GM Amaro makes front-office moves
Looper takes on Arbuckle’s responsibilities; LaMar promoted
By Ken Mandel / MLB.com
Okay, gentlemen, time to start working on a repeat champion.
PHILADELPHIA — Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. replaced departed assistant GM Mike Arbuckle on Friday, naming Benny Looper as assistant general manager, player personnel.
Looper will assume Arbuckle’s responsibilities in the scouting and player development realm, and will be assisted by Chuck LaMar, who has been promoted to assistant GM, player development and scouting.
Amaro said Friday that he plans to interview candidates for an assistant general manager — essentially to replace himself — in the next few weeks. He said he has “about four or five candidates,” and that the position will be filled from outside the organization.
Looper, the uncle of free-agent pitcher Braden Looper, will oversee player personnel in his role as assistant GM. He worked closely with Pat Gillick during their years together with the Mariners.
The 60-year-old had spent the previous 23 years with Seattle in many capacities at the Major and Minor League levels, including most recently as vice president of player personnel (2006-08), VP of player development and scouting (2003-06) and VP of player development (2002-03).
LaMar will manage the player development department, working closely with Minor League director Steve Noworyta and scouting director Marti Wolever, and will also cross-check at the amateur and professional levels. The 52-year-old joined the Phillies in October 2007 and spent the past season as the director of professional scouting. Before joining the Phillies, LaMar spent a year with the Washington Nationals as special assistant to GM Jim Bowden and 10 years as the GM of the Tampa Bay Rays (1995-2006).
Dallas Green (senior advisor to the GM), Charley Kerfeld (special assistant to the GM), Gordon Lakey (director, Major League scouting), Noworyta (director, Minor League operations) and Wolever (director, scouting) are all staying with the organization in their current positions. Gillick is also remaining with the club in an advisory role. (H/T Phillies.com)
Okay, guys, here’s the deal, work to get this team to repeat as a World Champ and you’ll get the fans to love you forever after. Do not mess this up too badly like management has done in the past.
Amaro Jr. takes over reins for Phillies
Longtime assistant GM, former player replaces mentor Gillick
By Ken Mandel / MLB.com
Speculation is over. Amaro is in. Please don’t mess up, junior, that’s all I ask.
PHILADELPHIA — Ruben Amaro Jr. stepped to the plate under a late-September Cincinnati sky in 1998, amid rumors swirling that the borderline Major Leaguer was transitioning from the field to the front office.
As Amaro dug in that cloudy afternoon, Reds catcher Eddie Taubensee asked, “Aren’t you the assistant GM?” After driving in the winning run with an 11th-inning sacrifice fly, he heard Taubensee again, though not as cordial.
“He used a couple of expletives and said, ‘I can’t believe the assistant GM just beat us,'” said Amaro.
Taubensee was right. Amaro, a former Phillies bat boy, would have seven more Major League plate appearances before finishing his career with a .235 average. Shortly after, he accepted the Phillies’ assistant GM job offered to him by Ed Wade in the spring of 1998, embracing the unique and outstanding new path.
A decade later, he stood at the podium at Citizens Bank Park on Monday, having reached an ultimate new goal, shedding the assistant label and taking over as general manager of a team that won its first World Series championship in 28 years.
“I’m ready to continue the leadership that those who have preceded me have developed in Philadelphia,” Amaro said. “While our leadership is changing, our goals will remain the same, and that’s to bring championships here to Philadelphia and to win World Series. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Amaro replaces outgoing GM Pat Gillick, who stepped down after fulfilling a three-year contract signed before the 2006 season. Gillick steps aside amid perfect circumstances for the architect of 11 playoff teams with four different organizations, including three World Series champions.
Team president David Montgomery had hoped to persuade Gillick to reconsider his decision to leave as a full-time GM, but settled for the 71-year-old remaining in an advisory role.
“Not only is he well prepared, I believe he is extremely well qualified for this opportunity,” said Montgomery, who selected Amaro over another in-house candidate, Mike Arbuckle. “That’s evidenced by the outstanding contribution he’s made to our club since he’s joined us 10 years ago.”
