After a five year run atop the National League, including a World Series championship to go along with two National League pennants, the Phillies find themselves treading water for the second year in a row, thanks to injuries, an aging roster and a farm system that doesn't appear to bear fruit any time soon.
One of the key figures responsible with the team's successes (as well as their failures) is General Manager Ruben Amaro, who took over the team following the 2008 season. Since then, he's made some big moves to cement the team's status as one of the best in the game, but his over-aggressive manor in his early years seem to have caught up with him. And in a chat with reporters on Monday afternoon, we may have been clued in on that, as evidenced by this piece by David Murphy of The Daily News.
No doubt, a distaste for five-year plans on the part of the Phillies' chief personnel executive would offer a tidy explanation for the franchise's current predicament (after all, a five-year $125 million contract extension looks a lot more palatable when you ignore its ramifications for all five years that it covers). But after Amaro answered a question about how his five-year plan would affect the decisions he makes prior to this year's nonwaiver trade deadline by saying, "I don't do five year plans -- other organizations do, I guess," he continued by describing something that sounded awfully similar to one.
Murphy would go on in greater detail about Amaro's comments, where he talks about getting the team back to the top of the league, but let's think about Amaro's “I don't do five year plans” comment for a moment. Because if there is one thing that a GM of a baseball team should do, it's plan for the future.
To most, it seems readily apparent that Amaro isn't the most forward-thinking guy, whether it's eschewing the statistical revolution to help build a team in a more efficient fashion, or if it's failing to look down the road a few years to size up how your baseball team might do after the current crop of players hang up their spikes.
For example, Ruben Amaro is the guy who signed 37-year-old Raul Ibanez to a three-year deal to replace Pat Burrell, despite the fact that Ibanez wasn't fielding many suitors at the time, meaning that Amaro essentially bid against himself.
He's also the guy who gave Ryan Howard a five-year, $125 million contract extension 18 months before he was set to become a free agent. The extension kicked in when Ryan Howard was 32-years-old.
He's also the guy who traded Cliff Lee for spare parts after acquiring him for practically nothing the same day he acquired Roy Halladay, only to then trade for Roy Oswalt later in the season.
He's also the guy who thought it a wise decision to send three highly-touted prospects for Hunter Pence in 2011, despite having a player (Domonic Brown) who was more than capable of playing right-field for the club.
And so it goes.
As you can see, it's fairly obvious that Amaro isn't the kind of guy that considers the future a great deal when he makes a move. I'm not saying that all of his moves were bad, because he did manage to trade for and acquire both Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay on the cheap, and he was the guy at the helm of perhaps the most successful era of baseball that Philadelphia has ever seen. But that shouldn't disguise the fact that the farm system is barren, the team is old, and that they've been out-managed by the likes of the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals. Both of those teams have a smart front office that can make savvy moves to supplement a deep farm system.
No one will accuse Ruben Amaro of not wanting to do whatever it takes to win, as evidenced by his blockbuster trades and willingness to grow his payroll to get whatever free agents he needs to field a winner. And if he's managed to put together some of the best teams in team history without a long-term plan, then I salute him. But it's high-time that he looked down the road if he wants to do so again anytime soon.