Revisiting Amaro over Arbuckle – Phillies Nation

Revisiting Amaro over Arbuckle

Completely forgot I wrote this in November 2008, but @GTown_Dave on twitter sent it to me, reminding me of that under-the-radar move. The move was choosing Ruben Amaro over Mike Arbuckle to take over for Pat Gillick as GM of the Phillies. Amaro got the job, Arbuckle moved to Kansas City, and here we are today.

I wrote this nearly five years ago for

On Monday, the Philadelphia Phillies announced their new General Manager, the man who would take over for the legendary Pat Gillick.  Ruben Amaro Jr., just 43, is the new GM for the World Champion Phillies, filling in for Gillick who has won three titles in that position.

It’s a feel good story for Amaro, who in 1980 was a batboy, winning a championship with the team in quite a different capacity.  He now gets to take over for the top franchise in baseball and will have a busy first off-season ahead of him as players like Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels look for big-time raises and Pat Burrell becomes a free agent.

With the promotion of Amaro, an assistant GM for 10 seasons with the Phils, Mike Arbuckle will be leaving the team.  Arbuckle, an assistant General Manager himself, was also considered for the position before the Phillies’ decision to go with Amaro.

Arbuckle has been in baseball since 1979, when he entered the game as a scout.  In 1992 he took over as the Phillies Director of Scouting and just two years later was promoted to assistant GM.  One of the main cogs behind this championship season, Arbuckle is responsible for drafting Howard, Hamels and Burrell along with Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Madson, and Brett Myers.

He is from the Kansas City area, and there are rumors around the league that he may join the Royals in some capacity. His departure would be huge, and may even be the biggest loss of the season.  This guy has been with the Phillies for nearly two decades and knows the Phillies system inside and out.  Amaro himself has been with the franchise for a while too, but he is not as seasoned as Arbuckle.

Baseball America had Arbuckle ranked as the third best GM prospect in 2003.  Five years have passed since then and Arbuckle is still an assistant, so its understandable that he wants his shot at losing the assistant moniker.

While it was great to see Amaro’s promotion, it is just as alarming to see Arbuckle leave like this.  He perhaps should have been the leading candidate, but the Phils brass chose to move along with younger blood.  Keep an eye on Arbuckle’s whereabouts during the off-season.  Just a week removed from a title, the Phillies are undergoing their first bout with in-house turmoil.

So, looking back, was it the right move to choose Amaro over Arbuckle?



  1. Phil Ease

    August 14, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    I don’t know enough about KC’s drafts, trades, re-signings, and FA signings to compare the two, but my gut tells me that no, the Phillies did not make the right choice.

  2. Johnny Goodtimes

    August 14, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    I assume this was a rhetorical question. Amaro has taken a perennial powerhouse and turned them into one of the most hopeless franchises in baseball. They have a bad farm system, an ancient team, and a ton of crippling contracts. It will be years before they turn this train wreck around, and the turnaround cannot begin until they fire Amaro, which may not happen anytime soon. Meanwhile, they let the genius go who was responsible for Howard, Madson, Rollins, Burrell, Utley, Hamels, Kendrick, Bourn, JD Drew, and Scott Rolen. And the result has been a full fledged disaster that we have not seen the bottom of yet. In 5 short years, the Phils have gone from World Champions to one of the most hapless franchises in baseball, and it’s primarily because they made the terrible decision to hire Amaro instead of Arbuckle.

    • schmenkman

      August 14, 2013 at 1:21 pm

      You’re saying Arbuckle would have made good trades and FA signings because he was good at drafting? Not sure the two have much to do with each other. Amaro has had his issues, but maybe Arbuckle would have been worse. Or maybe they wouldn’t have gone to the playoffs in 2009, ’10, or ’11, but would be more competitive this year and have a better farm.

      • Johnny Goodtimes

        August 14, 2013 at 1:37 pm

        Fair point. I’m saying that Arbuckle proved that he was a genius, and he knew the Phillies organization better than anyone. No way of knowing if he pulls the trigger on the Cliff Lee or Halladay deals, but the team had enough talent and played in a weak enough division to that I can’t imagine them missing the playoffs those three years by maintaining the status quo and us assuming Arbuckle made minor tweaks instead of flashy big name signings. And I really, really doubt that we’d be in such a dire position today.

