Ron Costello

Thursday, September 10, 2015

He took over on the day after the Broad Street parade and his future — former Phils GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. — couldn't have looked sweeter.

That was November 1, 2008. Junior had the winter to get ready for spring training with a club loaded with more talent than perhaps any Phillies team, ever. The middle of the lineup — Utley, Howard, and Werth —  was young, with their best years ahead. World Series MVP Cole Hamels was 25 and had the world by the tail.

The following season — Junior's first as GM — another World Series appearance losing in six to the Yankees. In the summer of 2009 Junior acquired Cliff Lee in a trade with the Cleveland Indians, a free spending brilliant move. But it also led to perhaps his biggest blunder as Phillies GM.

On December 16, 2009, Junior shocked the Faithful by trading Lee to Seattle, but at the same time, on the same day, he traded for baseball's best pitcher, Roy Halladay.

Halladay, Lee, and Hamels in the same rotation never happened. But it marked the beginning of bad Karma for  Junior. An opportunity to have arguably the best rotation in the history of the game never happened. It confused the baseball Gods!

It confused the Faithful, too. Could the Phillies have won their second World Series in three years if Junior had kept Lee?

In the winter of 2010, he let Jayson Werth — the lineup's key five-hole hitter — walk. Werth signed a $127 million deal with Washington. Junior might have underestimated Werth's importance hitting behind Howard,  but he had big plans to spend the club's money elsewhere.

One month into the 2010 season the Phillies announced a whopping new contract for slugger Ryan Howard — WITH TWO YEARS STILL LEFT ON HIS CONTACT! The club gave Howard a $125 million deal that started in 2012 and ends in 2017.

It was a horrendous deal. Today Ryan Howard is a team albatross and the club would do well to eat his salary and release him at season's end. There were other contracts out of whack. Even today, the contract he gave to Carlos Ruiz — an older catcher who is a shell of what he once was — is and was a mistake.

The bad Karma continued. Junior shipped a bevy of young prospects for Astros outfielder Hunter Pence in July of 2011 — then turned around the following  summer and traded Pence to the Giants and got little in return. Little in return? How about NOTHING in return. At the same time, he traded Faithful favorite Shane Victorino to the Dodgers. Another bust.

It was unraveling.

Besides key injuries and bad trades, payroll was topping $170 million for at team whose players had seen better days. With nothing to spend, Junior brought in less than valuable players such as Delmon Young, and pitchers he could get on the cheap.

The team was run into the ground.

There was only one thing left for Junior to do — get rid of expensive players with big contracts— Howard, Papelbon, Rollins, Utley, Lee, and Hamels. Frustrated and with the city on his back, he then waited a year or two — too long —  and, as a result, didn't get the value he should have.

After 257 straight sellouts, the crowds dwindled. The Faithful had had enough. The team had become a radio joke: "The Phillies attendance is so low they'll be announcing game attendance by names."

It's sad. A Phillies blue-blood; team bat boy — his father a no-hit sure glove Phillie's shortstop and director of the Phillies Latin American efforts; a William  Penn Charter High School and Stanford University graduate, assistant GM hired by Ed Wade, and former Phillies outfielder — falls from grace.

But sad aren't the words used to describe Amaro by the beered-up patrons at South Philly's Rosewood Tavern, Wolf Street Cafe, or Chickie and Petes.

Those words I can't write here.

In fairness, Junior leaves town on a positive note. The club has some good, young players in deals he orchestrated over the past two years. After all that's happened, the highs and lows — the Faithful could be happy again in 2016.

Goodbye, Ruben Amaro, Jr. I hope you and  your family do well. Thank you for the many positive things you did for the Faithful!

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