That was the fear of Philly native Bob Elkman, who passed away in April and before Phils president David Montgomery (right in photo with GM Ruben Amaro Jr. and former GM Pat Gillick) gave Amaro a stunning vote of confidence
By Theodore N. Beitchman
Sherman Oaks, Calif., is a long way from Citizens Bank Park. But Bob Elkman kept close to Philly sports thanks to streaming WIP every morning as he walked “three to eight miles, depending on how many dogs I have to dodge,” he said in an email to me in late March.
Bob grew up near City Line Avenue and moved to southern California in 1970. And, get this, he wrote and produced Clippers ads from 1988-to-2000. His good friend Lakers announcer Chick Hearn chided that he had the toughest job in sports, trying to get people to buy Clippers tickets.
He loved the Sixers and was pleased that new ownership brought in new management that has a chance to turn their ship around. But the Phillies were his favorite, and he had the line of the year:
“My latest fear is that the Phillies will be nothing more than the Sixers in spikes.”
Bob died in mid-April and I never met him, but I felt his passion through his emails. And, oh how I wanted to talk to him about Donald Sterling, his boss at the Clippers.
However, I would not have wanted to pick his brain about what is happening to his beloved Phils, who were just swept in four by the Braves — the first time since the great collapse of 1964 when that happened.
Nor would I have broached the subject of president David Montgomery’s fulsome endorsement of the singularly failing GM, Ruben Amaro Jr.
Thanks to the Inquirer’s Matt Gelb’s article of June 18, we learned that Montgomery believes the current executives in place, including Amaro, are capable of overseeing the decisions to turn around the direction of a franchise and team that is on pace to win 71 games in 2014:
“I just believe that group of people gave us the successful period we had. They had different roles in it. I know people focus on Ruben’s role having changed vis-a-vis 2009 vs. 2008. But I talked to Pat Gillick about our club this morning. Pat Gillick sat in that entire draft. It’s not like we’re not benefiting from the thinking of the same people we had before. That’s why you have to look at whole body of work. Have we been served well? My answer to that is yes.
“We don’t view as our operating philosophy as changing a whole lot because the goal of getting good and staying good remains. What is the acceptance level in a bigger market? We just want our fans to believe we are trying to do the best for both today and tomorrow.
“We’re constantly focusing on what our 2016 ball club will look like. And that doesn’t have some of the names that are out there now. Now, when you’re planning and thinking about 2016, does that mean you’re thinking about rebuilding in 2014? Well, if you don’t move people, [a fan’s] view would be, ‘No, they’re not rebuilding. They’re being stubborn.’
“Do we know where the road is going to lead? Absolutely not. . . . The goal, it never changes. The goal is to pay attention to both today and tomorrow, and to do what’s right in both cases. The only way you do that is to be prepared.”
“I don’t find loyalty to be a bad trait. If loyalty to a fault means you don’t want to make a change, why would I have ever asked Ed Wade to step down? My resume speaks for myself. Ed and I were probably as close as a club president and general manager can be, as far as lockstep in thinking. Yet a time came when a change was made and I had to make it. . . . I don’t think it’s blind loyalty.
Montgomery lamented the Phillies’ recent problems were personalized by fans as Amaro’s wrongdoing when, in reality, “it’s a joint effort,” Montgomery said. But, nine years later, Amaro is another lightning rod much like Wade in 2005.
“I just try to pay attention,” Montgomery said. “I think we have pretty good people doing these jobs. We saw, over a long period, pretty good success with this group of people. Obviously, Ruben is part of that group.”
I can see Bob Elkman cringing and walking a lot faster and avoiding those dogs!