Ruben Amaro: "I'm not a Dummy"

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Despite pulling off the Halladay trade and extension, Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro has continued to get flak for not keeping Cliff Lee too and shooting for the moon in 2010.  He responded yesterday:

“I was talking to some people the other day,” Amaro recalled, “and I
said, ‘I’m not a dummy. I know what Cliff Lee means to our rotation in
addition to Halladay and [Cole] Hamels. It’s a no-brainer.’ … Our goal is to be a contender every year — not
just to be a competitor, but to be a contender every year. That’s
really my job. As an executive of the club, it’s my job to do what I
can to try to maintain that level of talent on the club and that hope
from the fans. So, yes, I’d like to have a championship, but not at the
cost of having our organization not be good for 10 years.

I’ve wondered about decision to trade Lee too, but I’m not going to go crazy over it. The Phillies should still be favored to win the division this year, and there’s no real reason to believe that they’d have the resources to sign Cliff Lee beyond 2010 after locking up Halladay. They did what they did, it’s not the worst move anyone has made this winter, and life will go on without Cliff Lee.

Still, I’m not quite sure that Amaro’s reasoning here is all that compelling.  Sure, no one wants to have their team “not be good for 10 years,” but is the haul they got for Lee — Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and Juan Ramirez — the sort of thing that prevents that?  As Matthew noted at the time of the trade, the Phillies, like the Mariners, likely view Aumont as a relief prospect.  Ramirez has potential, but he got beat up a bit last year and is still a work in progress.  Gillies had nice numbers last year in strong hitting environments, but probably projects to be a fourth outfielder.

Like I said, Amaro has a ring and has made some good moves, so he’s entitled to some benefit of the doubt. But ask yourself: is a relief prospect, a raw starter and a potential fourth outfielder the kind of thing that keeps a team competitive for a decade?  Put differently, are they worth a season of a stone-cold killer of a rotation plus a first round pick once Lee leaves via free agency?

I kind of don’t think so.

There is, indeed, an MLB-to-Portland group

Associated Press
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On Monday, Baseball America reported that MLB is prepared to expand to Portland and Montreal. We talked about that at length yesterday. One of the most common responses to that piece has been “Portland? Really?”

There’s good reason for that response. Baseball-to-Portland has been talked about for years, but there has never been any real traction. Past initiatives have failed, significant public funding for a stadium seems to be a political impossibility and, heck, Portland wasn’t even interested in keeping its Triple-A team, turning its stadium into a much more successful soccer venue and not missing the Beavers all that much.

It would seem, however, that the reports are not mere speculation and there is a genuine baseball-to-Portland initiative afoot once again. From the Oregonian:

On Tuesday, former Trail Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive that he is part of the Portland group.

“I am officially involved with a campaign to bring Major League Baseball and a stadium development to Portland,” Barrett said. “There is also a formally organized, sophisticated and seasoned management group running this initiative. We will keep you fully apprised of any/all developments as this project progresses.”

One guy — a broadcaster no less — saying he’s part of a group is not exactly a major needle-mover, of course. But it does contrast with past Portland initiatives that have been well-publicized grassroots affairs. While those may have been more broad-based and while their public nature may have provided some refreshing transparency, the simple fact of professional sports ownership in the 21st century is that well-monied groups who play things close to the vest are more likely to make waves. We’re in an age when technocratic hedge fund-type guys make things happen in this arena, not in an age when flamboyant public personalities do.

None of which is to say that baseball in Portland is a lock or that expansion anywhere is a short term proposition. It’s just to note that, yeah, there is a bit more going on, it seems, than just pointing at a map and saying “yeah, a team would make sense here.”