Amaro’s first assignment will be to represent the Phillies at the annual General Manager’s Meetings, which began Monday in Dana Point, Calif. He was set to fly out Monday afternoon. After that, he’ll have to figure out which free agents to pursue and how to manage a budget that is expected to increase from 2008’s $104 million.
He said keeping pitchers Jamie Moyer and Scott Eyre are top priorities, and he’s already spoken to representatives for both players. Retaining outfielder Pat Burrell may be more daunting and the team is prepared for life without him.
Arbuckle, the assistant general manager of scouting and player development and a part of the organization since 1992, won’t return next season. Reached by phone Sunday, Arbuckle, 58, declined to comment, but indicated that he was prepared to move on after being passed over three times for the position.
His departure is a significant loss for the organization. Under his watch, he and scouting director Marti Wolever supervised drafts that secured Burrell, Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Ryan Madson, Brett Myers, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, while also signing players like Carlos Ruiz out of Panama. Arbuckle also drafted the six players who landed Brad Lidge and Joe Blanton in trades.
“Clearly his work was very instrumental in getting us to the point that we were on Broad Street last Friday,” Montgomery said. “Mike’s a first-class individual, and on behalf of everybody, we wish him nothing but the best in the future.”
“He’s a very good evaluator, and knows talent,” Gillick added. “Those people are very difficult to replace.”
Amaro believed that he would be able to find a replacement for Arbuckle quickly, and said Chuck LaMar, currently the director of professional scouting, might be “elevated,” possibly taking on Arbuckle’s player development role.
Selecting an assistant will be conducted through an interview process, and Amaro suggested that person isn’t currently in the organization. Wolever and Minor Leagues director Steve Noworyta are also staying.
“There will be some shuffling in our organization,” Amaro said. “There won’t be a whole lot of changes. We don’t need a whole lot of changes frankly. We just won a World Series.”
As assistant GM, Amaro has long been speculated as the person who would succeed Gillick, who was hired in part to mentor Amaro. The 43-year-old was a full-time bat boy for the Phillies from 1981-83 and enjoyed being around Hall of Famers Steve Carlton and Mike Schmidt, along with Pete Rose, Larry Bowa and Bob Boone.
Amaro, who played for the Phillies from 1992-93 and 1996-98, remembered when the idea of switching from a baseball uniform to a three-piece suit was first broached.
“I was in half uniform,” Amaro said. “I had just had a workout in Spring Training [of ’98] and was thinking, ‘I may not make this club, so I better go talk to Ed [Wade] and let him know that I want to continue in baseball.”
Amaro thought that meant helping as a coach.
“When I went to his office that day, he said, ‘I’ve not worked with an assistant. Would you consider being my assistant?’ My jaw dropped. At that point, I said, ‘I want to try and continue to play as long as I can.’ I made the club, [but I] had a terrible year. We had discussions during the course of the year about what my responsibilities would be. [I] talked to my family and said, ‘Let’s make the move. This door’s not going to be open very long, or maybe ever again.'”
Next to going to Stanford University, Amaro called that “probably the best decision I ever made.”
His rise to his new position bears that out. (H/T Phillies.com)
Congrat on your new job, junior. Please don’t mess this up. Mike, I wish you good fortune wherever you land, just as long as it isn’t at the Phillies expense. What, I’m a loyal fan, shoot me.
“I don’t know what the percentage is of trade rumors that actually happen, but I do know the percentage when it comes to me is zero up to now,” he wrote. “I’m not saying I don’t acknowledge it’s possible I’ll get traded, but I just kind of ignore it.”
That percentage went up exponentially on Thursday evening, as the right-hander found a new home in Philadelphia, and the Phillies landed a starter after missing out on CC Sabathia and Rich Harden. The Phils sent prospects Adrian Cardenas, Josh Outman and Matthew Spencer to Oakland for the workhorse.
Blanton, 27, who had been spending his All-Star break in Nashville, Tenn., expects to fly to Florida on Friday. Scheduled to pitch on Friday for the A’s, he could start on Wednesday, with right-hander Adam Eaton expected to move to the bullpen.
