SAN FRANCISCO - Ruben Amaro Jr. asked a small group of reporters to follow him. He found a spot in the empty stands, hours before another Phillies game, and talked for 30 minutes about the missteps that led to another failure.
"Listen, I'm the GM of the club, so I fully expect to take heat for it," Amaro said. "I'm the one who is making the decisions on player personnel. I'm accountable for the things that have happened. I have not had a very good year; our team did not have a very good year. I think we win as a team and lose as a team. The fact of the matter is that I should take a lot of heat. I need to be better, and our guys need to be better. We need to evaluate better; we need to make better decisions."
That was Sept. 28, 2013, 11 months ago in Atlanta, and the words still fit the situation. The pressure mounts for the Phillies to make changes in their leadership, although there are few signs from within that an overhaul is probable even with numerous candidates across baseball.
Amaro is under contract through 2015, a fact that complicates matters. The status quo will not suffice this winter, not when something will change within the baseball operations department. One scenario: Team president David Montgomery could retain Amaro, but order him to fire subordinates in the team's underperforming scouting and player-development staffs.
That, however, will not help the Phillies unless Amaro's contract is extended. If the goal is to surround Amaro with better baseball men, what intelligent person - especially a younger one, on the rise - would come to Philadelphia to join a lame-duck general manager's front office with the potential of being fired after one season?
These are the sorts of questions Montgomery must consider over the next six weeks as he reaches a conclusion about Amaro's future. His only public statements on the matter, which came in a mid-June interview with The Inquirer, reinforced his loyalty.
"I just believe that group of people gave us the successful period we had," Montgomery said two months ago. "They had different roles in it. I know people focus on Ruben's role having changed vis-a-vis 2009 vs. 2008. ... It's not like we're not benefiting from the thinking of the same people we had before. That's why you have to look at the whole body of work. Have we been served well? My answer to that is yes."
Montgomery, during the interview, stressed the entire group's responsibility for the current problems. That could indicate a willingness to keep Amaro but shuffle the advisers he trusts. Amaro could resist the termination of certain scouts - some of whom are longtime, close acquaintances - but a contract extension may ease that difficult task.
Montgomery chose Amaro, known for his negotiation skills, over Mike Arbuckle, the team's assistant GM for player development at the time. Given the Phillies were fresh from a world championship, and not in the rebuilding phase they now occupy, the philosophy may require revision. If Montgomery were to replace Amaro, he could value an executive with extensive player-development background.
There is no shortage of candidates. That is because just two teams - the White Sox and the Padres - have changed GMs since 2012. The stability has created a backlog.
Jason McLeod has helped assemble a formidable collection of young Cubs talent as Chicago's top scouting and player-development executive. J.J. Picollo, a Cherry Hill native, is an assistant general manager in Kansas City who oversees scouting and player development. Mike Hazen, a Princeton alumnus, has gained attention for his work with Boston's deep minor-league system.
A.J. Hinch, who served as a capable steward during a challenging few months in San Diego, departed his job there as assistant general manager. He is 40, spent two years in the Phillies system, and has GM experience. Tony LaCava, a finalist for three GM jobs, is known for his sharp talent evaluations in Toronto. That is to name just a few.
There is a scenario in which Amaro stays but loses power. The Phillies could hire a president of baseball operations above Amaro - similar to what the Cubs (Theo Epstein) and Diamondbacks (Tony La Russa) have done - and reorganize in that manner. But such a decision would force Montgomery, 68, to cede some authority.
Soon, Amaro will repeat his statements from last September. The seat is hotter than ever, but the pressure shifts to those above the general manager.