      • schmenkman

        August 14, 2013 at 2:00 pm

        In 2009 they won the division by 6 games — do they still win it without Lee? maybe. WIthout Lee and Ibanez? I don’t know.

        In 2010 they won also won by 6 games — do they still win it without Oswalt? maybe. Without Oswaldt and Halladay? doubtful

        In 2011 they won by 13 games — do they still win it Lee and Halladay and (yes, even) Pence? maybe.

      • Carlos Danger

        August 14, 2013 at 5:27 pm

        In 2010, all RAJ had to do was keep Lee at well below market value and he wouldn’t have had to re-sign Blanton to that awful three year contract, and he wouldn’t have had to make the Oswalt deal during the summer. He could have gone into the season with a rotation led by Halladay, Lee, and Hamels. The Phillies would then still have Villar (age 22) and Gose (age 23) instead of the lackluster return they received from Seattle for Lee.

      • schmenkman

        August 14, 2013 at 5:33 pm

        Sure, but it’s been described by “knowledgeable sources” as that he was told he could have either Lee or Halladay, and not both.

    • Joecatz

      August 14, 2013 at 2:27 pm

      Arbuckle was great at drafting. That’s it. He didn’t have nearly the experience with the operationa side of things as Amaro and both were and are VERY traditional minded executives.

      Trades may have been different, signings different, who knows. But the basic end game and lack of analytics would have likely led to a similar path.

      • Mike B.

        August 14, 2013 at 4:25 pm

        Looking back at the past few years’ drafts is enough to give me the answer. If both of them are about equal with regard to trades, signings, and avoidance of advanced analytics, at least give me the guy who can spot talent.

    • Dennis DC

      August 15, 2013 at 6:39 am

      Breaks my heart to see the Phillies make bad decisions over my lifetime time and time again. I admire franchises like StLouis ,NY Yankees ,Boston all the time.

  3. Kent

    August 14, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    Should Amaro take the fall for this season?

    I guess Amaro have foreseen the injures to Halladay, Howard, Revere and others?

    • Hogey's Role

      August 14, 2013 at 2:33 pm

      well most people could have told you last year halladay wasn’t right and should have had surgery then and possibly could have been ready for this year… Howard was a different injury than last year, Idk if it is all his knee now, but the way he ran this year it wouldn’t appear that his Achilles is fully healed yet, which it does take a very long time for the Achilles to fully heal…

      However all of that being said I can’t lay all the blame on amaro.

    • Doug

      August 14, 2013 at 4:28 pm

      Great point!! The Phillies were the hottest team in Baseball at the all-star break. Then bang, Revere, Brown, Howard go down with injury. NOT Amaro’s fault there!!

    • hk

      August 14, 2013 at 4:48 pm


      How many games have the Phils lost to injury this year? How does that compare to the other 29 teams? I ask you because you are the one who always comes up with statistics that I can never find.

      • schmenkman

        August 14, 2013 at 5:26 pm

        I honestly didn’t have the faintest, but after some searching, I found a site that has “games lost” data. Some of it is just wrong (Lee and Hamels lost 90 games each?), but if it makes the same errors across teams it’s somewhat useful. It also doesn’t put any value on the player, so a game lost by MiniMart is no different from a game lost by Utley.

        Having said all that, the site shows that Phillies have the 9th most games lost in MLB this year.

      • hk

        August 14, 2013 at 5:57 pm


        Thanks, man, but I found that site, too. Unfortunately, they count a man game lost as any game in which a player – healthy or injured – does not player. That’s why Lee and Hamels have missed so many. They assume that all of the noise (i.e. starting pitchers missing games when it’s not their turn) evens out, but I’m not sure it does. I just don’t buy the injury excuse for this year’s team or this GM, especially coming off last year when older players like Halladay and Howard also missed significant time.

    • rednick261

      August 14, 2013 at 5:00 pm

      No one can foresee injuries. However, the lack of interest in advanced statistics led to what was possibly the most colossal failure of a contract in NL history: the Ryan Howard extension. Should Howard have gotten a big deal? Sure. Should the Phillies have made him a franchise player? Sure. Should he have gotten the deal he did, with the years he did, with the AAV that he did given the regression in his stats, his frame, and his age. Should he be held accountable for the biggest albatross in the NL? Yes.

