s box, giving some base running advice, you do not need to go gaga. Just give the guy a nod of recognition and a thumbs up.
He deserves that.