Ruben Amaro Jr. is a free agent again. It’s the third time since being removed from his dream job as Phillies general manager late in the 2015 season that Amaro has found himself out of work, but this time, for the first time, his departure was voluntary.
After two seasons with the New York Mets, one as the first-base coach in 2018 and the second as an adviser to first-year general manager Brodie Van Wagenen, Amaro decided it was time to move on.
“I was grateful that Brodie offered me an opportunity to stay in the same job as an adviser, but I just felt at this stage of my career it was not exactly what I wanted to do anymore,” Amaro said during a recent telephone interview. “There are some other things I’d like to do in this game. Was this the right thing for me to do? I don’t know. We’ll see down the road if it was the right decision or not.”
After two seasons as Boston’s first-base coach and the last two seasons with the Mets, one thing has not changed for the 54-year-old Philadelphia native. Amaro still loves his hometown team. During his first spring training with the Red Sox, Amaro told me “my heart will always bleed for the Phillies.” Those apparently were not just words.
“There’s no doubt about that,” Amaro said. “I have had conversations with folks from the Phillies and I think they know how I feel about the organization, which will always be in my blood. I’d be lying to you if I told you I didn’t want to work in the organization in some capacity again. I would love to come back. It’s home for me. But that’s not for me to decide. If it doesn’t happen, I totally get it.”
A return to the Phillies in a front-office capacity seems unlikely right now, but it is possible at some point in the future for a couple of reasons. Amaro’s passion for Philadelphia and the Phillies is never going to wane, and managing general partner John Middleton admired the work of his former general manager before he fired him. Time can heal the wounds.
The list of good baseball men who have returned to the team after leaving is long. It includes Dallas Green, Larry Bowa, Ed Wade, and the late John Vukovich.
If Amaro were to return to work in Philadelphia right now, it would likely be in some sort of TV role with NBC Sports Philadelphia.
“It’s on the list,” Amaro said when asked what potential jobs he was seeking in his third round of free agency. “It’s something I’m exploring and open to. A lot of it depends on what opportunities open up for me. I have oars in the water everywhere, but nothing is imminent.
"I’m just hopeful something will come to fruition. I’m usually not a patient guy, but I’ll have to show some level of patience to see how things play out. I don’t want to put myself in a box. I have an opportunity to go in a lot of different directions right now, and I want to do what feels right and works for me.”
Regardless of what job Amaro does next, he believes the last four years away from Philadelphia and the Phillies have made him a better baseball man.
“I loved the experience,” Amaro said. “It was important on a number of levels. I now have a better feel of what things are like on the ground level. As a general manager, you are 500 feet above the fray. Down in the clubhouse, it’s an entirely different feel.
“You get to know the players more, and you get a feel for the new information players are utilizing and how they are utilizing it. I got a firsthand look at how analytics are used by the pitching coaches, the bullpen coaches, the catchers and pitchers. It was a very educational four years.”
Amaro’s two years in Boston included a couple of American League East championships and David Ortiz’s fabulous farewell tour in 2016.
“I loved being in Boston,” Amaro said. “There were great people there. Very knowledgeable people, and they had a family-oriented atmosphere that reminded me of the Phillies. And then I went to the biggest market in the world in New York, and that was fun as well. I enjoyed my one year coaching and then transitioning to being a special assistant for Brodie. I did a lot of scouting, especially in the National League. I learned a lot about the league, and it was just a different hat I got to wear.”
No matter what hat Amaro wears, it’s obvious his heart remains in Philadelphia.
“I couldn’t be more proud of having a chance to be a part of arguably the greatest era in franchise history,” Amaro said. “I know some people may view my tenure very differently, but we did some special things with the sellouts and I think we provided the fans with a fantastic era. I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity I had to work with fantastic people who I still consider my family.”