Getting to bottom of why Phillies' LaMar Chucked it

Posted: September 09, 2011

Observations, insinuations, ruminations and unvarnished opinions . . .

WHEN A BASEBALL front-office man leaves on short notice or, in the case of Chuck LaMar, no notice, baseball's unwritten law of Omerta kicks in.

Shhhhhhhhhh . . .

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro's surprise statement during the second game of the Braves sweep stretched the word "terse" to its limit. But veteran Rubenologists will tell you the terser the message, the tenser the situation that provoked it.

Now, The Fly on the Wall is not always right. Sometimes he spreads misinformation. I spoke to the FOTW and this is his report (which, also in fly-speak, could be a crock of Flit):

"LaMar requested a meeting with Amaro. Fellow assistant to the GM Benny Looper rode shotgun. So you knew right away the subject involved the minor league organization. Chuck got right to the point, which is his style.

"He said, 'I think our six affiliates have done a helluva job this season, considering we lost three of our top-five-rated prospects in the deal for Pence. The loss of Jarred Cosart and Jonathan Singleton weakened a Clearwater team that had a playoff shot right to the final weekend. The loss of Domingo Santana, our most promising Latin position player since Juan Samuel, weakened the middle of the Lakewood order. Williamsport made a strong run at the postseason despite a young team that probably overachieved. The veteran players we signed helped Ryne Sandberg make the playoffs at Lehigh Valley and Reading was a pleasant surprise . . . '

"Then he dropped the hammer . . . Chuck said, 'I expect to lose top prospects the way the big club is structured right now. That's my job. Develop 'em and wave 'em goodbye. But we have been shot at and hit two straight years. It's also my job to see we draft and sign players who can sustain us at the high level we've been at during this great run. But the well is dry, gentlemen. My bonus budget this year was just $5 million. We can't compete with aggressive clubs that are spending three times that. We failed to sign a number of late-round picks with college commitments because we could not pay enough over slot. We're not even competing with the Pirates or Nationals, and in a few years the talent coming into our division is going to bite us in the butt . . . '

"Chuck's voice was rising a little and he even took a swat at me. I had to buzz off. But Ruben was talking loudly, as well . . . "

Fly or no fly, it appears LaMar's surprise exit on the same weekend his son began a career as a Naval Academy Midshipman had to do with how much he could spend and who he could spend it on.

The former Amaro special adviser and director of minor league scouting and development replaced Mike Arbuckle, also an alumnus of the Braves' scouting staff, who made Maryland righthander Gavin Floyd the No. 4 pick overall in the 2001 draft. The Phillies went all-in with a club-record $4.2 million bonus. That's just $800,000 less than LaMar had to spend this year. Hell, in 2009, he was given just $3.67 million.

The Phils didn't have a first-round pick and raised eyebrows by taking high school outfielder Kelly Dugan, an iffy but affordable pick.

LaMar made no statement after Amaro announced his resignation. I sent Chuck an email minutes later wishing him success wherever he lands next and expressing my surprise at the development.

To my further surprise, Chuck got back to me within a half-hour. His reply was brief, mostly personal, and did not address his decision. He said our plan to meet for dinner with Dallas Green was still on. There was one telling sentence that hinted at what was probably the type of meeting the Fly on the Wall might have overheard.

"I'm no Hall of Famer but I have always been a great worker . . . and will always give my opinion . . . "

Sounds like Chuck LaMar did . . .

And the beat goes on

The Phillies don't need a manager, they need a pin boy. Has any team careening toward a club-record victory total ever had so many bowled-over stars?

Just as he was starting to rediscover that short, quick serpent's-tongue flick of a stroke - thwack. Charlie Manuel needed to lose his second baseman the way Chase Utley needed a fastball to the back of his batting helmet. So J-Roll comes off the DL and Utley appears likely to take his place on the relentless injury carousel . . .

John Mayberry not only continues to pound the baseball, but continues to string together quality at-bats, which in the pitch-count era are becoming as important as quality starts. It is becoming more and more a short-attention-span game. Certain to come, a stat called PAB (probably already is one) - pitches per at-bat. Which means there has to be FPAB (probably already is one) - fewest pitches per at-bat.

Two cities mourn

We all know where we were and what we were doing when the shattering news in 1997 and 2009 hit us of the deaths of Rich Ashburn and Harry Kalas. We grieved long and hard.

Tampa and St. Petersburg are two cities separated by a wide bay and the civic equivalent of penis envy. But Lee Roy Selmon, the face of the Tampa Bay Bucs, its heart, soul and aura, turned sprawling Tampa Bay into a puddle.

He came from the University of Oklahoma as one of the greatest college defensive linemen of all time and the gentle Hall of Fame giant became one of the greatest NFL defensive linemen of all time. He had a major toll road, the Lee Roy Selmon Freeway, named for him while he was still alive. He founded a chain of successful restaurants and became a civic and charity leader. He was a great player and even greater man whose too-brief life was ended by a stroke Sunday.

In the words of Shane Victorino's home state, Lee Roy Selmon was a man of much mahalo.

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