Results tagged ‘ Ruben Amaro Jr. ’
Before the Phillies opened their 10-game homestand last weekend Ruben Amaro Jr. said a 5-5 mark “probably” would not cut it.
They’re 5-2 after taking two of three from the Braves last weekend and three of four from the Nationals this week. The Phillies open a three-game series tonight against the White Sox with an excellent opportunity in front of them. They have won 7 of 10, they are at home and they are playing a team with the third-worst record in baseball. The White Sox have the second-worst offense in baseball, averaging 3.78 runs per game, and rank 18th with a 4.07 ERA.
It lines up perfectly.
And there’s the rub.
A couple people literally told me before the homestand, “Watch, the Phillies will take two of three from Atlanta, three of four from Washington and get swept by the White Sox.” (The nerve of them.) What a disaster that would be. Asked about avoiding a letdown against Chicago, Charlie Manuel said last night, “We’ve got to play hard. We’ve got to outplay them. We’ve got to do the same thing against the Chicago White Sox as we did against Washington and the Braves. We’ve got to play as hard or harder. You don’t let up. You stay right at it.”
Take two from the White Sox and the Phillies enter the All-Star break with a boatload of momentum and .500. Sweep the Sox and it’s even better.
But they’ve got to avoid the trap.
But the situation remains fluid.
“No one is running away with it,” Amaro said of the National League East and Wild Card races. “No one is invincible.”
The Phillies last season stood at 37-50 at the All-Star break, 10 games behind the Wild Card leaders and 14 games behind the Nationals in the division. They entered Thursday’s series finale against the Nationals 45-47, 6 ½ games behind the Wild Card leaders and 7 ½ games behind the Braves in the division. The All-Star break begins following Sunday’s game against the White Sox.
“I actually considered us less of a contender last year than we are now,” Amaro said. “Weren’t we 10, 11 games under .500 last year?”
Fourteen at one point, actually.
“I think if we were 14 we’d be doing the same thing we did last year,” he said.
Ruben Amaro Jr. said yesterday afternoon the Phillies were leaning towards buying before the July 31 trade deadline.
Feelings about this team seem to change by the hour (or pitch … just check Twitter). If the Phillies win tonight’s series finale and take 2 of 3 from the White Sox this weekend they will enter the All-Star break at .500. It would be tough to think about selling at that point. On the other hand, does it make sense to trade quality Minor League talent to acquire a reliever of two when the team has been so inconsistent much of the season?
That is what the Phillies are asking themselves: How good are we really? The Phillies have won 6 of 9 to get to improve to 45-47. They are 7 1/2 games behind the Braves and 6 1/2 games behind the Reds for the second NL Wild Card. Yesterday I blogged about some very encouraging offensive numbers. But I also mentioned some scary numbers about the pitching staff, including some wretched numbers about the bullpen. If the Phillies acquire a setup man for the stretch run at a significant price and the Phillies still fall short of the postseason they will have wasted an opportunity to improve for 2014 and beyond. In fact, they will have hurt their chances to compete in the future.
“I would assume things would go down to the wire, unless we reel off 10 out of 11 or we lose 10 out of 11,” Amaro said. “Then we’ll have a clearer picture. Right now, we’re just not sure. I would assume like most years, it would go down to the wire.”
So even if the Phillies finish the homestand 7-3 to enter the break .500, it doesn’t mean they’ll buy. They return from the break with a nine-game road trip against the Mets, Cardinals and Tigers. The Cardinals have the best record in baseball, while the Tigers lead the AL Central. It seems to me a good homestand can only buy the Phillies more time, while that road trip after the break is going to make the decision. In the meantime, the Phillies are going to get everything lined up so they’re prepared to buy or sell whenever the time comes.
But even if the Phillies buy it doesn’t make a ton of sense to sacrifice quality prospects for a short-term run with so many issues facing them in the offseason. It might be best to do what they can with what they’ve got, unless they can find somebody relatively inexpensive (i.e. J.C. Romero in 2007 or Scott Eyre in 2008).
Sell! Sell! Sell!
