Expect another apology by Phillies GM Amaro after clumsy comments about Utley
Does Ruben Amaro Jr. have a death wish?
Here is what the Phillies’ general manager should have said Tuesday when asked if second baseman Chase Utley would reclaim his position after coming off the disabled list:
“It’s too soon to answer that. Chase has meant a lot to this franchise. Cesar Hernandez is playing well. We’ll see where we are when Chase comes off the DL. So much can happen between now and then.”
Every other GM would have offered some variation of that answer. But Amaro, when asked if Utley still would be the primary second baseman once healthy, told reporters, “Not for me, he’s not. Cesar Hernandez is our best second baseman. I would assume that Cesar would be our second baseman. I think that’s fair.”
It may be fair in a literal sense, considering the relative significances of both Hernandez and Utley to the Phillies long term. But it is not fair to speak so disrespectfully or dismissively about Utley, one of the pillars of the franchise.
Utley, who has spent his whole career with the organization. Utley, who has always given the team 100 percent. Utley, who had played with an injured ankle all season before finally going on the DL.
Amaro is going to get fired, the entire industry knows that. But he figured to last the entire season as the Phillies transition from Pat Gillick to Andy MacPhail as club president. The question now is whether ownership will simply decide that Amaro is embarrassing the franchise, and that enough is enough.
Heck, it’s already fair to ask why the team is allowing an embattled lame duck to retain full authority as GM — Gillick, on the day the Phillies hired MacPhail, told ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick that Amaro was still in charge.
Frankly, it’s difficult to believe that actually is the case, but Amaro’s public remarks are a separate issue. If he has a filter, he sure does a good job of disguising it. And again, this was not Jeff Francoeur that Amaro was talking about replacing Tuesday. It was Chase Freakin’ Utley.
Remember, Amaro had to apologize to another longtime, respected Phillies star, first baseman Ryan Howard, for saying last December that the team would be better without him.
And Amaro had to apologize to the team’s fans in late May after saying “they don’t understand the game,” in response to a question about whether the Phillies would promote a pair of pitching prospects.
The apology to Utley should be coming any minute now. Amaro told reporters that he had not even communicated to Utley the team’s plans to stick with Hernandez.
“I don’t know if it has to be,” Amaro said. “Chase’s situation will kind of dictate itself, how he feels. There’ll be time for him to play, I think. He could play some first base. He could play some second.
“But as far as I’m concerned, just like what our plan has been for a long, long time, and that’s to give opportunities to young men who could be part of our future.”
Utley, when informed of Amaro’s comments, responded by saying, “Well, I think Cesar has done a really good job — there you go.”
All of this was so unnecessary. All of it should have been private. Utley probably is in his last season with the Phillies, anyway — he is unlikely to get the 251 plate appearances he needs to vest his $15 million option for 2016. So, what was the point of demeaning him?
The end game could be that Amaro will trade Utley to a West Coast team once the player is healthy, but good luck with that. Utley repeatedly has indicated that he does not want to waive his no-trade clause. His value is not nearly what it once was, and Amaro’s remarks certainly will not help matters.
Amaro has a death wish, all right. Sooner or later, the Phillies will act on it.