The convertibles used at the Phillies' victory celebration were still in the tunnel below Citizens Bank Park yesterday morning, parked just outside the clubhouse before Ruben Amaro Jr. was introduced as the team's new senior vice president and general manager.
The cars were from the '08 party, but the questions Amaro fielded at his first news conference as GM were almost all about the '09 Phillies. He's not in charge of looking back. He had to get to the airport, to fly to the general managers' meetings in Dana Point, Calif.
He's looking for ballplayers, but also to replace himself from his old job, as well as director of player personnel Mike Arbuckle, who didn't get the GM job and resigned over the weekend.
Amaro acknowledged that there were lessons learned even from guys who weren't at Friday's parade, that team president David Montgomery and the front-office staff all saw how the team was built, that it wasn't always the big deals that made the biggest impact.
"The beauty of Pat Gillick is he's taken some risks and not all of them have worked out," Amaro said. "Adam Eaton has not performed the way we wanted him to perform. The Garcia thing didn't work out particularly well for us" - last year's trade for pitcher Freddy Garcia - "but we've worked around those, and I think David's noticed that. He's seen the work Pat's done. I don't think David's afraid to take a risk. I do believe it will give me license to do just that."
As for the biggest issue facing him, Amaro said, "It continues to be pitching. I think it's important for us to solidify our rotation. We won with pitching this year. We were a team built on offense, but we tweaked it enough to get to the point where pitching became the thing that carried us. If you were to ask . . . if pitching would be the thing that would carry us, probably we wouldn't have been that sure. We probably would have to bang them to win. But we know that it's the same deal - you've got to have pitching to win this thing."
The subject of free agents came up quickly. Amaro said he'd had "contact" with the agents for free-agent pitchers Jamie Moyer and Scott Eyre. Of the biggest free-agent question mark, Pat Burrell, he said, "I think Pat has actually changed agents. I believe he is now being represented by Ed Hayes. We have plans to talk with Pat and Ed Hayes fairly shortly. . . . We're not sure if Burrell's going to be back. We're not sure if Jamie Moyer is going to be back, or Eyre, or [Rudy] Seanez. We have to assess which players we want to bring back, number one, and if we can't bring them back, then we'll do some tweaking. There are some voids to be filled, no question."
Someone asked about another free-agent outfielder, Manny Ramirez.
"Manny Ramirez is obviously the finest offensive player out there," Amaro said. "He's going to be extremely costly. I don't want to laugh off the situation, but I think there are other ways to fill the role. We don't know what's going to happen with Pat Burrell yet. We haven't made a decision whether he's going to be our leftfielder for next year and beyond. I can't really comment on Manny Ramirez at this time, just because we have to figure out what's going to happen with Pat."
Another big-ticket free agent, CC Sabathia, was brought up. Amaro said: "It's a consideration."
Then he made it clear it wasn't a top consideration.
"I like the way our rotation sets up right now, at the top of our rotation, especially with the emergence of Brett (Myers]," Amaro said, referring to Myers' second-half resurgence. "Brett made it turn the corner for us. You can't have enough pitching. But I have a feeling what CC's asking for may be a little north of where we want to go. We have to keep our core intact. Bringing a guy like CC in may be difficult, putting that percentage of his salary on our payroll."
He mentioned he hoped Kyle Kendrick would compete for a rotation spot, but said they couldn't count on it. "It may very well be that [Carlos] Carrasco or [J.A.] Happ or somebody [else] steps up."
Amaro made a point of saying that budget considerations can be over-discussed when it comes to this ballclub.
"We don't have a budget," he said. "What's funny, I'll tell you, people talk about and focus on the budget and how important that is. The fact of the matter is, we are not really normally given like a straight budget. We operate based on what our needs are and how we want to move forward."
Moving forward, that was the theme of the morning. By the time Amaro finished his session, even those '08 party convertibles were gone from the tunnel.
General Managers for the Phillies
Herb Pennock (1943-48)
No full-time GM (1949-54)
Roy Hamey (1954-59)
John Quinn (1959-72)
Paul Owens (1972-83)
GM by committee (1984-87)
Woody Woodward (1987-88)
Lee Thomas (1988-97)
Ed Wade (1998-2005)
Pat Gillick (2005-08)
Ruben Amaro Jr. (2008)