But the Phillies entered tonight’s game against the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park winners of six of their last eight games and playing in a division that is arguably the weakest in baseball. So he seemed buoyed by the news Ryan Howard had successful surgery earlier in the day.
Howard had a debridement of the left medial meniscus. His timetable to return is six to eight weeks.
“After (Phillies physician Michael) Ciccotti went in there and went in with the scope, it was a little better picture then we thought,” Amaro said. “I think the player is feeling better about it, we’re feeling better about it. As news goes, this is as good as we can get.”
Amaro said it probably changes the season’s outlook “because we’ll have him back. There’s a reasonable chance we’ll have him back at some point. We still have a lot of question marks about where we’re going to go in the next couple of weeks. Right now, the team is making decisions a little harder on me which is fine and which is good. I’d rather be in this situation than thinking about 2014 right now.”
Amaro met with Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, the Phillies coaching staff and others in the organization Tuesday, although he declined to call it an organizational meeting.
Regardless of what one calls it, the organization’s decision makers met to discuss the team leading to the July 31 Trade Deadline.
“There were no real revelations,” Amaro said. “We are playing better baseball and putting ourselves in a position to be buyers. But there was nothing new out of it.”
So they are leaning toward buying at this point?
“Yeah, I think we’ll try to do that,” he said.
The Phillies announced today Ryan Howard will have surgery to repair the torn medial meniscus in his left knee. He is expected to miss six to eight weeks from the date of the surgery, which has not been set. If Howard recovers as expected he could return to the lineup between late August and early September, but that is no guarantee.
“We have to take care of it,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “He’s going to have to have a procedure. It’s just a matter of who does it and when.”
Howard had a MRI exam today, which revealed the tear. The tear is new. He had a MRI exam in May, but that revealed only a fraying of the meniscus.
Amaro said the tear is similar to one found in Erik Kratz’s left knee. The Phillies issued the same six-to-eight week recovery period for Kratz following his June 12 surgery. He began a rehab assignment Monday with Triple-A Lehigh Valley and could rejoin the Phillies before the end of the week, which would put him two weeks ahead of schedule.
“He moved pretty quickly,” Amaro said of Kratz. “Hopefully we will have the same sort of timeframe. But everyone’s knee is different. We can only speculate the length of how long it will take to get him to rehab. We’ll shoot for the conservative one and hope he comes back faster.”
Howard had hit .266 with 11 home runs, 43 RBIs and .784 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 317 plate appearances before the injury. His presence in the lineup will be missed, but the Phillies are hoping rookie Darin Ruf will seize the opportunity.
Amaro said he expects Ruf to get the bulk of the playing time at first base while Howard is out.
Howard has a growing history of health problems with his left leg. Each of his four trips to the disabled list in his career have involved the left leg: strained left quadriceps in May 2007, sprained ligament in his left ankle in Aug. 2010, torn left Achilles in Oct. 2011 and now the torn meniscus in his left knee.
Howard also revealed yesterday he has a foot problem, although it is unclear how troublesome it is.
“He may have some discomfort there,” Amaro said. “I don’t know anything about his foot.”
The Phillies are hopeful the leg injuries have played a significant role in Howard’s decline offensively the past two seasons. Since the Achilles surgery he has hit a combined .244 with 25 home runs, 99 RBIs and a .752 OPS in 609 plate appearances over 151 games. He also has been one of the least productive hitters in baseball against left-handed pitchers.
Asked if the knee injury could be related to the Achilles injury, Amaro said, “It could have. Really, I couldn’t tell you that. It’s possible. Everything is connected.”
Amaro said the surgery will be scheduled after consulting with Howard’s agent, who will help them decide which doctor to perform the surgery.
“I’m encouraged,” Amaro said. “It could have been much more significant damage. We don’t want any of our players on the DL. But we know what it is and it’s treatable. Hopefully we can get him back in time to play this year.”
This is a huge homestand for the Phillies. Ruben Amaro Jr. said as much Friday.
