Amaro offers unique perspective on the ‘kind killer' now leading Phillies


Few know the new boss quite like one of the old bosses.

Ruben Amaro Jr. was the Phillies assistant general manager or general manager from 1998 to 2015 and in that time dealt with Dave Dombrowski as he presided over baseball operations in Miami and Detroit.

Later, Amaro worked under Dombrowski as Boston's first base coach during the latter's time as president of baseball operations for the Red Sox.

Amaro, who joined the Phillies Talk podcast on Thursday, thinks the Phillies made a "great hire" in bringing Dombrowski aboard. The 64-year-old was hired last week, 2½ months after Phillies ownership stripped Matt Klentak of his general manager's duties.

"I think it's a good hire on a number of different levels," Amaro said. "Clearly, the old regime was not moving the ball forward and he's a guy who can move the ball forward. He's had the reputation and the experience of being able to do that.

"Hopefully, it's a positive for the organization and I think it will be."

Dombrowski, with a push from ownership, used free agency and a shrewd managerial hire (Jim Leyland) to build a World Series champion in Florida in 1997. Not long after, ownership forced him to strip down that team. He moved on to Detroit and transformed a 106-loss team into a two-time World Series participant. In Boston, he won the World Series in 2018 and was fired when it all fell apart a year later.

The Phillies have not had a winning season or been to the postseason since 2011, the last of a run that included two National League pennants, a World Series title and five NL East championships.

Amaro sees Dombrowski as someone who can get the Phillies back to the postseason — eventually. Amaro spent the 2020 season as part of the Phillies broadcast team on NBC Sports Philadelphia. He sees a team with holes that might be difficult to completely fill in one offseason. Dombrowski has essentially acknowledged as much, saying the Phillies are in a "retooling" period.

"There are some pretty big pieces that need to be filled," Amaro said. "Working through the middle of the field, who plays shortstop, second base, center field, and who catches? You have a lot of holes in the middle of your field and that poses a big challenge.

"Depth in the rotation is an immediate concern. You have three good guys at the top (in Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Zach Eflin), but you need a lot more to be a contending club. You need depth pieces. That's critical for the organization."

On top of it all, Dombrowski needs to address what was the worst bullpen in the majors and the team's fatal flaw in 2020.

Dombrowski favors having a lockdown closer and so does Amaro. But for now, Amaro sees a team that needs bullpen depth, multiples of competent arms.

Amaro recalled what it was like to talk about potential trades with Dombrowski. They once talked about Marlon Byrd but never got the deal to the finish line.

"I like to describe him as like the kind killer," Amaro said with a laugh. "He's very, very kind, but he's got ulterior motives and he's got a lot of things going on in his head. He knows exactly what he wants when he makes a phone call.

"He's pretty direct and I like that. I don't like beating around the bush. I like executives who say this is what I need, this is what I want, and this is how I want to get it. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't."

While working on Boston's coaching staff, Amaro dealt with Dombrowski on a whole different level. Amaro was impressed with the way Dombrowski consulted staff members about roster construction and needs. But when it came time to make a decision ...

"When it comes to really being the boss, you know who's the boss," Amaro said. "He's collaborative, but he'll make the call. He's aggressive. And he's always accountable."

Part of that accountability is being available to the media and by extension, the fans. Dombrowski is around the team and the field, available to reporters, home and away, before games. Not that long ago, all GMs operated this way.

"There's an accountability some of the old-school GMs have," Amaro said. "They know they're stewards of the organization and they need to sell their team and I think Dave understands that. He was always around the team in Boston. He was interested in all the mechanics going on with the club. He's going to be involved and be there and be accountable.

"As far as the media, which I'm part of now, it's kind of refreshing to be able to have a conversation with someone. He's going to be available and he understands the importance of that. It takes a little heat off the manager, too."

Dombrowski is confident and has a presence. Amaro recalled seeing him take the floor at the annual general managers' meetings and thinking Dombrowski might make a good commissioner one day.

But running a team's baseball ops is where Dombrowski wants to be. The Phillies are the fifth different team he's run. 

"Dave is very confident and that bodes well for this city," Amaro said. "You've got to have some tough skin here. You have to deal with some difficulty here. It's not the easiest place in the world to be an executive. But it's always really gratifying and challenging if you're confident and you believe in your skill set and he certainly does.

"He's going to get passion here. He lived it in Boston. People will demand excellence here. People want to see the organization try to win. I do think the typical Philadelphia fan is smart enough to understand there's a time to go for it and a time to build. But it's to the point now, after the last several years, it's time for them to have something to look forward to as far as winning is concerned.

"So be prepared, even though they do understand that you have something to build here, in the meantime, you better be winning some games."

For more of Amaro's perspective on the hiring of Dombrowski, check out the Phillies Talk podcast.

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