NEW YORK - Ruben Amaro Jr. sat in the visiting dugout at Citi Field a little more than 3 hours before first pitch yesterday, well aware of the "firestorm" he created about 100 miles south.
In a story published on csnphilly.com yesterday morning, the embattled general manager was asked about his pitching prospects at Double A Reading, including rising righthanders Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin, and whether he was aware that a lot fans would prefer for him to be aggressive and bring them up to a major league club in need.
Amaro didn't mince words in his response.
"They don't understand the game," Amaro told CSNPhilly.com, about fans eager to see prospects on the big-league roster. "They don't understand the process. There's a process. And then they bitch and complain, because we don't have a plan. There's a plan in place, and we're sticking with the plan. We can't do what's best for the fan. We have to do what's best for the organization, so the fan can reap the benefit of it later on. That's the truth."
From the time the story hit the Web, Amaro was on an apology tour. His session at Citi Field with the traveling beat writers lasted nearly 20 minutes.
"Obviously, it's caused a bit of a firestorm in Philly," Amaro began. "The first thing I wanted to say about the comments I made is, one, I'd like to apologize to the fans. I'm a fan myself. I understand the passion and the knowledge that our fans have for our game and the other major sports, all the other sports in Philly. The comments weren't meant to disparage our fans, by any stretch of the imagination. I probably used my words incorrectly or poorly. I want to apologize for that.
"When [asked] about our club and the organization and some of the things that we're doing with some of our young players, listen, I'm as excited about seeing these guys - the Nolas, the Eflins, the [Roman] Quinns, and some of the other players who are having a lot of success right now and many of them. I'm as excited about seeing them in the big leagues as anybody else. But there's a process they have to go through. There's a process and a plan in place. And I think that was more of the point.
"I understand why the fans would want . . . because we're not having a ton of success at the major league level right now, why the fans would want to see these guys. But I think it's incumbent upon the organization to make sure we do it at the right time and do it with the right plan in place . . . I get antsy about bringing the guys from Double A to the major leagues. I got antsy about [Ken] Giles last year. I got antsy about a lot of guys. We also have to be at the tip of that, and try to make the right baseball decisions for the player and for the organization moving forward. I think that was kind of the gist of the conversation I was having, and I used my words poorly."
Amaro, a Philadelphia native, grew up a Phillies fan. So he can relate to the plight of being one during the last four seasons, right? His teams have been among baseball's biggest spenders in the last half dozen years, but haven't had a winning record since 2011.
"I think it probably would be a lot different if we were fighting for first place, or won the division the last two or three years," Amaro said. "We haven't done that, and I understand that. Some of the decisions we made were great, and some didn't work and were not so great. The way I look at it is that we are now making progress. I think the thing that bothers me the most about this stuff that happened today and the quotes I made is that I don't want to detract from the fact that there are some really positive things happening here in a way that the fans can focus on those. Hopefully, they can focus on the progress, as opposed to my misguided quotes."
Is Amaro concerned his words - which went viral quickly, beyond Philadelphia - could affect his job status? His contract expires at season's end.
"The biggest thing that bothers me about it is how the organization is perceived - not me personally," Amaro said. "We've always been one of those organizations, at least as long as I've been in the front office, to understand the fan and understand that the fans are the people who pay our salaries and support us. Am I worried about it for me? No. I'm worried about it for the organization, because they shouldn't have to suffer because I made a bad quote."
"I talked to [team president] Pat [Gillick] about it. We had a discussion about it, and he said it was unfortunate and thought it was taken out of context, where if you take the quote out of [the CSNPhilly.com] story. If you look at the breadth of the story . . . Our job is to make sure the fans love this club for a long time, and we have to do what we can to put the team in a position for the fans to enjoy it. Sadly, that point gets lost because of my quote."