Most of these blog ideas start off with a weird tangent. In today’s case, Roobs made an off-hand statement that Cubs fans seem to prefer Ruben Amaro Jr. as their general manager. Amaro is now the GM of the Philadelphia Phillies, who as recently as a couple years ago were perennial contenders with a strong core that has since faded. The core of that team was built by Pat Gillick, and previously by Ed Wade. As you may know, Pat Gillick‘s core got to the World Series in 2008 and beat the Tampa Bay Rays, and when Amaro took over, the Phillies repeated as National League champions in 2009 before taking a step back each successive year.
If you look at the years leading up to 2008, you can notice that there is a solid group of individuals making up the core of the teams that contributed to a sustained run of success before Amaro’s takeover. Names like Shane Victorino, Carlos Ruiz, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Cole Hamels. Then Amaro shot his load to land Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, but the window of opportunity slammed shut incredibly quickly. Howard has become a platoon player, Utley is hurt a lot (though is still a superb player when healthy), Halladay was struggling prior to his potential career-ending shoulder surgery, Hamels is struggling after his big extension, and the farm has been decimated.
I think the conversation we had today was eye-opening in that we realized how little Cubs fans, and fans in general, appreciate the process. It’s a lot harder to build a team and sustain it than it is to just throw money at the problem and watch it all fall apart. And perhaps Dale Sveum isn’t the answer, but I guess one of my biggest nightmares is if Ruben Amaro Jr. realizes, “Hey, maybe we should actually refill the farm system again,” hires Ryne Sandberg (currently the Phillies’ 3B coach) to manage in place of Charlie Manuel, and then the kids coming up fill in the blanks as former stars like Howard, Utley and Rollins retire, and the Phillies become good again. The nightmare isn’t that the Phillies could become good again; it’s that the fans won’t realize that it’s because of the behind-the-scenes actions of an enlightened general manager that allowed a manager (be it Ryno or otherwise) to succeed and they’ll use that to blast the current Cubs front office for not doing the same.
Except…they kind of are.
World Series Dreaming can also be found on ChicagoNow.