Chase Utley About To Bail Out Ruben Amaro?
To date, Ruben Amaro's 2012 fan report card would be stuffed with whiffs and gaffes in free agency, impulsivity for giving players bank he shouldn't have, shortsightendess for banking on players he shouldn't have. These Phillies, being in this hole, you'd put on him. Squarely.
But today's Wednesday. Chase Utley's due back today.
Oh, how the narrative is about to change. Wait for it.
At some point, the Phillies are going to make a run. Could be four games, their current season-high. Could be more. Could be later. But could be sooner. Could be the rest of the way against the Pirates. Could be the rest of the way of the first half of the season, 9-of-11 of which are against division opponents.
Then comes the All-Star Break.
Then comes back Ryan Howard, per reports today that, pending an exam with team doctors Wednesday, Howard could start a rehab assignment that would land him back in the bigs (or to the DL) no later than July 17. Between now and then, the Phils have 16 games against teams with a .487 win percentage -- six of them teams between the themselves and the Nationals, who lead the division by eight games.
Trying to tell me the Phils can't make this interesting that quick?
Then what happens? Where does the credit fall? Some to Utley, who'll be trumpeted as the savior to not only the spirits of the team, but to the soft spot gashed by Freddy Galvis bum back and bummish PED suspension. Some to Howard, as a formality. Some to Manuel, for keeping his cool (most of the time), a contagion that's helped his players do the same.
The rest to Amaro. Book it.
Think about it. If the Phils make this interesting -- just interesting -- Amaro will have succeeded with the one and only responsibility he was charged: keeping this thing together until Utley and Howard get back. That's it. That's all it ever was. Keeping the Phils within striking distance of the top of the division and the bottom of the NL bracket. If the Phillies can halve their NL East hole by the time Howard gets back? Mission, accomplished. Signing Jim Thome and Juan Pierre and Ty Wigginton will have proven worth the frustrating moments we agonized over, because of all the times their veteran poise and role playerdom went unnoticed, but mattered. (Especially since there wasn't much else the guy had to work with in the ankle-deep 2011 free agent waters.) Outbidding himself for Johnathan Papelbon will have proven worth it, because hey, you never know? Least you locked him (and his 18-1 save record in 2012) up. Re-signing Jimmy Rollins will get lopped up into the all-in investment in now, which, now, still gives you a chance.
Save for Dom Brown mashing a walk-off bomb in Game 7 of the World Series, it really couldn't get much better for Amaro, assuming this thing works out. If it doesn't, will you really blame him? Will you really put injuries to Utley and Howard on him? (Even though you can.) Will you really put not having a contingency plan for it on him? (Even though you should.) Probably not. In all likelihood, we'll chalk this up as a teachable moment, that all sports dynasties come to an end, and to be ready when it happens. That this was natural, inevitable. That only now can we really appreciate the last five years, most of which you'll chalk up as a success for Amaro.
Which, yeah, would kind of prove a failure for the franchise. Would totally powder and lipstick the guy's misdoings throughout. Dealing accountability and consequences for underperformance out of the clubhouse. Loading what was already league's second-priciest payroll. Running Utley into the ground. Failing to properly, patiently, progressively turn the roster over. Basically the same thing that happened on Wall Street, except here, Amaro's sidestepping all the SEC filings and economic recoil.
Maybe Amaro will learn from this. Maybe it will scare him straight. Teach him discipline. Instill a longview. Something. Anything.
If not, well...