Sometimes during the course of a general manager's career, there are seasons where he does everything right and still can't win. He might spend his money wisely, develop good talent, and make all the right, smart, and crafty trades to get talented players for little in return. Yet somehow his team hits a streak of bad luck and misses the playoffs.
When an injury bug bites a team, there is nothing the GM can do but cry into his hat about what could have been.
The good news regarding Ryan Howard's injury, at least for Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, is that if Howard hits the 15 day disabled list, Amaro will have everything he needs to convince the baseball public, both inside and outside of Philadelphia, that the above paragraph describes the 2010 Philadelphia Phillies season.
Because make no mistake about it: The Phillies have had a run of luck that would knock out even the most articulate built teams in baseball.
A team can survive an injury to a crucial player, or even to two crucial players. But when every essential player on a team gets injured for some significant portion of the season, it becomes simply unreasonable to expect that team to pull it all together.
Phillies fans don't need reminding, but if Howard does hit the DL, then the list of prominent Phillies to be sidelined for significant portions of the season by injury looks like this:
Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson, J.A. Happ, Jamie Moyer, Joe Blanton, Shane Victorino, Ryan Howard, Placido Polanco, Carlos Ruiz.
It might be easier to look at the list of players who haven't been injured this season:
Roy Halladay, Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez, Cole Hamels.
It would be preposterous to think that the Phillies could have survived with all the injuries that they've suffered and made the playoffs. That injury list comprises the first four hitters in the regular everyday lineup, the complete middle-of-the-field defense, the back two-thirds of the rotation, and the primary set-up man and closer.
And this could be Ruben Amaro's saving grace.
By now, it is pretty clear that Amaro probably should not have traded Cliff Lee, and it is crystal clear that he didn't get enough in return for Lee. The 25-man roster has the least depth it has had in three years, and the bullpen is in shambles. To make up for trading Lee, Amaro may have bungled the team even more by sending Happ to the Astros for Roy Oswalt.
Meanwhile, the outfield still has more question marks than positions with Ibanez looking over the hill, Werth needing a new contract, Victorino's future in limbo, and Domonic Brown apparently ready to contribute right now.
Plus, on top of all that, Amaro extended Ryan Howard with one of the richest contracts of all time a year-and-a-half before his current deal was up.
In essence, before Howard's injury, the only way Amaro was going to get a pass for the moves he's made this season was for the Phillies to at least make the World Series, if not win the thing.
But now, with Howard on the cusp of going onto the disabled list, Amaro may be able to take a pass on all of those moves. If Howard is out for any significant time, Amaro will have carte blanche to write off the entire 2010 season as a sign that bad luck can strike even the best teams and, that some years, it just isn't your year.
Basically, if the Phillies miss the World Series, or even the playoffs, with a roster full of superstars but a few glaring holes that could have been filled with relative ease, it is going to be a long winter for Ruben Amaro.
But if the Phillies miss the playoffs, while suffering a significant injury to every important player on the roster, well, the single reason for missing the playoffs becomes bad luck.
Because even the most efficiently run teams in baseball can hit a spell of bad luck.
Luckily for Amaro, Ryan Howard going on the disabled list allows Ruben Amaro to gloss over the fact that the Philadelphia Phillies are not, in fact, currently one of the most intelligently run teams in baseball.