It started out so nice, Ruben.
We met on an exciting night back in 2008 when the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series for the first time in two decades. You were there with then General Manager Pat Gillick. Ruben, you were young and the obvious successor to Gillick when he eventually retires — which happened that offseason.
Things between us Phillies fans and you started off so well, Ruben. We were all embracing the initial courting period of coming off a World Series win. The city of Philadelphia was looking forward to a nice run of World Series appearances hopefully culminating in multiple World Series titles.
Acquiring Cliff Lee the following summer was another great move to help the Phillies dominate the National League for the rest of that summer and beyond. Of course, we fell a little short against the New York Yankees that October, but adding Roy Halladay to the staff that offseason was just another smile on our faces.
After falling short again — this time at the hands of the San Francisco Giants in the National League Championship Series — there was still optimism, but much like the “seven-month point” of a budding relationship, we Phillies fans were just waiting for the other shoe to drop. That feeling tempered a bit with the 102-60 record in 2011, but getting bounced in the first round by the St. Louis Cardinals was the beginning of the end.
The rest of the league seemed to have passed us by after that year, Ruben. After the disastrously underwhelming 2011 season, the Phillies amassed 81 and 73 wins respectively after that season. Meanwhile, teams like the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants (twice) were winning World Series titles.
Here we are, now, Ruben. The Phillies are 100 games into this season, and have put together 43 wins. What happened, Ruben? You used to make us feel so good about the team’s future. Multiple National League East pennants and back-to-back World Series berths have been replaced by this team — a team that hardly anyone wants to see, anymore.
Many people in this town are now looking forward to the potential for the Philadelphia 76ers than the Phillies, Ruben. You’re talking about a team that won less than 20 games last year. That team’s fan base has more faith in their team than Phillies fans. Ruben. Doesn’t that seem crazy to you?
If it does, you only have yourself to blame to be honest.
Let’s start with the farm system — which has been completely depleted since you took over. Phillies fans understand why you did it. You wanted to keep the window of opportunity open a little bit longer with the first Cliff Lee trade, the Roy Halladay trade, and the Hunter Pence trade. We all knew an epic crash like this was coming, but the combination of depleting the farm system and questionable signings have gone hand in hand with this team’s demise.
Ruben, you get a pass on the Jason Werth non-signing. There was no reason to sign him to the kind of contract that he eventually got with the Washington Nationals. That would have been insane. The re-signing of Cliff Lee wasn’t a bad choice because you were planning to go into the season with an unstoppable trio of Lee, Halladay, and Cole Hamels. There was still a gaping hole offensively that could have been filled with a (then) 32-year-old Adrian Beltre. Not only would he have been a nice replacement to protect Ryan Howard, but he played third base — a position that was woefully unproductive.
The one signing I can not forgive you for — nor should any Phillies fan in their right mind — is the Jonathan Papelbon signing. Was it REALLY necessary to sign him to a four- year/$50 million contract? Ryan Madson converted 23 saves in 25 opportunities the previous year and only cost the Cincinnati Reds $8.5 million for one season. Ruben, you could have easily taken that extra money you didn’t use to sign Papelbon to get another player who would have made a lot more sense at the time — Yu Darvish.
A closer is only good when the team is winning games. Papelbon did have 38 saves in 42 opportunities, but the team only won 81 games due to aging talent and no viable replacements. Good starting pitching is always the better option, Ruben. As a Phillies fan, I couldn’t tell you how maddening it was to see Darvish go 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA followed by 13-9 with a 2.83 ERA and leading the majors in strikeouts.
Consider that the equivalent to the first really big fight of a relationship. Despair, anger, and general shock were all felt by me and a few other Phillies fans. (Perhaps none so venomously as myself, but that’s beside the point.)
This season is just the last straw, Ruben. This team that you’ve put together disappoints in every conceivable way. The core of this team (Utley, Howard, Rollins) is simply too old to produce in the levels of their former selves. This is a concept that you’ve never seemed to grasp. Once the window of opportunity was closing, it should have been a sign to move on and prepare for the next era of Phillies baseball — with or without you at the helm.
What you don’t do Ruben is sign a 36-year-old Marlon Byrd to a two-year, $16 million contract. You also don’t sign 37-year-old A.J. Burnett to a one-year, $16 million contract. This relationship between you and Philadelphia Phillies fans, Ruben, is getting stale and old at this point. Even when we want to spice up the relationship with the use of analytics, you simple scoff at the idea — despite most of the best teams in the league being on board with the new concepts of advanced analytics and scouting.
We’re now attracted to younger, more intriguing general managers. Oakland’s Billy Beane, San Francisco’s Brian Sabean, St. Louis’s John Mozeliak and Tampa Bay’s Andrew Friedman are the types of general managers that make our eyes and hearts swoon. Phillies fans are all but done with the Ruben Amaro Jr.’s and Brian Cashman’s of the world — guys who overpay for the wrong guy(s) rather than make the smarter decisions. Guys with plans make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
Ruben, we’ve been together for six years, now. It’s been a fun ride with all you’ve done. Phillies fans (including myself) hate to say it, but it’s time.
I promised myself I wouldn’t cry, Ruben. It’s not you. It’s me and Phillies fans everywhere who want to simply move on. We want better things for ourselves, and we just can’t get that with you, anymore.
(Actually, I lied. It’s absolutely you, Ruben. After six years, you’ve run this team all but into the ground. We simply can’t sit idle by and keep getting hurt by you.)
It’s over, Ruben.