In a Philadelphia Inquirer column by Bob Ford on Wednesday, Philadelphia Phillies’ general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. argued that in order for the Phillies to contend next season they need to stay healthy. Amaro said, “The team we fielded the last third of the season was not our club. That wasn’t the expectation when we started the season last year…For better or worse, we invested in these guys because they were some of the best players in the game. And we felt if they stayed healthy, that core of players could sustain our ability to contend. If they weren’t going to be healthy, that’s what would cause problems.”
It’s obvious that losing players to injuries such as Ryan Howard and Roy Halladay will hurt your team, but it is a poor excuse for a disappointing season. Every team in baseball has to deal with injuries, to star players and key role players alike. The issue with the Phillies the past two seasons has not been too many injuries, but rather a lack of depth behind these players. Replacing a player such as Howard or Halladay is no easy task, but having someone behind them who is at least capable of preventing too steep of a drop off has to be a goal.
This is something that Amaro has failed to do during his time as general manager. Back in 2007 when the Phillies lost Chase Utley in August with a broken hand, Pat Gillick was able to bring in Tadahito Iguchi, who played great and helped to ease the loss of Utley. Amaro hasn’t been able to find players who can do what Iguchi did in Utley’s absence. Darin Ruf has the most potential to provide insurance in case of another injury to Howard, but he hasn’t shown that he can consistently hit major league pitching.
The team’s bench was once a strength but recently it has become a weakness. This was made obvious in Michael Martinez’s consistent presence on the bench the last two years. During his tenure as GM, Amaro often makes splashes, such as trades involving Cliff Lee, Halladay, and Hunter Pence; or signings such as bringing Lee back and Johnathon Papelbon. What Amaro often doesn’t do is sign competent role players. His more notable signings that aren’t established stars are older players such as Raul Ibanez, who had success, and Delmon Young. This trend has already been kept alive this offseason when Amaro brought Marlon Byrd back to Philadelphia.
It’s inevitable that players will be injured, whether it’s a Ryan Howard or a Kevin Fransden, and it is Amaro’s job to be prepared for such things to happen, and he simply hasn’t been. The Phillies issue is that they are relying too much on their high-paid stars not getting hurt, and once that happens, they are not properly prepared to continue the season without them. They don’t have the type of players they used to that could come in and offset the injuries to their stars, and until they do, it will take more than just the team staying healthy for the Phillies to contend.
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