Thursday, August 6, 2009

Happ's Staying

Today, Ruben Amaro, Jr., confirmed two things that some people have been debating.

First, JA Happ is remaining in the starting rotation. This has been an active and vibrant topic despite all of the apparently insurmountable reasons why he simply had to remain in the starting rotation (having the best ERA among the starters, the most complete games, and as of yesterday, the most shutouts). Nonetheless, the Phillies appeared to have an embarrassment of riches that was about to force them to put one of their finest starting pitchers into the bullpen because the other pieces (Jamie Moyer and Pedro Martinez) appeared unsuited to that role.

Fortunately, sanity has won on this first item.

In addition, Amaro clearly, publicly, and appropriately took the reins of this team. Since the World Series, this team has been the team that Pat Gillick built...and quite appropriately. When you're around for 126 years and finally achieve your second World Series title, the man who put it together should get a significant portion of the credit for having done so.

But at some point this had to become Amaro's team. The relationship between GM and field manager is complicated, but at the end of the day the GM can fire the manager, and the reverse can't happen (the Braves' Bobby Cox and Cardinals' Tony LaRussa leap to mind as possible exceptions).

It's telling that Amaro played an extremely low-profile role during the period leading up to the trade deadline, basically venturing out once a week to read again the same line from the script: "We do not comment on possible trades."

Yet it was Amaro who definitively announced that Happ would not be leaving the rotation. He didn't leave it to Charlie Manuel to announce this, nor did he choose to leave it unannounced. He apparently went out of his way this morning to convene a gathering of reporters to announce HIS decision.

I agree with the decision. Despite a previous post fretting about Happ being destined for the bullpen because the other pieces didn't make sense in 'pen, I've always thought JA Happ was one of the top 3 or 4 starters in the rotation this season, and that was enough reason to keep him in the rotation. For me, his career prospects were always irrelevant. Lightening in a bottle is a rare thing. When you get it, use it.

After a chaotic time leading up to the trade deadline, when the Phillies were more actively involved in both actual and rumored trades than at any point in the past 20 years, it was good to see Amaro firmly assert his control of the team by announcing this decision.

I trust the leadership of this Stanford-educated, lifetime member of the Phillies family, and I'm really HAPPy he also made the right decision.

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