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David Mayhew and Jesus Christ on Ruben Amaro

Posted by Michael Baumann, Sat, July 30, 2011 02:30 PM | Comments: 106
Opinion, Posts

"Consider the lilies of the field..."

Ruben Amaro, believe it or not, has much less of a vested interest in the Phillies’ long-term health than you and I. You see, even though, at age 46, he’ll be physically capable of running the Phillies for two decades, his attachment to the team comes from his five years with the organization as a major league outfielder and subsequent 13 years, up to and including today, as an assistant GM and general manager. It’s a professional association, the likes of which you might have with the law firm, or gas station, or department store, or accountant’s office that you work for. Because Amaro serves at the pleasure of the Phillies’ ownership, that association could (but almost certainly won’t) end tomorrow, or it could last another ten years. Nevertheless, Amaro is invested in the team for the duration of his career, however long it is.

You and I, however, are invested, as fans, for the duration of our lives. I’ve already put eighteen years into this franchise, and, God willing, I’ll put in fifty or more years of fandom in the future before I shuffle off the mortal coil, and I imagine that many of you are the same. In a sense, we ought to care about this team in a longer term than its players, its management, and perhaps even its owners do.

This is all a very roundabout way of saying that the trade the Phillies made last night, sending Jonathan Singleton, Jarred Cosart, Josh Zeid, and a player to be named later to the Astros for outfielder Hunter Pence, is an example of how aware Ruben Amaro is of his own professional mortality. Considering how ballistic I went yesterday about the possibility of trading for Pence, you might be curious about what I think about the trade. Well, let me say that if I could copy-and-paste Matthew Pouliot’s take on the trade over at Hardball Talk and use it as my own, I would. That’s exactly how I feel. However, there is something to be said for not giving up Domonic Brown. It certainly moves the trade, in my mind, from homicidal rampage-worthy, to a D+. Of course, the scuttlebutt is that Domonic Brown will be sent to the minors to make room for Pence, while the team would be better served by sending Ben Francisco or Ross Gload down and benching Raul Ibanez. So maybe that lowers the grade to a D for the time being. Either way, not the end of the world.

What this trade does prove is that Amaro, and indeed most individuals whose job security is tied to public opinion, is more concerned with the present than what happens a few years down the road. Yale University professor David Mayhew, one of the leading minds in American electoral politics, wrote the following in his 1974 book Congress: The Electoral Connection:

“Fenno assigns three prime goals to congressmen–getting reelected but also achieving influence within Congress and making “good public policy”…Anyone can point to contemporary congressmen whose public activities are not obviously reducible to the electoral explanation…Yet, saints aside, the electoral goal has an attractive universality to it. It has to be the proximate goal of everyone, the goal that must be achieved over and over if other ends are to be entertained. One former congressman writes, ‘All members of Congress have a primary interest in getting re-elected. Some members have no other interest.’ Reelection underlies everything else, as indeed it should if we are to expect that the relation between politicians and public will be one of accountability.”

This is why pork barrel spending happens, and why both parties will leave political problems unsolved for the sake
of having an electoral drum to beat on the campaign trail. In politics, the common good often runs counter to the primary goal of reelection, but in baseball, this is not the case.

The men who own the Phillies, Amaro’s employers, are in the business to make money. In return for their money, the Phillies’ fans and sponsors expect wins, or at the very least, entertainment. The entire baseball operations side of the team, from Amaro to Charlie Manuel to the players, scouts, and medical staff, was hired for the purpose of pursuing the aforementioned money-making wins. If Amaro fails, or anyone in baseball operations fails, at achieving that goal, he will be fired, as evidenced by the team’s recent dismissal of Danys Baez.

Of course, through two years and change at the helm, Amaro has won two division titles and one NL pennant, and is on pace to repeat those results this year. By anyone’s standards, he’s been doing a great job of fielding a winning team, and the attendance and financial numbers back that up. However, Mayhew’s theory looms large over Amaro, who must continue to win in order to keep his job. The acquisition of Pence, for the immediate future, absolutely and unquestionably makes the Phillies a better team in the short term, and increases their chances of winning the World Series this year, at the expense of doing so for a long period of time in the future.

