"I think the overriding tool that he brought to the thing was his work ethic," said Wade, who is now the Houston Astros' GM. "He jumped in with both feet in areas he would not have had familiarity with as a player: rules, contract negotiations from the other side of the table - a lot of things that people really wouldn't have gotten their arms around as quickly as he did."
Ten years after Amaro played out that 1998 season and retired to accept Wade's spring-training offer, the two men are attending this year's GM meetings as colleagues. Amaro, officially introduced yesterday as the successor to veteran general manager Pat Gillick, is charged with keeping the Phillies at the top of the National League.
Those around the league who know him are convinced he is the right man for the job.
Jim Fregosi, who managed the Phillies from 1991 to '96 and is now a special assistant with the Braves, was a teammate of Amaro's father in 1969 when both played for the California Angels. Young Amaro was 4 years old that season. Fregosi later was his manager in two stints with the Phillies (1992-93 and '96).
"I think it was a good experience for him to be under Pat [Gillick]," Fregosi said. "Pat is a guy who checks every avenue out about people and individuals. He's a worker. I think that Ruben will work very, very hard to get the job done."
One question involves how Amaro's hiring will affect the organization's scouting. Both Fregosi and Wade expressed a deep respect for former Phillies assistant GM and scouting guru Mike Arbuckle, who resigned after learning he lost out to Amaro for the job. But Fregosi, whose son, Jim Jr., is a scouting coordinator for the Phillies, doesn't think Amaro's hiring will cause a major shakeup.
"With his background," Fregosi said, "I think that he'll stick with the program of developing players in the minor leagues."
Around the league, the hiring of Amaro was expected. In addition to serving as Gillick's public spokesman, Amaro was heavily involved in contract negotiations. When the Phillies were in negotiations with righthander Brett Myers on a 3-year, $27.5 million contract extension last winter, Amaro was the point man.
"He's very bright," said Myers' agent, Craig Landis, who also interacted with Amaro during the negotiations that resulted in Myers' 3-week trip to the minors in midseason. "Obviously, he has a baseball background. He's bright on contracts and the numbers side of the business . . . He understands how a player thinks. He was a player."
Now, as the Phillies gear up for their title defense, Amaro again is a player.
A major one.
Righthander Rudy Seanez, who went 5-4 with a 3.53 ERA in 43 1/3 innings, filed for free agency. The 40-year-old reliever was left off the postseason roster. *