Ruben Amaro Jr has a lot to apologize for, but only some of it is related to his comments on Monday, when he complained that Phillies fans "don't understand the game. They don't understand the process....And then they bitch and complain because we don't have a plan" when asked if the club was going to call up prospects Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin. The comments highlight just how ill-suited Amaro is to remain in his position.
It's not that Amaro is wrong, necessarily. Indeed, a large percentage of a team's fan base does not, actually, understand that dangers of rushing prospects. These fans simply are tired of watching the crappy pitchers the Phillies have, who have allowed the 12th most runs in the National League, and would like to see someone, anyone, with upside.
As a Twins fan in the same boat until this season, I can sympathize with that sentiment, even as I recognize that it's counter-productive. And I can understand Amaro's frustration with the criticism he's receiving for acting responsibly with his two best pitching prospects. That kind of feedback is hard to taken when you're actually doing the right thing.
The problem is that Amaro has spent so much time doing the wrong thing that it's hard to feel much sympathy when he finally acknowledges, as he did yesterday, that mistakes were made on his watch and that the Phillies spent too long trying to hold on to their glory days from 2008-2011, rather than building for the future.
Remember who put the Phillies in this position
Amaro is the one who mortgaged that future to hold onto that dream, and he is the one that has to face the consequences, and those include enduring the concerns of fans that posit that maybe, just maybe, Amaro and the Phillies don't really know what they're doing.
After all, Amaro is the one who sent highly serviceable starting pitchers Trevor May and Vance Worley to the Minnesota Twins for Ben Revere, who has an 81 OPS+ as a left fielder. He's the one who thought Michael Young still had something left in the tank and traded for him. He let John Lannan break camp with the big league club in 2013 and thought Delmon Young would be an effective right fielder.
He's the guy who refused to deal Jimmy Rollins or Marlon Byrd until this offseason, and who has been unable to find takers for Ryan Howard (who he signed to a disastrous contract extension in 2010) and Chase Utley (currently hitting .192 and untradeable). He allowed the Phillies to get old and bad while famously refusing to hire any statistical analysts until 2013.
Being a GM is more than managing a roster
Just as important, however, is the tenor of Amaro's response to Phillies fans' concerns. A central function of Amaro's position is public relations. As the face of the front office, Amaro needs to be able to communicate effectively if he is going to keep fans invested while the Phillies rebuild. After all, the club still has some dark days ahead of it as they wait to purge Howard and Utley, and work to find an acceptable return for Cole Hamels and Aaron Harang.
Amaro and his lieutenants are going to come in for a lot more criticism in that time. How is he going to react then? Will he be able to identify with fans' concerns and respect their passion (even if they're wrong)? Or is he going to get defensive, call them all idiots, and wish they'd just leave him alone to do his job?
All evidence indicates otherwise. Not only did Amaro criticize his own fans this week, but in the past he has publicly complained that other general managers won't meet his asking price for players. He has publicly called out Ryan Howard and told him the club would be better off without him. And he allowed his team to potentially ruin the lives and careers of two college draft picks who refused to sign to the NCAA for having the audacity to seek counsel before signing perhaps the most important contract of their lives.
Here's the problem: GMs need to be good at *something*
Amaro is almost certainly a smart man. I bet he's a hell of a scout. I have no doubt he does a better job of running his franchise than, say, I would. But his history reveals a man who is thin-skinned and vindictive, and who doesn't react well when his authority is challenged. It reveals a man who ignores new ways of approaching the game in which every other club has found value.
It reveals a man who cannot be trusted to either build a club or to communicate with fans. It reveals that Ruben Amaro Jr is not capable of leading the Phillies forward, and it's time to finally, mercifully, put an end to his own bitching and complaining.