As this 2012 Phillies season nears the halfway point, I am searching for proof that their General Manager is still alive and well. Other than the every few days health update for the walking wounded, do we have any proof that Ruben Amaro Jr. is actually still doing his job?
This season certainly hasn't gone the way anybody thought it would, especially Amaro Jr. When he traded Wilson Valdez back in January, he certainly couldn't have known that Chase Utley had a bad enough left knee that he would not play a game prior to June 27th. He couldn't have thought that through June 26th, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee would have 4 wins between them and Halladay would be on the 15 day DL. He couldn't have thought that Ryan Howard would still barely be running on June 25th after needing a second surgery on his repaired achilles tendon. He couldn't possibly think that, other than Jonathan Papelbon, the bullpen would have a combined ERA of 4.84 which ranks 29th in MLB.
Certainly Amaro Jr. can't take the blame then for the Phillies being nine games out after 74 games played, right? Well, let's examine the details of that 4.84 ERA from the bullpen. Amaro Jr. Went out and signed Papelbon to a 4 year 50 million dollar contract in the offseason, a record contract for a reliever. Other than him struggling in non save situations, he has been very good. He also brought in journeyman Chad Qualls to be a set-up man. This move has proved disasterous, as Qualls has struggled mightily in the first half. Antonio Bastardo has also struggled trying to adapt from a lefty specialist to a full 7th or 8th inning man. They have also had multiple season ending injuries to guys like Michael Stutes, David Herndon, and Jose Contreras.
This is where Amaro Jr. comes in. At a time where the team desperately needs a morale boost. Just when like Utley is coming back and Howard not too far either, this team needs badly to rely on its management to provide that boost. Not just in morale but in wins. Strong teams are won at the back end of the bullpen. Take Sunday's early game for example. Cole Hamels pitched very well for 7 innings. Charlie Manual was hoping to get Qualls and Bastardo through the 8th and have Papelbon close it out in the 9th. Bastardo proceeded to walk two and then give up a three run homer. This led to losing both ends of a double header and the series loss.
The bullpen deficency has been present all season, it's not new. Amaro Jr. needs to go out a get some help. Not from Jake Diekman, who appears to have good stuff, but clearly needs more minor league seasoning. He needs to go get a Brett Myers or another experienced arm. But this should have been done a month ago before 4-5 games have been given away at the hands of this deficient bullpen. Has the contract to Papelbon prevented the financial flexibility of years past to allow such moves? Only the GM knows why he has yet to act in attempt to save this sinking ship.
Now, as Halladay and Utley and Howard all start to come back and the real possibilty of the team stringing wins together, the reality of Manual having no one to go to between starter and Papelbon very well may prevent the seventh straight postseason for the Phils. Ruben Amaro Jr. has had and still has a chance to change that by making the first move(s) by imrpoving the bullpen immediately.
Rube, as one famous sports figure in this town loves to say, the time is yours. The only problem is that it is very quickly running out for 2012.