Ruben Amaro: Frozen in Time
Many Phillies fans have been left perplexed after the off-season GM Ruben Amaro has had, acquiring mostly older players (Michael Young, Mike Adams, Chad Durbin) and signing outfielder Delmon Young, a once-heralded prospect who has turned into one of baseball’s biggest scumbags. Tracing each decision to a logical beginning is nigh on impossible if you don’t have the story – the story that left Amaro… frozen in time.
THE YEAR IS 2008. THE PHILLIES HAVE recently completed their parade through Philadelphia, thanking the fans for their support and brandishing their new trophy. Pat Gillick, as promised, stepped aside from his role as general manager after three years of service. Early in November, following some brief interviews, the Phillies decide to progress with Ruben Amaro, Jr. as their new GM.
Amaro, a former Phillie himself between 1992-93 and ’96-98, represented a new era of Phillies baseball, one that was expected to include an enormous amount of prosperity. With a chokehold on the NL East and as the defending world champs, Amaro simply needed to add seasoning to a delicious entree. The Minor League system was flush with talent, such as Domonic Brown and Travis D’Arnaud. The core of the team was under 30 and in its prime, while the complementary players were a mixture of younger players with upside and veterans with lots of experience.
Something strange happened one day during the winter before the team became active in the free agent market. At the end of November, Amaro traded prospect Greg Golson to the Texas Rangers for John Mayberry, Jr., a seemingly innocuous trade. Nevertheless, Amaro stayed at the office late that night to finish up some analysis of other players he was targeting. The yellow light from the desk lamp reflected off of a laptop screen displaying a plethora of numbers organized in a spreadsheet and several charts.
Having pecked away at his laptop keyboard for hours, Amaro’s back began to feel tight, so he got up to stretch and gaze out of his window onto the busy Philadelphia streets under the shade of night. Suddenly, a faint whirring noise captured his attention. Ignoring it at first, Amaro kept staring out of his window, thinking about the future. But the whirring got louder and louder, as if a large computer was being turned on for the first time.
Turning around, Amaro strode towards the hallway, but the whirring stopped. The hallway completely devoid of human life, Amaro eyed the janitor’s closet, slightly ajar.
“Weird,” Amaro thought. “The janitor is usually so good about locking up when he’s done.”
Amaro placed his hand on the door to close it, when the whirring started again. Expecting a rodent, perhaps sitting on the trigger of a battery-operated screwdriver, Amaro swung the door open, revealing a room overflowing with LED lights – red, green, white, you name it. The lights came from a large mechanical structure positioned between two shelves stocked with cans of paint, bug spray, and various cleaning solutions.
Cautiously, Amaro stepped inside the closet to examine his new finding, pulling a shoestring dangling from the ceiling to turn on a light. He slowly ran his hand over the surface, cold and metallic. Stopping at a nameplate, he read, “Freezeatron 3000” with the subtitle, “The World’s First Time Travel Device”.
“What a cool prop from a movie set,” Amaro thought to himself, smirking. “Why would he keep it in his closet, though?”
Sliding his fingers under a black latch, Amaro pried a door open, seemingly big enough for a typical human body. Amaro had no intention of actually putting himself inside the device, despite his skepticism of the device’s authenticity.
Having solved the mystery of the whirring noise, Amaro pulled the shoestring above him once more to shut the light off and return to his office. In the darkness, however, Amaro did not see the mop that had slid down slightly near the door. Stepping on the wooden handle, Amaro lost his balance, slamming back-first into the shelf. A can of paint from the highest level rolled over the edge onto Amaro’s head, knocking him unconscious while his body flailed back towards the time machine. His body crashed against the back of the device with the door closing shut in front of him.
The display on the front read, “Now Traveling: December 2012”. The LED’s flashed sequentially as Amaro’s body lay completely still, slumped over inside the device.
. . .
THE YEAR IS 2013. THE PHILLIES HAVE missed the playoffs for the first time since 2006, after a disappointing trend of post-season disappointment. The team lost the World Series in ’09, lost the NLCS in ’10, and the NLDS in ’11 before missing out entirely in the past season.
Amaro was rescued out of the device by the janitor the next morning, but by then, it was too late. Amaro had traveled five years in the future, owning only the knowledge available to him at the present time. He was creating a new reality.
