Phillies Have No Lee-Way

by | July 1, 2010 at 5:07 PM | General, MLB, Philadelphia, Sports

Ruben Amaro was right.

OK, half right.

OK, not right at all … but he had a good reason for ultimately making a bad decision.

Back when Philadelphia was ready to burn itself to the ground after the Phillies GM decided to trade Cliff Lee to Seattle for Phillipe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez, Amaro defended his decision by pointing out that his job was to keep the Phillies competitive for years to come.

Lee was about to enter the final year of his contract, and speculation – and common sense – had it that he would test the free-agent market after the 2010 season. Amaro was thinking long-term. He wanted to get value for Lee while he could, rather than lose him for draft picks.

“If I had my druthers, I’d love to have both (Halladay and Lee) on our club,” he said last December. “My job is to continue to have this organization be a championship-caliber club not just for 2010, not just for 2011, but for many years beyond that. …

“It was a baseball decision for me and our organization. We could not leave the cupboard bare. If we had just acquired Roy and not moved Lee, we would have been in a position to have lost seven of our 10 best prospects in our organization. That is not the way to do business in baseball. This move, coupled with Lee’s, allowed us to replenish our system for the foreseeable future.

“We felt we did what was best for our organization. Is it going to be the right decision? It remains to be seen. I do not know that.”

Funny. The rest of us knew. What’s that they say about a bird in hand?

Three middling prospects are never worth a great major league baseball player. Never. And especially not these three – the only thing these three guys will be replenishing on the major league club is Domonic Brown’s Gatorade bottles.

(Aumont, who has already been demoted from AA to Clearwater, has a 7.01 ERA this year with 47 walks in just 60.1 innings. Tyson Gillies is hurt … again … and is hitting .238 at Reading with two steals in 26 games. J.C. Ramirez, the star of the group, is 5-4 with a 4.31 combined ERA at Clearwater and Reading.)

Yes, the way to win is to groom the talent in your own system, but the Phillies are doing that right now with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Cole Hamels.

Amaro’s job is not to think about 2015. His job is to surround Philly’s homegrown core with as much talent as possible while it’s in its prime so the Phillies can win as many championships as possible. Gearing up for the “next run” should be the furthest thing from his mind right now.

But wait … this column isn’t about what Amaro did wrong (we’ll be talking about that for generations). This column is about the part Ruben got right. The part where he insisted on not putting all his chips into one year.

He could have kept Lee on his final year and rolled the dice with what would have been the best rotation in baseball … but even with that rotation, there was no guarantee of a ring. If you need evidence, look at the stretch of bad luck the Phils have run into this season.

Rollins is just getting back from his second stint on the DL (calf). Utley is just going on the DL for what will likely be an extended stay with an injured thumb. Placido Polanco joined him on the 15-day for an elbow injury that’s hampered him since April. Carlos Ruiz has been in and out of the lineup with a variety of injuries. J.A. Happ has yet to take the mound for the big club. Brad Lidge has been hurt. Ryan Madson is out because he likes to kick stuff. Add Chad Durbin and Antonio Bastardo, and the DL is home to seven players.

This isn’t about giving Philly excuses. All clubs deal with injuries over a 162-game season. But the 2010 casualty list highlights why a GM would be irresponsible to go for a broke in any given year. Too many things can go wrong too quickly.

A staff of Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Moyer and Happ sounds unbeatable. But if you are counting on Wilson Valdez, Brian Schneider and Dane Sardinha to put up runs … no staff is unbeatable.

Amaro foresaw the possibility of this recent injury decimation. He resisted the temptation to put out an incredible one-year wonder of a team, knowing that any juggernaut is a sprained ulnar collateral ligament (or two) from missing the playoffs.

Ruben deserves a ton of credit for that foresight.

Of course, Amaro could have figured that out and still kept Cliff Lee. He could have traded Joe Blanton and Jayson Werth for a comparable package to what he got for Lee, used the money he saved by trading that twosome to sign Lee long-term and then had the best rotation in baseball for a half decade.


But don’t worry about that one, Rube. It’s not like Philadelphia has a long memory. It’s not like you’re going to be crucified for that oversight for the rest of your life.


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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.