What’s at work here could be the kind of mentality detailed by Phuture Phillies here. To oversimplify the argument (you really need to read the post to fully understand it), to a big-market team, prospects are largely fungible currency to be traded for known stars, and that that process is a sustainable one, allowing a team such as the Phillies, Red Sox, or Yankees to continuously roll over its roster and contend indefinitely. I agree with the premise of that argument, though not unreservedly (for instance, it would have been hard for the Red Sox to roll over from their World Series team in 2004 to 2007 if they’d traded Dustin Pedroia, Jonathan Papelbon, and Kevin Youkilis as prospects for only above-average veterans). I think a far simpler logic is at work here, and, funnily enough, it has divine underpinnings:

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” –Matthew 6:34

I would never accuse Ruben Amaro of purposely throwing away the Phillies’ chances at winning the 2015 World Series, saying “Let the next guy deal with that mess.” However, there is a sense of “tomorrow will take care of itself” in trading two potential stars for a player who is merely adequate. Singleton and Cosart contributed nothing to the Phillies this season, and likely would not contribute significantly for another couple years. So why not cash them in for someone who would? That way, Ruben’s solved an immediate problem by creating one that he has about three years to deal with.

Of course, I’d argue that the problem he solved was not concerning enough to excuse the one he’s created, but from a standpoint of winning in the near future, Ruben’s done well. He’s not being judged on the distant future until that future happens, if he’s even judged on it at all.

Trading for Hunter Pence is the action of a man who is, for whatever reason, more concerned with comparatively small problems in the present than big ones in the future. To be clear, that’s not a statement that carries any normative weight; it’s simply a statement of fact that illustrates how Ruben Amaro operates. There’s nothing wrong with putting off future issues, as long as those issues are dealt with in their own time. Christ may have said that tomorrow will take care of itself, but He didn’t say anything of the kind about the 2014 Phillies.

Avatar of Michael Baumann

About Michael Baumann

Michael Baumann has written 229 articles on Phillies Nation.

Michael is a graduate student at Temple University who lost his childlike innocence when, at the age of 6, his dad let him stay up for the end of Game 6 of the 1993 World Series. Unsettled by the Phillies' recent success, he has threatened over the years to leave the team he loves if they don't start losing again, but has so far been unable to follow through. Michael spent 4 years as an undercover agent in Braves territory at the University of South Carolina, where he covered football and soccer for The Daily Gamecock before moving back up north. He began writing for The Phrontiersman in June 2009 before moving to Phillies Nation in January 2010.

 
 
  • Posts: 0 TheDipsy

    Chuck – this is like our own little debt ceiling negotiation. If you admit that Ibanez sucks a VAST MAJORITY of the time, I think I can take that to my people and agree that I will refrain from taking his name in vain for the rest of the season. Please be the poster that says “yes”.

    The Dipsy

     
  • Posts: 2980 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    Dipsy, it really depends on your definition of “VAST”. The way you worded it , “A VAST” vs. the way you could have worded it, “THE VAST”, are two completely interpretations of the word vast. “A vast” suggests that he sucks sometimes, in stretches or periods of time, leaving other stretches where he performs well….. “A” period of time or times.

    Now if you would have worded it “THE vast” it would mean that you are suggesting that Raul sucks MOST or ALL of the time. “THE” seems to imply more of a whole rather than a part.

    It sort of reminds me of when Bill Clinton looked into the camera and said, “It depends on what your defininition of the word ‘IS’ is”….referring, of course, to what just kind of extra-curricular activities he engaged in with one sort-of-attractive White House intern.

    Bottom line is, I can agree that Raul sucks during “A” chunk or chunks of time…..but not during other chunks of time when he actually plays quite well. Gotta leave the word “MAJORITY” out for me when referring to the entire season, but can concede that it can be included when referring to certain stetches of time.

    Ball’s in your court, Counselor…

     
  • Posts: 19 Moondog

    Avatar of Moondog

    Has anyone here actually seen Cosart and Singleton play? I have. Neither one of these guys stands out. This obsession and it is an obsession with minor leaguers is amazing. You win now and guess what.Unheralded guys like Bastardo, Stutes and Worley show up and make great contributions. Keith Law and Sabermetic freaks are morons.

     
  • Posts: 959 betasigmadeltashag

    Avatar of betasigmadeltashag

    You re simpel way off base, These two big names we traded away were at least 2 -3 years away from getting to the majors. You now have a RF who hits 25 HR a year and hits around .300 for two plus years, if not more for a reasonable amount of money. This gives you two years to find prospects, drafts to fill in for the two guys we lost. I would bet that all of you thinking he has sacrificed the future are the same people who complained about trading Lee for prospects because he wanted to get some young prospects for the minors. YOu can not have it both ways, and just to throw this in there, the guys we got for Lee the first time are doing pretty well, and most of you ranted about how bad these guys were. So these guys do worry about what they leave behind because in their circles legacy matters. I do not think they gave too much up. Even if in 5 years singleton is hitting 40 HR and 130 rbis and batting 300. This FO will find other guys in the next two years who may do the same

     
  • Posts: 161 therookie300

    Avatar of therookie300

    Nice gameday thread and recap. What’s with this site anymore? The damn thing finally started working on my phone correctly and all I get to read is this gibberish article.

