Apparently the rules of the world now include a moratorium on all sports discussion on the internet that doesn’t involve some sort of anger at Joe Paterno and Penn State. I apologize for violating that moratorium.
The good folks over at The Good Phight have a device called the Ruben Amaro, Jr. Smug Advisory System, a machine that does exactly what the name would suggest. I bring this up because on Monday Rube produced possibly the most smug, self-satisfied utterance ever attributed to a major league general manager. Asked about his pursuit of a closer, Amaro said the following:
I imagine Amaro sitting around a long table with reporters and other Phillies brass while making this statement. In fact, I’ve illustrated my mental image of the scene for you:
But when that statement was followed by rumors of a four-year, $44 million contract extension for Ryan Madson, I had an idea. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with RAJ refusing to characterize his negotiations. He’s doing his level best to construct a winning team and it really shouldn’t matter to him what we think. I actually kinda like the arrogance. I’m actually looking forward to the day when this happens at a press conference. In fact, I am so inspired by his refusal to characterize his negotiations that I’m thinking about doing the same.
I’ve been playing a lot of FIFA 12 recently, mostly in Manager Mode. I have a Manager Mode going with Arsenal, and three years in I found myself winning the league title but having constructed a team with a lot of redundancies and a few weaknesses. In soccer, as you may or may not know, players generally aren’t traded man-for-man, but their contracts are sold. So when Real Madrid acquired Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United in 2009, they didn’t send players in the other direction, they agreed with Man U on a price and cut them a check–a $132 million check–to purchase Ronaldo’s contract.
Well, because I couldn’t trade, say, Aaron Ramsey and Kieran Gibbs, for draft picks, I sold them. Other teams offered me ridiculous sums of money for players I would have otherwise kept, and I sold them too. So I wound up approaching the transfer deadline with a team I was mostly comfortable with, and $350 million to spend on players. So I bought. Without regard for how good a deal I was getting or how my new purchases might fit in with my team. Or a regard for the possibility that the money might I did this because it’s a video game and if my team blows up I can just start over.
This, I’ve come to realize, is how Ruben Amaro conducts his business. Let’s give an eight-figure contract to an aging utilityman. Let’s give one of the richest contracts in major league history to the third-best first baseman in his free agent class. Two and a half years before he hits free agency. Let’s develop one of the top pitchers in the league from the minors. Then trade for another. Then trade him, and bring in another top pitcher. Then trade for another top pitcher. Then sign the first pitcher you traded for but traded away as a free agent. Let’s let a power-hitting outfielder walk, then sign an older, worse player to a longer, more expensive contract.
Let’s develop a great young relief pitcher, but then sign an older relief pitcher to a contract the length and value of which send Braves fans into fits of laughter. Let’s develop a great young outfielder, then bench him in favor of Pittsburgh Pirates castoffs. Because we can.
Now, not all of those moves turned out badly. But it’s become evident to me that Ruben Amaro is working with only slightly more foresight and introspection than a two-year-old looking for something to brace himself against while he soils his diaper.
So my response is to follow our fearless leader’s example and refuse to characterize his negotiations. From now on, I’ll evaluate only, after the fact, rather than trying to predict or offer alternatives, because, frankly, trying to predict the actions of a general manager with a video game mentality is driving me slowly to distraction.