In early December, Amaro found in an old pair of slacks – the pair he was wearing on that fateful night – his pocket notebook. He had a habit of jotting down his thoughts in that notebook while he was watching his players take batting practice, on the phone, and even watching TV. His last entry was from November 2008 and read:
Players to Target
RP Mike Adams (Padres): age 29, 2.48 ERA, lots of K’s, few BB’s
IF Michael Young (Rangers): age 31, had a bad year (might be cheap?), good contact, versatile
RP Chad Durbin (Phillies): helped us win WS, remember to give gift (watch??)
OF Delmon Young (Twins): age 23, hit .290 with 10 HR, lots of potential
OF Ben Revere (Twins): age 21, .930 OPS with 44 SB in A ball, can’t-miss prospect
IF Yuniesky Betancourt (Mariners): ?????
The notes, of course, referred to the players’ age and stats after the 2008 season. A lot changed in five years though, particularly that everyone was five years older and past their prime, for the most part. Amaro, not realizing his notes were anachronistic, was happy to have found them. He put it back in his coat pocket, then left his home to head to his office.
After settling in to his office, Amaro booted up his laptop as he always does, to read baseball news over a hot cup of coffee. The words “Phillies 2013 Needs” were emblazoned at the top of his browser, the title of an article he found on Bleacher Report. Unable to recall much of anything that happened in the last five years, he figured he would quickly skim it for a refresher. Taken in by the slideshow format, a concept until then completely foreign to him, he excitedly wrote down the titles of each slide, then called an impromptu meeting with his staff.
Standing before a large wood table with the shiniest of finishes, populated by older men in similar black suits, Amaro began to write on a dry-erase board.
“Needs”. He drew several emphatic lines underneath.
“Relief pitching” was the first category. Turning to his staff, he said, “we don’t have any veteran presence in our bullpen.” Having copied directly from Bleacher Report, he wrote, “veteran presents” on the whiteboard.
“Fortunately, I have identified a couple players that may help us in that regard.” Amaro directed attention to a PowerPoint slide with the photos of both Mike Adams and Chad Durbin. “These guys are veterans with experience and could really give us a boost.”
One of his staff members meekly raised a hand. “Um, while Adams and Durbin have had success in the past, don’t you think relying on some of our younger players would be a better, more cost-effective idea? Antonio Bastardo and Phillippe Aumont can do what those guys can do for a fraction of the price.”
The names Bastardo and Aumont not registering in Amaro’s memory, he stared at his objector blankly for several pregnant seconds before moving on.
“Outfield”. The PowerPoint slide updates with pictures of Delmon Young and Ben Revere. Amaro continues, “Here are a couple guys that should absolutely be in our crosshairs. Young’s ceiling is sky-high and Revere looks like he’s going to be a future stud. Can’t believe what he just did in A-ball. We need both of them after losing Shane Victorino and that other guy.” An image of Jayson Werth briefly flashes in Amaro’s mind.
Amaro’s staff, sensing something was amiss, looked at each other with raised eyebrows. The GM continued his praise of the two outfielders. They could not bear to watch, instead burying their eyes in the manila folders in front of them on the table. One advisor texted to another, “Do you think I should tell him about the whole anti-Semite thing with Delmon?” but got no reply.
Despite his staff’s best efforts to get him up to date, Amaro continued to sing the praises of players whose best years had come before his course-altering encounter with the time machine. Behind his back, his staff expressed concern with the GM’s well-being and discussed ways they could compensate for his mental instability.
It was no use. By January 28, Amaro had acquired every player on his list. Proud, he would joke with his staff about how many wins the Phillies would have in 2013, usually starting in the high 120’s, but “settling” in the 110’s. Meanwhile, statistical projections pegged the Phillies as a sub-.500 team.
. . .
THE YEAR IS 3013. THE PHILLIES HAVE not been around since the great meteorite wiped out most of civilization back in 2037. Amaro had accidentally fallen into the time machine again. Climbing atop a pile of rubble that was once Citizens Bank Park, Amaro reached into the pocket of his blazer to retrieve his notebook. The last entry was from November 2013 and read:
Darin Ruf: Give watch???
Kevin Frandsen: Give watch???
Michael Young: Give watch???
Chad Durbin: Give watch???
It continued onto the next page, the ramblings of a syphilitic brain.
Amaro kicked aside some dirt and rocks, revealing the corner of an old newspaper encased in a sturdy frame that once hung on the wall in his office. He dusted it off to reveal the date: October 24, 2013. A picture of Delmon Young and Yuniesky Betancourt hugging sat below the headline, “Phillies Win World Series.”
Amaro smiled, then collapsed into unconsciousness from the sulfuric atmosphere.