     
  • Posts: 0 Jeff

    @therookie. Best post ever. This site is horrible. The other blog is much better. We get this loser thread. We just had pence play and Howard kill it and we get nothing. I’m out.

     
  • Posts: 0 Tony

    Come on man, how could you post this article? It’s just rediculous, you can never predict the future of prospects. Just because they look like Joe DiMaggio in the minors doesn’t mean they will against the halladays and lincecums of the league. This is one of the worst posts I’ve seen here in a while- clearly an upset person (for some reason) who should not be representing an ball club’s blog. It’s embarrassing for me as a Phillies fan. With these players, you have to give them a shot at the series. Do you watch the games? If you do, you would have noticed the team’s energy last night. Making these deals is not just for the sake of “job security,” but also sends a message to the other 24 guys in the clubhouse- we’re here to win this.

    I don’t know, this post made me chuckle a bit because of it’s stupidity. If these two prospects become something 5 years from now, then okay. But all the other guys we’ve traded in the past 4 years? So far the blanton, lee and Oswald trades are looking pretty good. So stop whining immaturely and enjoy every pitch and at bat we have left this season. It’s one for the ages, the future will take care of itself.

     
  • Posts: 0 Tony

    Oswalt*

     
  • Posts: 1435 Pat Gallen

    Avatar of Pat Gallen

    So now this site is horrible because we missed one gameday thread? Get off it people.

    People have differing opinions and Mike’s opinion was this. So now the entire site is horrible because of one man’s opinion. Whatever you all say.

    Go PHILLIES!

     
    • Posts: 2980 Chuck A.

      Avatar of Chuck A.

      Way to go, Pat !! While I don’t particularly care for Michael’s style of writing and REALLY didn’t like this article, he 1) IS entitled to his opinion and 2) DID spark some good debate. The point is if we all agreed all the time….there would be no need for a blog. And the fact that there was no Game Day thread?? So freaking what!! Just use the latest active thead to put down your comments. It sort of reminds me of the parent that runs out of their child’s favorite juice and the child throws a fit instead of just drinking another kind of juice until the parent gets to the store.

      So when can we expect TODAY’S GameDay thread to be up? (just kidding)

      Go Phillies!! And how bout that Hunter Pence guy??

       
    • Posts: 161 therookie300

      Avatar of therookie300

      It just seems convenient that there was no gameday thread or recap after a big move like this that the writer of the previous article disagreed with. Some of us were actually looking for this to discuss the newest member of our Phillies team and his impact on that team while the game was happening.

      I won’t say conspiracy, but…………

       
  • Posts: 1435 Pat Gallen

    Avatar of Pat Gallen

    There was a scheduling mistake yesterday which is why there was no gameday or recap. No conspiracy, I assure you that.

    It was inconvenient for us because we screwed up.

     
    • Posts: 0 Andrew from Waldorf

      My gameday theory was a JOKE

      @ Pat you are good people.
      And I dont kiss ass to anyone. Never have never will.

       
  • Posts: 1435 Pat Gallen

    Avatar of Pat Gallen

    The gameday thread for today is up and there will be a recap.
    We apologize for upsetting anyone.

     
  • Posts: 2980 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    @therookie… “Conspiracy” ?? You’re joking, right?? If you wanted to “discuss………as the game was happening” just use the existing thread. Is that hard to figure out?

     
    • Posts: 161 therookie300

      Avatar of therookie300

      The powers that be answered the question. Everything is all good.

      GO PHILS!!!

       
  • Posts: 0 Jose

    I personally believe the whole phillies organization is in a win over then next three years mode. Charlie is 67. Bill Giles has been around since the declaration of independence, the ownership group is literally dying… However the ownership group is pumping money to pay for this payroll. With all of these sellouts the phillies will never been the Houston Astros or Cleveland Indians. So in 2015 and beyond the phillies will still be in a position to have a 140 million dollar payroll at worst.

     
  • Posts: 0 WAIVEHOWARDNOW

    very well articulated point of view. Glad someone here realizes Pence is little more than a glorified Josh Willingham

     
  • Posts: 0 Rodney Aldena

    These writers are wack. They say Raul should be benched?? Did u see him today? Like seriously. And that we can keep him under contract until 2013, and we didnt give up any major leagers. U have to give a better grade on the trade.

     
 
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