So when Amaro and his fellow front office executives witnessed Cliff Lee and others screwing around during Jonathan Pettibone‘s in-game interview Saturday in an ugly 13-4 blowout loss to the Braves, they decided to call a team meeting.
While I don’t think goofing on Pettibone had anything to do with the blowout loss Saturday and while I believe players need ways to break up the monotony of a grueling 162-game schedule, I also get that appearances matter. The season is on the line. You’re losing to the Braves in a big series. Now might not be the time to stick a paper cup on Pettibone’s head with a wad of gum. But let’s be honest about this: none of this happens if the team is winning. If the Phillies are winning, bloggers are making .gifs from Pettibone’s interview and having fun with it. (They probably still will.) The front office probably doesn’t care. The manager doesn’t care. It might be even discussed in postgame interviews. (Those wacky Phillies are having so much fun out there!) Nobody would have thought twice about it. But the team is losing so things are looked at differently. That’s the way it goes.
If the Phillies get on a roll this will be forgotten pretty quickly. If they lose and there is a fire sale, this will be just another low point to the season.
Stay tuned …
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. just spoke to reporters in the Phillies’ dugout. He got asked about the importance of this team’s upcoming 10-game homestand, including seven games against the Braves and Nationals. Here are a few highlights of that interview. Check phillies.com later for more.
Q: How do you view the importance of this series?
A: This homestand more than anything else is probably the bigger questions. Very important. We’ve got to play well to stay in contention, clearly. I think we’ll know a lot more about this team after this homestand.
Q: If you don’t have a good homestand could the makeup of the team be different shortly thereafter?
A: It could be. It could be. I hope we’re adding to this club than subtracting. That’s the goal, but as I always say and I’ve been saying the same thing, the players will dictate it.
Q: Safe to say you have to have a winning record on this homestand? Does 5-5 cut it?
A: We’ll have to see. Probably, but we’ll have to see. But that depends how we get to 5-5, you know?
Q: Overstatement to say this homestand is make or break?
A: I don’t know. I don’t like to speak in absolutes all that much, but it’s an important one no question about it.
Q: Frustrating to see this team struggle?
A: Yeah, they’ve been a little enigmatic. I think this team has been a little bit of an enigma. We’ll see. We’ll find out more after this homestand, I think. These next 10 days are big.
Q: Do you view anybody on this team as an untouchable?
A: Some guys are a lot less touchable than others. But we’ll keep our eyes open, our ears open.
Q: How tough would it be to trade Chase Utley, considering his influence in this clubhouse?
A: Really tough. Really tough. Again, I see him as a Phillie for life. I’m not the most stubborn human being on the planet.
Thank some relatively mediocre play in the National League East for that.
“The only reason why I say that is because it’s still really dicey,” he said in the visitors’ dugout at Dodger Stadium. “No one has really stepped out and gone crazy. We’re only seven back. We had one streak where we’ve really played well and we’ve only had a fairly brief time where we’ve had our team on the field. We’ll find out. I honestly think it’s going to end up going to July 20 or 30 or somewhere around then when we’ll decide which direction we’re going to go.”
The Phillies continue a 10-game road trip tonight with their series opener against the Dodgers. The Dodgers have been playing better recently, winning five consecutive games. Following the Dodgers series, the Phillies play a three-game series in Pittsburgh. The Pirates entered the night tied with the Cardinals for the best record in baseball.
The Phillies finish their play before the All-Star break with a 10-game homestand against the Braves, Nationals and White Sox.
But since the Braves started the season 12-1, they are just 33-33. The Phillies are 32-33 in that same stretch, while the Nationals are 31-32.
“We all get spoiled,” Amaro said. “We think that winning is just going to happen. We seem to forget that people have to perform for teams to win. It doesn’t happen on paper. You can make predictions all you want. The fact of the matter is, people have to play and you have to be lucky. Some teams get unlucky and some teams don’t get performance.
