At least temporarily, last Wednesday’s signing of A.J. Burnett and pitchers and catchers reporting to Clearwater, have the Deleware Valley excited for baseball again. Does most of the fanbase think that the team will compete for a World Series or even win the division? Most don’t, but at the very least, seeing a seemingly healthy Ryan Howard show up to Clearwater, and adding another experienced arm in the form of Burnett, have at least given the fanbase cautious optimism heading into the 2014 campaign.
The issue that the Phillies will run into, is that they are on the shortest leash in years, because a slow start, will translate to a mass attendance drop, and calls for a front-office overhaul and full team rebuild. Speaking to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale today, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro still doesn’t even seem to view rebuilding as an option.
“I cannot look at our fans in the face,” says Amaro, “and say, ‘You know what guys, we’re going to blow it up. We’re going to be (garbage) for the next four or five years. But we will be back.
Why does Amaro feel that way? Well besides the fact that if the organization decided to rebuild, he would likely be the first person relieved of his duties in the organization, he says he believes that the team “is here to win”.
“Listen, I don’t want to be foolhardy,” Amaro tells USA TODAY Sports, “but I do believe we have the talent to make a run at the National League East this year. And if we’re making a run at the National League East, it puts us in position to win the World Series.
“We’re here to win, and we’re going to do everything we can to win. When the time comes that we cannot win, and have to go in a different direction, then we’ll have to make some adjustments.
“That time isn’t now.”
I would have figured that when you had to back-to-back losing seasons after a five year playoff run, that featured two World Series appearances, that would have been the time to make some adjustments.
A traditional rebuild doesn’t necessarily have to take four or five seasons, but seeing as how Ruben Amaro has built a a ridiculously high payroll and decimated the farm system, turning around the entire organization may take longer than a traditional rebuild.
And as far as “looking our fans in the face”, I’m not sure that has ever been an issue to Amaro. He traded Cliff Lee to Seattle for a bag of David Sunflower Seeds and decided to give Joe Blanton a three-year/$24 million deal instead of keeping Lee in Philly for what turned out to be the best season of his career. He also kept a majority of the 2008 core together through 2014 (and they are under contract longer than that), which was against the wishes of many realists in the fanbase. And to top it all off this off-season, he brought back fan-favorite Bobby Abreu. I’m not sure Ruben Amaro cares too much about “the fanbase”, which he doesn’t necessarily have to as a general manager, except when members of the fanbase appear to have a better grasp on reality than he does.
I’m not rooting against the Phillies in 2014, by any means. I’ll take a return to the playoffs (and hopefully beyond), even if it means having to give Ruben Amaro some credit. Watching meaningless August and September baseball the last two season has been extremely painful for myself and the entire fanbase. So I’ll gladly give Ruben credit if it means a return to October. But the side of me that isn’t trying to find ways that this team COULD somehow make the playoffs, lives in reality, and sees the Phillies blowing up the front office at the trade deadline, moving Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon, and finally rebuilding.
Grab your Phillies tickets now for any game this regular season!