Phillies' GM situation could be two-way race
This isn't a subject Phillies president David Montgomery wants to talk about today. Seven months from now, maybe.
CLEARWATER, Fla. - This isn't a subject Phillies president David Montgomery wants to talk about today.
Seven months from now, maybe.
The Phillies enter 2008 with a looming question. General manager Pat Gillick has said he plans to leave the organization when his contract expires after the season. That means the Phillies' first off-season matter could be finding his replacement.
"We've got a long way to go," said Montgomery, when asked about the situation. "We've got a lot of Pat left."
If Montgomery decides to search inside the organization, a likelihood, he would have two candidates, Ruben Amaro Jr. and Mike Arbuckle, both assistants under Gillick.
People in the organization believe Amaro is the front-runner for the job. There are numerous reasons: He is involved in the daily big-league operations, including contract negotiations and makeup of the 40-man roster; he has become the de facto team spokesman; he is a former Phillie and also a native Philadelphian; he is well-educated, having graduated from Penn Charter and Stanford University; and in baseball's effort to diversify front offices, he has Latin American heritage.
Arbuckle joined the organization as scouting director in 1993. He now oversees the organization's professional scouting and minor-league operations and has become much more involved in the team's big-league operations since Gillick came aboard in November 2005.
Gillick made a point last week to mention that "when it comes to decisions on the major-league roster, I would say the responsibility is equally divided" between Amaro and Arbuckle.
"I think they're both qualified," Gillick said. "Ruben has interviewed for some positions. Mike has interviewed for some positions. They're both thought of well within the industry, and they're both certainly qualified candidates, I think."
Both Amaro and Arbuckle interviewed for the Phillies' GM job after Montgomery fired Ed Wade. However, it is believed the Phillies felt they needed to go outside the organization to replace Wade, who was an in-house hire.
Amaro has interviewed for GM jobs with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Baltimore Orioles, and Houston Astros. Amaro lost out to Wade for the Astros' job last year.
Arbuckle has interviewed for GM jobs with the Cincinnati Reds, Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, and Pittsburgh Pirates.
Neither had much to say about their prospective candidacies.
"Those are questions for other people, for Dave," Amaro said. "And respectfully, I really don't have much to say about it, other than my job is to provide Pat, Mike, and the rest of the organization with the best job I can do now."
"The only thing I would say is I have aspirations of being a general manager," Arbuckle said. "Obviously, I've been here a long time. I'm familiar with our people, our players and staff, so it would be a very comfortable situation for me. But that said, I've always said you do whatever job you have to the best of your ability and let the chips fall. The people here know me and, hopefully, they think I'm qualified and view me as a candidate. But those decisions are not in my hands."
Behind the scenes, both men have established alliances within the organization as they put themselves in the best position possible for the job.
Dallas Green, a senior adviser to Gillick, has known Amaro since he was a batboy on his 1980 World Series championship team.
"He's been an important cog in the executive end of it for quite some time," Green said. "Is he prepared? I really think he is. I think Ruben has great instincts for the game of baseball. He's been involved now in all the conversations with Ed Wade and Pat Gillick. That just solidifies his confidence and his belief that he can handle that kind of stuff. He can decipher it, and he knows his people well enough that he can divide the [bull] from the good stuff."
But Wade, who was terribly unpopular with the fan base, hired Amaro, and some fans still associate him with Wade.
Amaro has no problem being linked with Wade.
"It that a criticism?" Amaro said. "I don't know. I'm proud to be tied to Ed. Ed was at the helm of our organization when the core of our team was drafted and procured and came through our system. So I'm very proud of the fact that I was given an opportunity by Ed. He did a fantastic job from where we were when he took over [to] the time he left. I don't think that there's any reason to think that me being Ed's guy is a negative at all. All you have to do is look back to the history of the organization."
Could Montgomery name an in-house successor immediately after the season? It's possible, but Montgomery has a reputation for being methodical and thorough, so he could look outside the organization for candidates. New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman is in the final year of his contract, and he had the Phillies on his radar screen when Wade was fired.
There are other potential external candidates, such as former St. Louis Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty.
Montgomery, understandably, wasn't tipping his hand. Instead, he preferred to praise the job Gillick has done. Gillick not only helped guide the Phillies to their first postseason appearance since 1993 but also has mentored those who work under him.
"When Pat came here one of the things he said is, 'I'm going to be a mentor and, hopefully, I can share some of my experience with our entire department,' " Montgomery said. "I think he obviously does that. He certainly doesn't steal the limelight, and he gives other people opportunities. And I think he gives them opportunities in their respective fields.
"I think we're in very good hands today, and I think we'll be in very good hands in the future. Pat brings a lot to the table, and a lot of it is the mentoring part."
Is mentoring the same as grooming?
Montgomery shook his head. He wasn't falling for that one.
Davey Lopes to have prostate cancer surgery this month.