The Phillies could get creative and start Blanton on Saturday, keeping him in line to start the week after against the Mets. He hasn’t allowed a run against the Mets in 15 innings. The important thing is that Philadelphia added what it hopes is an important piece to a division championship.
The teams announced the deal on Thursday, ending nearly 16 months of speculation regarding Blanton, who is 5-12 with a 4.96 ERA in 20 starts for Oakland. He joins fellow pitchers Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin in an exodus from the A’s. They were dealt to the Cubs.
“That’s the thing about being with the Oakland A’s, you tend to be in rumors a lot,” Blanton said. “I just took the approach that I didn’t pay a lot of attention. I was with the team until told otherwise. Now, I’ve been told otherwise. I’m really excited about the situation I’m coming into. They have a great team.”
Blanton is no stranger to the Phillies, besting them on June 24. He limited Philadelphia to one run on four hits in seven innings.
The victim of the seventh-lowest run support average in the AL, Oakland’s Opening Day starter enters a situation in which the team hopes he can continue to pitch deep in games.
Blanton will have to adjust to home games in Citizens Bank Park, an unkind place for pitchers. For his career, Blanton had a 3.79 ERA in 24 starts at McAfee Coliseum, with its expansive foul territory, and a 4.78 ERA in 23 road starts.
“I feel as a pitcher that sometimes the park doesn’t make a huge difference,” Blanton said. “Obviously, when you get into a pitcher’s park, there’s certain things, foul territory, the ball not traveling, that can work to your advantage, but if you do your job, keep hitters off balance, and keep the ball on the ground, it shouldn’t make any difference.”
“He’s a guy who we had an interest in over time,” assistant general manager Mike Arbuckle said. “One of the things that jump out with our scouts is what a competitor he is. He wants to stay out there, and give you innings, let your bullpen bounce back. We’re obviously stated for a while that we looked to improve our starting rotation. He was attractive for a few reasons.”
His status is one of those reasons. Blanton can’t become a free agent until after the 2010 season, making the Phillies more comfortable losing a top prospect like Cardenas, and a left-handed pitcher in Outman.
Cardenas, a supplemental first-round pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, was one of the organization’s top prospects, and was hitting .309 with four homers and 23 RBIs for Class A Clearwater. He was trade bait almost from the day he was drafted, as his prime position is second base, currently occupied by Chase Utley.
Outman was selected as a 10th-round pick in 2005 and had been pitching in relief at Double-A Reading, going 4-2 with a 3.22 ERA in 28 relief outings. Spencer, an outfielder and a third-round pick in 2007, was batting .249 with six homers and 41 RBIs at Clearwater.
Blanton is the third second-half starting pitching acquisition in as many seasons, joining Kyle Lohse (2007) and Jamie Moyer (2006). Talks for him heated up in the past week, after the Phillies had been unable to land Sabathia.
Coming on the eve of the start of the second half might be a good omen for Philadelphia. Blanton has a career ERA of 4.05 in the second-half, compared to 4.37 in the first half.
“I feel that’s one of my bigger strengths,” Blanton said. “I’m a guy who wants to stay out there as long as they’ll let me go. When I get halfway, I don’t like to fall down the mountain, I like to keep climbing it.”
Added Arbuckle: “We feel his makeup is going to fit in well in a pennant race.” (H/T Phillies.com)
I am so happy right now that I’m not going to have any sleep less nights over his present win-lost record or his ERA. If he pitches as well against the rest of the NL as he did against our boys back on June 24 in Oakland, I’ll be satisfied. And it would seem that it won’t hurt us down on the farm with the trio that we’d gave up for him, and it’ll get Eaton out of the starting rotation. Hey, what’s not to like about this overall? YAAAAHHHHHOOOOO!!!! The mystery idiots seems to have finally done something right for a change. Hey, while we’ll doing the right thing, guys, how about a new reliever to help set up things in the bullpen and signing Pat Burrell to a brand spanking new contract? PLEASE!!!!!
Too bad this comes in the wake of the Mets tying the Phillies for first place in the East after defeating the Reds in the bottom of the ninth. Gee, way to go, Cincy!!!!