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October 15, 2010

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HER rrAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, OCTOBER, 15, 2010 Phillies' Amaro has rest of league saying 'Roy Vey' PAGE 19A By Rob. Chatty PHILADELPHIA (JTA)-- The son and grandson of professional baseball players, Ruben Amaro Jr. was as good a candidate as any to become a baseball lifer. Yet soccer was actually his "first love" as a kid, and he was good enough at the sport to qualify for a youth team traveling to play in Germany. But his Jewish morn nixed the idea--for Holocaust- related reasons. To whatever degree that decision helped steer Amaro toward the family business, Philadelphia fans should be thankful. In a decade as assistant general manager of the Phil- lies, he helped build a squad that would win .the 2008 World Series--only the sec- ond championship in the team's 126-year history. Days later he was promoted to general manager, a perch he has used to orchestrate a string of high.profile trades and signings that have the Phillies, historically baseball's ]osingest franchise, looking like a dynasty rather than a one-year wonder. In 2009, Amaro's first as general manager, the team made it back to the World Series, losing to te New YorkYankees. This season the Phillies finished the regular season with the best record in the big leagues andare well positioned to become the first National League team since the St. Louis Cardinals in 1944 to reach three straight World Series. "A lot of my friends said, 'Did you have to get the job after you won the World Se- ries?'"Amarojoked in a recent interview with JTA. "It was a tough act to follow." Amaro was new to the job, but not the sport. He has spent the majority of his 45 years in and around baseball--ultimately not a surprise give n that his father, Ruben Amaro Sr., spent 11 seasons in the majors, in- cluding six with the Phillies, and his grandfather, Santos, was a Cuba-born legend who starred in the Mexican Leagues in the 1940s. Amaro Sr. would marry Judy Herman, a Jewish girl from Philadelphia in the early 1960s, and stick around the Phils' organization long enough to acquire a World Seriesring as first base coach in 1980--Amaro Jr. was one of the batboys. He went on to star at Stanford University, helping the school win the College World Series in 1987. After eight seasons in the majors, including five with the Phils--and a trip to the 1993 World Series, which the team lost--he was offered the assistant GMjob in 1999. "Its funny," Amaro said. "When I was little, I wanted to be a doctor or veterinar- ian. Soccer was actually my first love." "We had a very diversified family," he said, referring to his Jewish mother and Catholic-Hispanic father. "We did Passover, Yom Kippur, Chanukah. We were exposed to both faiths pretty equally." Growing up in northeast Philadelphia, Amaro never had a bar mitzvah. But, he recalled, "I had a lot of friends who were bar mitzvahed and went to a lot of them. ' Though his wife is Catholic and raising their children in that faith, Amaro said, "We go to seders all the time. For the New Year we were hanging with my Aunt Linda." What does he love most about the Jewish religion? "The food," he joked. "I'm a big geflite fish, knaidlach, chopped liver fan." Turning serious, he adds, "I think in the Jewish faith there's an emphasis on family, and the closeness of the fam- ily is something that really appeals to me." Just a few months after becoming general manager of the Phillies, Amaro was inducted into the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. At the ceremony, Amaro's mother, Judy Amaro Perez, recalled the memory of her own mother, saying she would have been quite proud of her grandson. "Many a seder did we have at her house, and Ruben was included," she said. In explaining the selection, the organization's director, Debbie Weiss, told The Jew- ish Exponent that the Hal[of Fame was not in the business of imposing a litmus test for Judaism or being Jewish. Instead, she said, what the organization was most look- ing for was integrity. "It's someone with integrity and values that are consistent with Jewish values," Weiss said. If performance is a mea- sure, Amaro has lived up to the honor. Shortly after taking the reins, Amaro would make the first Of several great moves, letting longtime left fielder Pat Burrell walk as a free agent and replacing him with Raul Ibanez, whowould carry the team with his bat for the first two months of the 2009 season. His biggest successes, how ever, have involved bringing top-flight hurlers to town. In 2009, with the pitch- ing staff struggling, Amaro signed 37-year-old Pedro Martinez. He pitched well, but the bigger move came soon after, on July 29. After being rebuffed in his attempt to acquire Roy Halladay-- perhaps the best pitcher in baseball--from Toronto, Amaro outmaneuvered a number of veteran GMs to land the 2008 American League Cy Young Award win- Darryl W. Moran Ruben Amaro Jr., right, the general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, joins Mayor Michael Nutter and the team's mascot at a pep rally in Philadelphia during the playoffs in 2009. net, Cliff Lee, in a trade with Cleveland for four prospects. Lee's spectacular debut in San Francisco two days later and stellar showing the next two months was surpassed only by a near perfect post- season, where he went 4-0, and became a certifiedYankee killer, winning games 1 and 5 of the World Series. But the Yankees still managed to dethrone the Phillies in six games. Reaching the World Series "was gratifying, yet disap- pointing," Amaro said. "We didn't play very good baseball against the Yankees." Amaro had more big deci- sions to make in the offseason. Sixweeks after Lee's World Se- ries domination, the Phillies sent him to Seattle for three prospects. The same day, he traded three other prospects to Toronto for Halladay, the pitcher he had really coveted that summer. "We loved Cliff Lee." the Phillies general manager said, "but we only had him under control for one more year" before he would become a free agent. "If we were going to be able to