      • schmenkman

        August 14, 2013 at 5:20 pm

        “given the regression in his stats” — over-reached on that one, perhaps, though the rest is valid

        I also don’t think it’s the albatross many make it out to be (as in constraining what the Phillies can do, aside from trading him).

    • jamey

      August 14, 2013 at 5:38 pm

      His worst move was giving howard the big deal two years before he had to. He has also single handedly emtied the farm system with nothing to show for it.. he needs to go.

      • schmenkman

        August 14, 2013 at 5:52 pm

        “nothing to show for it”
        Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, three playoff appearances, two best records in baseball, and a NL championship say “Hi”.

        Also, after not trading a key prospect in two years and drafting well this year, I keep hearing the system will be ranked in the middle of the pack somewhere, not far from where it was when he got it (10-12th).

  4. Andrew from Waldorf

    August 14, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    A GM in a place like KC has to be innovative and think outside the box.
    You have no other choice.

    Ruben just sits here and signs all the old guys long term.
    You cant do that in KC.

    Ruben sucks compared to any GM.

    Jimmy Rollins with his .307 on base and .650 OPS is hitting first again tonight.

    I don’t think some of you understand how miserable that is.

    Ricky Henderson who played till he was 44 and had over 13,300 carried a .401 career on base.

    At the age of 44 with a .208 batting average in 84 plate appearences his on base was .321 by far his career low.

    Its unacceptable having Rollins hitting 6th or higher.

    Don’t know if its Charlies fault or Rubens. I tend to think it is a organizational disconnect.

    Until these disconnects are changed and Ruben is fired there is no hope.

  5. Tom

    August 14, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    I always hate to look back in hindsight, but I think it’s pretty clear that the organization made the wrong decision by going with heritage and lineage over experience and results. Arbuckle was ranked 3rd best potential GM by Baseball America in 2003…where was RAJ ranked? Arbuckle obviously had an eye for young talent and would have kept the farm system well-stocked! I can’t lay all the blame at RAJ’s feet but certainly a lot of it!!

  6. George

    August 14, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    Who cares how Baseball America ranked the two. I don’t think anyone on their staff actually participated in any Phils Front Office discussions, so they wouldn’t really know just how either candidate rated when actual contract details or trade scenarios were being hashed out by Gillick, Amaro, Arbuckle, and the general scouting staff. I’m sure they weren’t in there to see just how ideas were presented or argued by the respective people in there.

    Only the ownership group would have FULL knowlege of how either GM candid handled various situations or interacted with others on staff.

    I think, therefore, I’m going to take those potential GM rankings with a grain of salt. I also think that management probably knew more than anyone else just who would be the best man for the Phils’ job. They hired Amaro. I’ll go along with that. There’s absolutely no way to know if Arbuckle would have been any better; even if he’s fine in KC, it’s not the same situation there, so you can’t even use that as a valid comparison.

  7. John

    August 15, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    This has been the problem since 2008. The team has had a downward spiral since because their scouting on players, ours and the other teams’ players evaluations have not been accurate since. Amaro’s evaluation and use of talent has been horrendous. Also, I don’t think we have the right coaching for the young players on the farm. 3/4 of our MLB infield is now road blocked for the next 3-4 years with players who are declining, (Howard, Utley, Rollins) and two of the positions we have semi-promising younger talent that COULD HAVE moved up into (Ruf 1B, Hernandez 2B). Ruf will not work out in the OF, and Hernandez will be a stretch in CF. Amaro was fooled into giving Howard that contract because of what the thought of the 1B market might be, he thought he was buying low. Problem was that Howard was 30, and is big and lumbering, which means injuries are going to be more frequent and intense than if he was a smaller dude. Look at him, Pujols and even Miggy Cabrera – all at least 6’4″ and 240lbs….all with nagging injuries

  8. quadratic

    August 15, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    The question of whether a different GM would have done better is unanswerable. I assume that if Amaro is canned, then his assistant Scott Proefrock would become the GM. Are all you folks that have been excoriating Amaro happy with that? Would you bring in the GM of the Mets, Nationals or Brewers if they were available. Have they done any better?


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