When Andy MacPhail was hired to move the Phillies in a new direction, it seemed clear that Ruben Amaro would be gone. And, really, after seeing the franchise devolve over the last four years, it's hard to argue that it's not deserved. After all, at their current pace, the Phillies could easily wind up with their worst winning percentage since World War II.
Now, Ruben Amaro did many wonderful things as the Phillies GM, including curating the 2009 team that made it to the World Series and building the incredible starting rotation that helped the Phillies to win 102 games in 2011. But he also presided over some of the dumbest decisions in the modern history of the Phillies.
He dealt away Cliff Lee for no one of real value. He chained the Phillies to declining first baseman Ryan Howard and aging veterans Carlos Ruiz, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins, and to an expensive closer in Jonathan Papelbon. He shed prospects in deals to prop up his veteran team, but couldn't replace them quickly enough to give the club enough depth. Despite, the writing on the wall, he stubbornly kept trying to patch holes with the likes of Joe Blanton, Juan Pierre, Michael and Delmon Young, John Lannan, A.J. Burnett, Roberto Hernandez, and Grady Sizemore before finally giving in to rebuilding in 2015. He was roundly mocked for his demands to give up Cole Hamels, Papelbon, Rollins, and Howard. His front office tattled on college pitchers who had the audacity to ask for help negotiating their first professional contracts. And, of course, he mocked the notion that there was anything to learn from modern analytics, and regularly demonstrated his own lack of understanding.
Now the Phillies will move forward without him as they work to rebuild the franchise, and they'll do it without the long-term salary commitments to Howard, Lee, and Ruiz beyond 2016.
That said, the book on Ruben's legacy shouldn't be closed in Philadelphia for some time. After all, Amaro is a big part of the reason that the future actually looks fairly bright for the Phillies. He signed Maikel Franco out of the Dominican Republic and stole Odubel Herrera from the Rangers. He traded Hamels for six players, including Jorge Alfaro and Nick Williams. He managed to extract actual prospects for Papelbon, Rollins, and Utley. He drafted Aaron Nola, J.P. Crawford, Roman Quinn, Andrew Knapp, and Cornelius Randolph, and signed a ton of amateurs from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. In the last two years, the Phillies' farm system has gone from bereft to bountiful, and may yield several impact players from the crop of youngsters he has assembled.
We like to believe that, when a GM leaves, all of his mistakes go with him, and all of the triumphs belong to the next guy, whoever that's going to be for the Phillies. But that's not even close to true. Even as we mock Ruben Amaro, the hapless executive who couldn't figure out how to calculate On-Base Percentage, we may be forced to acknowledge that the next great Phillies team will have his fingerprints all over it. He's left Andy MacPhail and his team with a lot of tools to build with, even if none of them are a calculator or a slide rule, and that's much better than if they had to start from scratch.