CLEARWATER, Fla. – The Phillies have received much criticism for their role in the NCAA investigation of former draft pick Ben Wetzler, but general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is not worried that the perception of the club has been hurt in the baseball industry.
“I’m not,” Amaro said Saturday. “I think people know that we do things professionally in the way we go about our business and our reputation is very good.”
Wetzler, a pitcher from Oregon State, was the Phillies’ fifth-round draft pick last June. According to sources, the Phillies believed they had a handshake agreement to sign Wetzler, but the pitcher decided to return to college.
According to a Baseball America report, the Phillies informed the NCAA that Wetzler violated rules forbidding the use of an agent during negotiations. The law is seldom enforced as draft picks often use “advisers” during negotiations and teams and the NCAA look the other way.
The NCAA ruled on the Wetzler case Friday. The senior left-hander was suspended for 20 percent (11 games) of his team’s season and will be eligible to pitch on March 2.
Oregon State issued an official response and called the suspension “too harsh.”
The case has been much talked about in scouting and agent circles, with the Phillies receiving harsh criticism. The team has been called vindictive and spiteful for filing a complaint against a former draft pick that resulted in a loss of playing opportunity.
Trust is an important element in the relationship between a team’s scouting staff and an amateur player. Some critics of the Phillies’ actions theorize that relationships between the team and college players and programs could suffer. Other say this will pass and the decision of a player to sign with the Phillies or not will go right back to what it usually does – money.
In a statement released Saturday, the Phillies would only acknowledge that they participated in the NCAA investigation. The statement said it would be inappropriate to comment further on the investigation or the NCAA decision.
Pressed for comment, Amaro said he was aware in November that a complaint about Wetzler had been filed with the NCAA.
Amaro was asked whether the complaint had been cleared with him.
“I was aware,” he said. “That’s all I can say.
“To me, it’s really not appropriate to talk about the ruling or the decision and that’s something that’s policy for us anyway,” he added. “We don’t talk about negotiations or things like that and I don’t think it’s appropriate in this case either.”
Earlier in the week, Amaro had directed all inquiries about the matter to Marti Wolever, the team’s assistant GM and head of amateur scouting.
Wolever did not respond to a reporter’s message.
Amaro would not say whether anyone in the organization was reprimanded. He did say Wolever remains in charge of amateur scouting.
“Absolutely,” Amaro said. “He’s our scouting director and assistant GM.”