Chronic Critics

Dajafi at The Good Phight has written a thought-provoking piece about suspending judgment on the Phillies’ off-season moves. Most of us in the Phillies blogosphere (including yours truly) were highly critical not only of most of Amaro’s dealings, but also of his hiring in the first place. In his year-plus as the Phillies’ GM, his record is a lot more impressive than ours (though I didn’t do so bad).

Daj notes that the Phillies are reported to be the favorites to land Mark DeRosa and have shown interest in Fernando Rodney, two players most statistically-inclined Phillies bloggers prefer to be passed over. He concludes his article thusly:

So when the Phils bring in Mark DeRosa, David Weathers, Brian Schneider and John McDonald as their big offseason additions, for once I’m going to try and keep the faith.

I certainly see his viewpoint and agree with him that there are just some things (probably a lot of things) that a GM is privy to that we bloggers are not. Whatever those things may be is certainly valuable in the evaluation of talent.

However, as we learned with Bill Belichick when he went for the first down on 4th-and-2 on his own 28-yard-line with 2:08 left and a six-point lead… you can’t judge a decision by what happens afterwards. Almost every honestly-performed statistical evaluation of the decision concludes that Belichick made the right decision.

Similarly, the game of poker — particularly Texas Hold’em — is riddled with instances of good decisions gone bad and vice versa. Last night, I played in a freeroll at a bar, and I had two instances of making extremely bad plays that worked out very well in my favor, one of which involved me bluffing all the way to the river only to back-door the nut flush.

Monday morning quarterbacks would say that I made the right decision to bluff all my chips away on the flop and turn even though I was clearly behind and should have had the discipline to realize that I was beat. Likewise, those Monday morning quarterbacks have maligned Belichick for his 4th-and-2 decision.

If we want to be scholarly in our evaluation of Amaro, we mustn’t resort to ex post facto evaluations. Even though Raul Ibanez was an MVP candidate in the first half of the 2009 season and was one of the Phillies’ most reliable hitters, that doesn’t mean that his three-year $31.5 million contract is now justifiable. He turned 37 in June last season, and most would agree that signing a player to a three-year contract with an average annual value of $10.5 million during his age 37, 38, and 39 seasons is ill-advised.

Overall, I agree that Amaro did a fantastic job rounding out the Phillies’ roster and for correctly evaluating his talent. Many, including myself, clearly underestimated him. However, let us not lose that critical eye we had last off-season. If Amaro does sign David Weathers and John McDonald, we should be just as critical of those acquisitions as we were of Ibanez and Jack Taschner. We need to be unwavering chronic critics.