It’s no secret that the Philadelphia Phillies have catastrophically declined over the last four years since winning the last of five consecutive NL East division titles in 2011. Since then it’s been the same narrative regardless of what year it was. The Phillies are a team loaded with bad contracts and with a middle of the road farm system at best. The present has been bleak and the future didn’t look all that bright. Such was the crux of criticism from the fan base towards general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. with many believing the GM was entering 2015, with no plan of furthering the team’s rebuild.
But throughout the last couple weeks, there have been some glimmers of hope. The Phillies went on a six-game winning streak for the first time since September 2012. Older players like Ryan Howard, Jonathan Papelbon, Aaron Harang and Cole Hamels have been producing enough where their trade value may be higher than expected coming into the season. Younger players like Maikel Franco, Freddy Galvis, and Odubel Herrera showed flashes that they could be a part of the team’s core moving forward. In AA for Reading, 2014 first-round pick, pitcher Aaron Nola, was on fire with an ERA below 2.00 and six wins to his credit overshadowing a good start to the year in Reading for Zach Eflin, another pitching prospect who the Phillies acquired for Jimmy Rollins in the offseason.
Not that anyone was falling for the big club’s six-game winning streak but perhaps 2015 wouldn’t be the wasted season everyone thought it would be. Perhaps the younger players at all levels throughout the organization would continue to show promise. Perhaps the Phillies could add some much needed depth to their minor league system by trading some of the older players who had been performing better in May. The first-year player draft is fast approaching which offers every team an opportunity to infuse their organization with young talent. The Phillies hold the 10th pick in the first round. So at least for the first time in a while, the Phillies offered fans a little bit of excitement for the future and if that’s all that came out of the 2015 season then it would be better than expected.
But on Tuesday, we were all reminded of just how deep of a hole Amaro has dug for himself. Amaro commented on fans desire to see prospects like Eflin and Nola move up through the organization and potentially reach the majors before the end of the 2015 season saying that fans “don’t understand the game” according to CSN’s Jim Salisbury. Amaro went on to indicate that the fans’ complaints about the team not having a plan are out of line and that the organization does have a plan and is not going to rush its prospects up.
While it makes sense from an organizational standpoint to be patient with the prospects, Amaro didn’t do himself any favors with these comments directed towards the fans. With all the losing the team has done in the last three years, fans needed something to get excited about and it looked like the young talent the Phillies did have was providing that so it’s only logical for fans to want to see players move up through the system and the rebuild to accelerate. While one could understand Amaro wanting to wait until the time is right to promote prospects, good luck trying to get anyone to think Amaro has a plan in place. The last three years the Phillies have lost, and lost, and lost with an older deteriorating nucleus and finally decided to move a few older players last offseason with the trades of Jimmy Rollins and Antonio Bastardo. If it took that long for Amaro to finally develop a rebuilding plan for the organization then it was too little too late. It’s hard to see him being allowed to see things through with his contract set to expire after 2015.
Maybe Amaro’s comments on Tuesday were sour grapes towards a fan base that has seen its other professional teams change their ways. Chip Kelly’s Eagles, Ron Hextall’s Flyers, and Sam Hinkie’s Sixers all have displayed a willingness to think outside the box and realize that if the status quo of their respective organizations wasn’t good enough then it’s time to travel down a different path and see where it leads to. The path Amaro has traveled down has seen the Phillies steadily decline and makes him arguably the most hated individual in Philadelphia sports and just when you thought there might be some hope for the future for the Phillies, Amaro reminded us all of why he is so ostracized by the fan base. While seeing young players succeed and having more young players brought in via trades and the draft would be nice, what would really be refreshing would be for the Phillies to hire a forward thinker of their own and move on from Ruben Amaro Jr.