obtain a No. 1 starter and had a chance to keep him for several years, then we oughta give ourselves a chance to do it." The Phils immediately signed Halladay to a three- year extension, and the right- hander was dominant from the start of the season. But Amaro would spend the next several months fending off critics who wondered why the Phils couldn't have kept Lee along with Halladay. The team got off to a hot start in 2010, but cooled due to a host of injuries. By mid- July, in third place and barely above .500, Amaro egan looking for another starting pitcher. One year to the day that he had managed to pry Lee from Cleveland, Amaro outbid several contenders for Houston's Roy Oswalt. "We had a lot of internal discussions about doing a number of things," Amaro said, including "breaking up the club." "We felt if we were gonna make any move, it would have to really move us forward." The trade has been a home run: Since arrivirg in Phila- delphia, Oswalt is 7-1 with a 1.65 ERA. For those keeping score, that's three times in a row that Amaro outmaneuvered the rest of his colleagues to acquire the best starting pitcher on the market. With Halladay and Oswalt leading the way, it's been Roy Vey for the rest of the league. The Phillies finished the sea- son with a 49-19 stretch run that produced their fourth straight division title and the best record in baseball. Jewish Major Leaguer update: Final edition By Ron Kaplan New Jersey Jewish News What a long strange trip it's been for Jewish MajorLeagu- ers in 2010. In with the new lvo rookies made quite an impression this season, First baseman Ike Davis made his debut with the New York Mets on April 19 and became an immediate favorite, making the "I like Ike' button fashionable again some 50 years after Dwight D. Eisenhower. Although he faltered a bit in August, the 23-year-old son 0fformera- jor League pitcher Ron Davis, was in the top five rookies in several categories including games played (141), plate ap- pearances (601), at-bats (523), doubles (33), home runs (19), runs batted in (71) and runs scored (73). In addition, he was outstanding with the glove and deserves some major con- sideration for National league Rookie of the Year. Over in the junior circuit, Minnesota Twins' third base- man Danny Valencia is post- season bound. The 26-year- old got his call-up on June 3 and appeared in 85 games, finishing With a .318 batting average, 93 hits, 18 doubles, sevenhome runs, and40 RBIs, He should also get some votes for Rookie of the Year. Out with the old Scott Schoeneweis was released by.the Boston Red Sox in May. He made 15 relief appearances, yielding 12 runs on 19 hits, and walking 10 in 13.2 innings. He also struck out 10 and managed to get a victory. In a bizarre and sad twist, he was released on the one-year anniversary of the death of his wife, Gabrielle. Old reliables Ryan Braun (Brewers) drove in 103 runs--the third straight season breaking the century mark which was good for seventh place in the National League. He also was in the top 10 in runs scored (101, sixth place), and bat- ting average (.304, ninth). Mid-season hand injuries kept those already-impressive numbers down. He was voted to the NLAll-Star team for the third consecutive year. Ian Kinsler (Rangers) missed almost two months due to injuries. He made his 2010 debut on April 30 and went out again in late July, making his return on Sept. 2. He finishedwith a.290 batting average in a career-low 103 games, with nine home runs, 45 RBIs and 15 stolen bases. Like Valencia, Kinsler got to extend his season, as Texas won the AL Central title. Craig Breslow (As), named the smartest athlete by The Sporting News, appeared in 75 games, compiling a 4-4 record with five saves and 16 holds. He struck out 71 bat- ters in 74.2 innings, allowing just 53 hits. Major disappointments After his 2009 season in which he won 17 out of 25 decisions, the Rangers' Scott Feldman dropped to 7-11 with an ERA of 5.48. He also spent some time on the disabled list and finished the year in the bullpen. Jason Marquis' broke his- string of being on a post- season team every year since his debut in 2000. Pitching for the Nationals, Marquis started offhorribly before submitting to arm surgery after an 0-3 start, giving up 18 hits and 20 earned runs in just 8.1 in- nings, including an April 18 game against theBrewers in which he allowed seven runs on four hits and twowalks and didn't retire a batter. He was out until Aug. 8 and pitched much better, although he kept accumulating losses, mostly due to lack of offensive sup- Ryan Braun port. But perhaps the biggest disappointment--at least to Jewish fans--might have been his decision to pitch against the Phillies on erev Yom Kip- pur: He never made it out of the first inning, giving up six runs on six hits while retiring just one batter. Still here Defensive specialist Sam Futd (Cubs) appeared in 19 games, batting .143 with one double and three RBIs. Ouch Kevin Youkilis (Red Sox) sustained a freakish season- ending thumb injury at the beginning of August. He finished with a .308 batting Craig Breslow average, 77 runs scored, 62 RBIs, 19 homers, 26 doubles, and 58 walks. At the time of his departure, Youkilis was among the league leaders in several offensive categories. John Grabow (Cubs) didn't pitch after June 28 due to knee injuries. He tossed 25.2 innings over 28 games and compiled a 2-4, 7.36 record with no saves. Gabe Kapler (Rays)didn't appear in a game afterAug. 14. In just 59 games--mostly off the bench--the 34-year-old outfielder hit .210 with two home runs and 14 RBIs. Thanks for the memories Brad Ausmus (Dodgers) 1  :\\; i Brad Ausmus calls it a career after 18 years. He went out on a couple of high notes, though. Joe Torre gave Ausmus, who also made The Sporting News' list of smartest athletes, the op- portunity to manage the Oct. game against the Arizona Diamondbacks (a 7-5 loss) and he started the final game of the season, going 2-4 with a double as Los Angeles beat Arizona, 3-1.Ausmus finished the year with a .222 average in 21 games. Ron Kaplan is features editor of the New Jersey Jewish News from which this article was reprintedby permission.