The bad news? Ruben Amaro essentially told ESPN’s Jayson Stark today that he has no clue how long Cliff Lee will be out for. The good news? Amaro finally appears to be coming to grips with reality.
After speaking to Stark about Lee’s elbow flexor strain, that saw the Phillies place him on the 15 day disabled-list on Tuesday, Amaro gave a much juicier quote on how Lee’s absence could affect the Phillies in late July.
“I don’t have any idea yet about that,” the GM said. “Frankly, we really don’t know what we have. … There’s a lot of parity and a lot of mediocrity out there — including us. We’re playing like a mediocre club. We’re playing like a .500 ballclub.”
As Enrico Campitelli of the 700 Level pointed out today, the Phillies are technically not even playing like a .500 club, as they are 20-23, approaching June.
Still, Amaro’s unwillingness to admit the team’s record wasn’t the most interesting part of his quote, but rather that he used the word mediocre to describe a bunch that he has been clinging to for far too long.
Perhaps the most ironic part of this quote from Amaro is the timing. He’s talked for nearly two years about how if Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Carlos Ruiz were all healthy at the same time, they would produce, and the team would be competitive. The health and productivity from the core, hasn’t been the issue this year. Rather, the Phillies lack of a bench, consistency from Ben Revere, Cody Asche or Domonic Brown, and the putrid bullpen, has put them in a situation.
If Amaro truly believed himself when he kept insisting that a healthy Phillies team would compete, then he should have been busy building a complete team for when those injured stars did stay healthy.
I understand that he couldn’t prevent Mike Adams from getting hurt, but beyond that move, he hasn’t made any significant trades, signings, or waiver pickups to improve the bullpen, since he overpaid for Jonathan Papelbon. Part of building a successful bullpen is finding under the radar guys, usually ones that are failed starters, and having them turn into consistent middle relievers, or even set-up men. That hasn’t happened in Amaro’s tenure.
As for the bench, Amaro has really just ignored it. Tony Gwynn is a career Triple-A player, who can’t hit a lick at the big-league level. Freddy Galvis might be the best fielder I’ve ever seen, but he is such a poor hitter, that they had to send him to Triple-A, despite that glove. John Mayberry hasn’t even provided his usual power off the bench this year, and his only value to the team at this point is his versatility. He normally isn’t a bad MLB bench piece, but he has no business being the big bat on your bench. Darin Ruf may be able to fill that role, but only if he doesn’t end up having to start somewhere in the outfield. Reid Brignac is a career .221 hitter, which tells you pretty much all you need to know. Cesar Hernandez projects more as a starter, but is a bright-young player. I’m just not sure he fit to be a bench piece. All in all, a majority of the Phillies bench has no business being in the MLB, and the ones that do have much bigger roles than they deserve.
So when Amaro talks about being mediocre, he’s doing it in an attempt to get ahead of the curve, even though we all know (and have known) that this isn’t a playoff team, even when healthy. When I talk about getting ahead of the curve, I mean that Amaro is getting ahead of the curve with the organization, who seems to be about two years behind (at least) all of the rest of us. If Amaro can convince them that it’s time to rebuild, then maybe he can save himself from being fired late in, or after the season.
What I know is that not only has Ruben Amaro had ‘bad luck’ with injured stars, but he hasn’t displayed any ability to actually build a team, which as Pat Gillick showed in 2008, is the formula for winning a world title. Amaro has shown the formula to, well, mediocrity.