Sunday, July 01, 2012

So Long, Jim. Any Chance You Can Take Ruben With You?

Gentleman Jim Thome has been granted a reprieve and his departure serves as a sharp reminder of GM Ruben Amaro's inadequacies and Manager Charlie Manuel's blind spot regarding veterans.

Thome was traded to the Baltimore Orioles yesterday, a team that only recently witnessed the occasional destructive power remaining in the big guy's bat.  Thome's departure was lamented by his former teammates, notably including Chase Utley, a man known in these parts for few words.  The consensus among all observers was that Thome deserved a trade to the American League, where he could DH every day, and to a contending team, which my beloved O's are perilously close to no longer being.

When Amaro signed Thome in the off-season he was no doubt motivated largely by the loss of Ryan Howard.  Thome would provide some fire power and, hopefully, a spot start now and then at first base.  That he hadn't played in the field for essentially five years was no deterrent.  That it should have been was obvious to everyone except the guy who signed him.  While Amaro was not doing his homework, his manager, who is like a father to Thome, was no doubt whispering in the GM's ear that Gentleman Jim still had something left.  Charlie loves his veterans, especially this one.  Indeed, a walk-off home run in June and a hot streak during the same period when DH'ing against several AL clubs, seemed to confirm Thome had much to offer.  But when the Phils reverted to their intraleague schedule, Thome was relegated to an occasional pinch-hitting role, at which he most assuredly did not excel this year.  If rust forms on most 41-year old players, it really begins to corrode the skills of one who sees a single AB a week.

So, Thome is off to Camden Yards, where he can play every day and get four AB's each time.  With the AL East in some disarray, especially with the Yankees having lost two starting pitchers to the DL, the O's are still in it.  Perhaps Thome can provide a shot in the arm to their anemic offense.  No one wishes him better than every resident and player in the Delaware Valley.

Amaro, on the other hand, doesn't get much credit for the original signing.  He clearly didn't do his homework, a practice that has become increasingly familiar.

The next item up on Amaro's scorecard will be Cole Hamels' impending free agency.  The time to have gotten a deal done was prior to this dreadful season, before, frankly, Hamels looked around himself and saw a veteran team's wheels coming off one by one.  Some observers think a chance remains to sign Hamels.  I don't believe it for one moment.  He will be the premier free agent pitcher on the market and will not only have plenty of suitors at exorbitant prices but will be able to pick and choose where he plays.  Since he will get the money he seeks, the choice will come down to a team where he wants to live and one with serious potential in the near future.  (There!  If that isn't a reverse curse in the making, I don't know one!!!)  Amaro badly mishandled this decision.