PHILADELPHIA -- This is not how Ruben Amaro Jr. pictured it.
Amaro acquired six players in the offseason -- Ben Revere, Michael Young, Mike Adams, John Lannan, Delmon Young and Chad Durbin -- and none have performed as trumpeted. Combine their play with subpar or injury-plagued seasons from Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Cole Hamels, Carlos Ruiz and practically the entire bullpen, and the Phillies entered Monday's series opener against the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park just 33-37 in arguably the weakest division in baseball.
Cliff Lee expressed his frustrations last week in Minnesota, declining to say he would like to remain in Philadelphia if the team does not improve its fortunes. Asked Sunday in Colorado if the Phillies are a playoff team, Hamels said, "I'm not going to comment on that one. You can ask the other guys that one."
"It's reality," Amaro said Monday afternoon. "I feel the same way Cliff does. We all want to win. We haven't played very good winning baseball. It's got to change if we think we're going to be a contender. I absolutely understand the frustration. They should be frustrated. They're just not playing good enough baseball. I'm frustrated."
But is it a concern that the frustration -- rarely voiced so publicly during manager Charlie Manuel's nine seasons -- is the first sign players could be giving up and accepting their fate?
"I think it's OK to be frustrated and angry you're not playing as well as you expect to," Amaro said. "I don't have a problem with that. … I think we have talent. Do we have enough talent to be a World Series contender? I don't know that yet. We have not played like it. Not to this point, we haven't."
Amaro said he wants to wait to see what happens once Utley and Ruiz rejoin the lineup before he makes any decisions. They could be back from the disabled list this week.
But the reality is Amaro has a little more than a month to decide whether or not to be sellers. The July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline gets closer every day.
"I've got to see whether these guys are willing to sacrifice and make the commitment and come back and play the kind of baseball that we are accustomed to in Philadelphia," Amaro said. "I think we have an incomplete so far. I think we have talent. I don't think that we've played good enough baseball to be contenders at this point, but we haven't put ourselves in a position yet to be out of it. That might be a product of the rest of the league not being all that great and a lot of teams having warts. We'll kind of see where it goes. We have to see where we are once we get Chooch and Chase back and see if we start playing baseball."
Amaro touched on numerous topics Monday. Here are the highlights:
On Manuel's job performance: "Charlie's had a tough task just because, like I said, the team's been a little incomplete. I think he's tried to be creative with some of the lineup changes, shifting some people into the lineup. He's doing everything he can to try to spark-plug us, and at some point, it is up to the players to try to do it."
On teams calling the Phillies about trades: "No … clubs are still trying to decide if they are pretenders or contenders, too -- just like we are. I think that at some point, we have to make that decision about whether we are going to be true buyers or sellers. But I think most teams are kind of -- there are so many more opportunities to be in the playoffs than before, and the fact that there are no real great teams out there. St. Louis is a great team playing really well. Other than them -- particularly in the National League, Atlanta has played really well but really, nobody is extraordinary. That's leaving everybody in it."
On if he has second-guessed his decisions: "I always second-guess myself. When we went into the offseason, we wanted to fill some holes in the bullpen, at center field and third base. We got what we thought was going to help us, and if we got production out of the middle of our lineup, the guys that we expect to produce for us ... we haven't gotten that. Like I said, it puts heat on some of those complementary players. Do I wish we were playing better? Yeah. I still like the guys we have."
On blowing up the roster: "My job is to make sure that we are contenders every year. I know there are some things that have been written about us blowing things up and that sort of thing. I don't think blowing things up, so to speak, is the way to go for us. I thinks what we have to do is try to be intelligent about the decisions that we make for now and for the future. And there are ways to do it and continue to contend and move pieces and move things around. Hopefully, we have the wherewithal to be able to do it well."
On the Red Sox being a model for retooling: "It's a little different in their case, because they had players at the Major League level with large contracts that people still wanted, and that may not be the case for us."
On Howard's contract (he is owed $85 million following this season) being an albatross: "I think Ryan is going to produce for us more than he has. It's really kind of up to him. I think right now he is battling a couple of things with his knee, and obviously he had the issue with his ankle ,and I think it's just a matter of him getting back on track. Charlie is optimistic right now about how Howard's swinging the bat, particularly the last couple of days. Hopefully that can translate into him producing. When he gets hot, he can carry us. He hasn't gotten there yet, but we're hopeful that he can."
On if he has talked to Lee since his comments: "I have talked to Cliff, and I have talked to him even before he made those comments, and I was in complete agreement with him. I want to win, too, and I told him the same thing. I know this organization wants to win. I believe that the players want to win. I know that the staff wants to win. We haven't played winning baseball yet this year, but I think all of our goals are the same. I want Cliff to want to be here, but Cliff doesn't have a trade-me clause, he has a no-trade clause. I hope to win with him, and I think we have a much better chance to win with him than to win without him, frankly, and as I said, having Hamels and Lee at the top of the rotation gives us a much better chance than with not."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.