“Look at Cole Hamels. I would like somebody to tell me he would be 2-11. It’s hard to imagine. Same thing with Cliff Lee last year. Baseball is an amazingly crazy game. I still think (Hamels) is one of the best lefthanders in the game. It just hasn’t happened for him this year, for whatever reason. Performance. Luck. Mojo. It’s just a crazy game. We’d be talking about how you’re going to improve this team to make this run. We’d be having totally different discussions if we had small tweaks in performance.”
“No, I don’t,” he said. “As a matter of fact, we might be playing better than we could play.”
In other words, this team is playing equal to its talent or playing better than its talent, which is truly something considering the Phillies are 34-37 with the sixth-worst run differential (-48) in baseball. Of course, Ruben Amaro Jr. thought differently, and said the Phillies have not played to their capabilities.
So the general manager thinks the team has underachieved. The manager does not.
That brings me to the point of this post. I get tweets every day from Phillies fans saying, “Fire Charlie Manuel!” I got one last night when Manuel replaced Mike Adams with Antonio Bastardo to face Adam LaRoche in the eighth inning. If Bastardo doesn’t get this guy out, Manuel should be fired immediately! (Never mind it was the correct move.) Asked about Manuel’s job performance yesterday, Amaro said, “Charlie’s had a tough task just because, like I said, the team’s been a little incomplete. I think he’s tried to be creative with some of the lineup changes, shifting some people into the lineup. He’s doing everything he can to try to spark plug us and at some point it is up to the players to try to do it.”
It is wise Amaro sticks with Manuel through the end of the season because unless he is truly convinced the Phillies will play significantly better under new leadership, he only would be pointing more targets at himself. If he replaces Manuel and the team with the sixth-worst offense and seventh-worst pitching staff in baseball continues to lose, he will have fired the winningest manager in franchise history, one of only two managers in Phillies history to win a World Series, only to reinforce the opinion the personnel is bad, regardless of who is filling out the lineup card and making the pitching changes. And who supplies the talent? Who makes the trades, the free agent signings, the roster moves? Who gave Manuel this roster? Amaro.
Once the season is finished it probably is time for a new voice, especially if the Phillies miss the postseason for the second consecutive year. Sometimes a change just needs to be made, and Manuel has had a heck of a run. But before the end of the season? I just don’t see Ryne Sandberg or anybody else markedly improving a team that on paper — injuries or not (everybody has them) — is one of the worst in baseball. Good or bad, Manuel has earned the right to finish the season. He shouldn’t be fired because the front office’s offseason moves haven’t worked to this point and some of his core players continue to decline.
The Phillies made that clear today at Citizens Bank Park, where Ruben Amaro Jr. said Halladay gets as long as he needs to correct himself, and Charlie Manuel said he is completely committed to his former ace.
Manuel offered an example of just how long his leash can be.
“You guys used to get on me about Brad Lidge,” he said, referring to Lidge’s 2009 season when he went 0-8 with a 7.21 ERA and 11 blown saves. “I used to look down there, and to me Brad Lidge was probably the best I had. If I was going to lose the game it was going to be Brad Lidge. I was committed to Brad Lidge. If I commit to you then I commit to you. And whatever happens is going to happen. That’s kind of how I look at it.”
Halladay has a ghastly 14.73 ERA through two starts, which follows struggles in Spring Training and struggles in 2012. He has allowed 12 hits, 12 runs, six walks, three home runs, one hit batter, two wild pitches and struck out 12 in just 7 1/3 innings this season.
Amaro and Manuel said they never considered holding back Halladay, having him pitch in extended Spring Training games before he was better prepared to pitch in the Phillies rotation. To have him pitch extended Spring Training games, the Phillies would have needed to place him on the disabled list, but Amaro said Halladay is not injured.
In fact, he said Halladay has not been on the team’s daily injury report once this year.
“Roy felt he was physically ready to go,” Amaro said. “There wasn’t anything real alarming.”
“Roy has earned the right to tell us how he feels, and how he wants to go about certain things when it comes to his routine and his pitching and things like that,” Manuel added. “We never once thought about shutting him down or nothing. I can tell you that. You know something else? Shutting him down ain’t the right way, either. I don’t see no way in the world, if he’s healthy and everything like that, we shut him down.”