Gillick: Expect Amaro, Sandberg to return next season

Posted: September 04, 2014

ATLANTA - The final call isn't likely to come for another month, when the season officially comes to an end, but the growing expectation for most of the summer was that Ruben Amaro Jr. would return for his seventh season as the Phillies' general manager in 2015.

Team president David Montgomery, currently on medical leave, spoke to a group of fans at Citizens Bank Park 2 weeks ago and said Amaro was not on the hot seat. Amaro, when asked about it himself in recent months, hasn't ever given the notion that he was particularly worried about his job security.

Yesterday, the Hall of Famer who preceded Amaro, and who stepped in for Montgomery last week, echoed those sentiments in what was arguably the most definitive proclamation yet.

Pat Gillick, the Phillies' acting president and CEO, with Montgomery on leave, said before yesterday's game that both Amaro and manager Ryne Sandberg were "absolutely" in line to keep their jobs beyond 2014.

"They're under contract," Gillick said just outside the visiting dugout at Turner Field before the Phillies took batting practice. "Ruben is under contract through '15 and Ryne's under contract. So right now there's no thought whatsoever of replacing either one."

Gillick has worked as a senior adviser to Amaro and Montgomery since stepping down as GM when his 3-year contract expired after the 2008 season, when he guided the Phillies to the franchise's second World Series championship. He also won championships as a general manager in Toronto in 1992 and 1993. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in December 2010.

It's safe to say there isn't a more decorated person in the Phillies' front office than the 77-year-old Gillick. With his resumé, Gillick's baseball opinions command respect.

It's why the Phillies' ownership group approached Gillick last week to ask if he'd step in while Montgomery continues to rehab and recuperate. The 68-year-old Montgomery underwent surgery to remove cancer from his right jawbone in May.

While Michael Stiles, senior vice president of administration and operations, handles the business side of the franchise, Gillick has final say on all baseball operation matters until Montgomery returns, which could come as soon as the end of this season.

But despite the Phillies' quick decline from 102-win team to last-place team in the last three seasons with one of the game's highest payrolls, and the fan angst and declining attendance that have come as a result, Gillick doesn't believe change is necessary in the general manager or manager positions.

"Well, let me say this," Gillick said. "One of the more difficult things to do in professional sports, and not only baseball but all sports, is to be patient. It's very difficult. It's very difficult for the fans to be patient, it's difficult for the media to be patient, it's difficult for ownership to be patient. But sometimes when you get challenges, and the challenges are we haven't played well in the last 2-3 years. These are basically the same people that made the decisions when we won five division championships from 2007 through 2011. These are the same people making the decisions. So, all of a sudden, Ryne wasn't here, but Ruben was here. All of a sudden he didn't get dumb overnight. It's just right now, we're in a situation where we know where we're headed and it's going to take some time to get us where we want to go."

It's worth noting that Amaro's tenure as general manager is already twice as long as Gillick's was when he was on the job. Time, Amaro has had.

But the Phillies would almost have to be the only franchise in any of the four major team sports in America to have each of their last two managers (Charlie Manuel, Larry Bowa) and general managers (Gillick, Ed Wade) on their payroll. And the only two managers in the 132-year history of the franchise to win championships, too (Manuel, Dallas Green).

Whether it's loyalty or faith in what's worked in the past, if not in the last three seasons, the Phillies' ownership group, through Gillick, has appeared to have given Amaro the green light to get himself out of the mess he created.

For what it's worth, Amaro will have Gillick at his side in the coming month. Gillick arrived in Atlanta yesterday and plans to stay with the team through the West Coast trip later this month. Although he technically has final say on all baseball matters - with the approval of ownership, of course - Gillick said he and Amaro rarely disagree.

"Ruben and I mutually agree on most decisions that we make," Gillick said. "Ruben is very inclusive on any decisions that we make for the ballclub. But right now if there's something I might have a different opinion, I'll certainly voice that opinion and we'll talk it through and try to make what we think is the correct decision."

The changes within the Phillies, beyond the usual offseason roster cleansing and shuffling, could come within the ranks below Amaro and Sandberg.

Amaro won't comment on the coaching staff before the end of the season, but it's difficult to find anyone on Sandberg's crew, except Bowa, who enters the season's final month on sturdy ground. Meanwhile, a farm system and scouting department that has produced little productive major league talent within the last three seasons, particularly in the ranks of position players and starting pitchers, could see changes, too.

But none of those changes aren likely going to affect change in next season's on-field product. The Phillies still have several mid-30-somethings with cumbersome contracts (Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz, Marlon Byrd, etc.) and little immediate help coming from Allentown.

"We have challenges and that's one of the challenges," Gillick said. "We're going to have to be a little creative, we're going to have to be a little imaginative, we're going to have to take a chance here and there. We're going to have to do things that are going to get us better and I have every confidence that Ruben's that kind of guy. He's got imagination and creativity. I think we'll get better - but I'm not saying we'll get better completely overnight. I think it's going to take a little while."

With that said, Gillick also doesn't see the need for a complete rebuild, either.

"I know it's hard saying that because we're at the bottom of the league, the division, but I don't know that there are too many dominating teams in baseball right now," Gillick said. "So consequently, yeah, we have to get younger, we have to get younger players into the lineup. But at the same time, a tweak here or a tweak there might make you a little more competitive . . . I think you can do both. You can make some changes in your ballclub and bring guys along and at the same time be more competitive than we are."


On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

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