Go away, Ruben Amaro. Go away. You’ve ruined them. You’ve ruined it. You’ve ruined everything. Cole, Ryan, Jimmy, Cliff and Carlos. You’ve ruined them (but you haven’t ruined Chase– no one ruins Chase).
There’s a time when all great things must come to an end. For instance, Man vs. Food episodes end. Scott Hartnell’s supposed romance with Sheena Parveen ended. Such is life. Good things end, and usually the best things end quickly, abruptly, and often in spectacular fashion. But there’s a certain expectation that those in charge, those with the ability to pull the levers of our heartstrings, will take much care to unravel what was once great, or prolong it as best as they can, without leaving everything burning in their wake. In sports, this is done by carefully disassembling a great team, by keeping the best parts, in order to prolong the excitement, and selectively removing unnecessary pieces, not unlike the way you unwrap a Christmas present wrapped by one of those superhuman mall volunteers, or remove an unnecessarily complex piece of lingerie from a significant other (WHY DO THEY PUT THOSE BUTTONS THERE IF THEY’RE JUST FOR SHOW?). You do these things, at the very least, to show respect for something great. You dismantle tactfully. Without that basic code, we’d all be savages. Things would conclude with unneeded briskness. Breaking Bad would’ve ended mid-season without us knowing what happened to Walt and Jesse. We never would’ve found out if the plane crashed in Seinfeld. We’d just throw children into their beds, sans story.
Buzz Bissinger would conclude Philly Mag profiles without a fully-realized thought. Bungee cords would be made of steel. Our world would be a place filled with unsettling abruptness.
Ruben Amaro never got this memo.
Instead of identifying the useful heroes from the 2008 World Fucking Championship team and subsequent division winners, and retooling, selectively, around them, he tried to hold on to to virtually every one, forcing them into the catastrophe that is the last three seasons and this unceremonious image death of people we kind of liked at one time. In no particular order:
Jimmy Rollins. Instead of team to beat, an MVP award, and that game-winning hit in the 2009 NLCS, the lasting memory of Rollins may be of a guy who seemed mostly interested in self-promotion and setting a personal record, and who had frustratingly obvious flaws in his approach. The Phils should’ve moved on from Rollins after his last contract was up in 2011.
Ryan Howard. By giving him a five-year, $125 million contract nearly two years before it was to kick in, Amaro and the Phillies placed unfair expectations on Howard, who is now the subject of so much hate and is officially a $60 million platoon player with creaky legs who may get cut next season. He shouldn’t have been given a new contract, in 2010.
Cliff Lee. While not a member of the 2008 team, Lee was beloved after his run in 2009. What has Ruben done with him since? Traded him for no particular reason, signed him a year later, and now has made him the subject of continued trade rumors for the past two years– an existence so stressful for Lee that he has resorted to literally burping and farting at reporters. In hindsight, bringing Lee back in 2010, as much as it pains me to say, was probably a poor decision, from a financial standpoint.
Cole Hamels. He may forever be a good pitcher on a bad team who’s forced to bitch about his run support.
Carlos Ruiz. Re-signed before the 2013 season despite obvious injury and age concerns. Instead of being lovable Chooch, he’s now the injury-prone catcher who’s unfortunately paved the way for Wil Nieves and Cameron Rupp plate appearances.
Oh yeah, and then there was that time Charlie Manuel got hastily fired without so much as a tip of the ol’ cap:
None of this is to mention that Jayson Werth, Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino, all of whom were viewed by Amaro as dispensable, continue to have success elsewhere, AT POSITIONS IN WHICH THE PHILLIES ARE SORELY LACKING.
The Ryan Howard thing has done it for me. As frustrating as he is to watch, it’s not fair – to Howard or to us – that we may have to remember him as the overpaid first baseman whom the Phils had to send off to his lazy river. And unfortunately, he won’t be the only once-loved player who will leave us with a bad taste in our mouth. It’s all Ruben’s fault. He completely bungled Operation Keep Window Open by doing nothing but more of the same, with some Delmon Young, Chad Qualls and Laynce (and Jayson!) Nix sprinkled in. He tried to prolong greatness by ignoring advancing time and complementing aging players with useless and overpaid shit, when what was really needed – as hard as it may have been – was the slow undoing of a championship team. That’s how you retool or reload. The Chicago Blackhawks did this well. But that opportunity has passed for the Phils. It’s now time to rebuild, and that means parting ways with players whom, unfortunately, we now can’t wait to say goodbye to. And it’s all Ruben’s fault.