Up ahead of us lies a super unknown. And at the center of that unknown is a man who many believe is the reason for the repeat of failure every season, General Manager Ed Wade. The Philadelphia masses say he has been here long enough and I agree. I want nothing less than the firing of Ed Wade and the sooner the better.
If we are to be fair we could look at what he has done and assume he has some baseball sense. Billy Wagner is your dream closer, a fastball demon that intimidates the moment he comes into the game. Wade acquired him last winter before the "Now is the time" season started and legions of Phillies fans were salivating at the news. Of course, there is also the arrival of Jim Thome. It was an important moment for the Phillies and their fans. And it was especially important for Ed Wade. Thome was known for his fantastic power hitting in the American League and his presence seemed to signal a shift in the balance for the current Phillies. Ed Wade got a high quality acquisition in first baseman Jim Thome and excitement was sparked in Philadelphia. He is also responsible for an "acquisition" I will always be happy about. The hiring of former Phillies shortstop and third base coach Larry Bowa as manager, replacing Terry Francona in 2001, was a huge moment in Ed Wade's career as GM. The people of Philadelphia felt closeness to the former Phillie who had been a part of the 1980 World Series winning Phillies and reminded everyone of the glory days. Bowa's popularity and familiarity revved up the fan base and garnered new interest in the lifeless franchise when he was hired. So let's review Ed Wade's finer moments.
- Hired Larry Bowa
- Acquired Jim Thome
- Acquired Billy Wagner
Okay so that's not bad for a few valuable and PR savvy moves on Wade's part. But then, there is the flip side.
- Traded Curt Schilling for Nelson Figueroa, Omaar Daal, Travis Lee and pitcher Vicente Padilla, the only one still a part of the Phillies.
- Fired Larry Bowa and did so in a truly underhanded way.
- Traded Scott Rolen for Jeff Timlin, Bud Smith and Placido Polanco.
- Had a chance to hire World Series winning Jim Leyland as manager, but didn't hire him even though Leyland openly campaigned for the job.
- Refused to make a deal with Curt Schilling when he also had openly campaigned to return to Philadelphia and even said he would come back for less money than he wanted.
Of course, these are only the major decisions he has made that for the most part are believed to be detrimental to the entire Phillies franchise not to mention thoughtless, crass and cheap. He uses code words like "championship caliber" and "potential". Are we supposed to know what "championship caliber" means when he says a player is the definition of that Wade-ism? And as far as "potential" goes, Ed Wade is going to need a life jacket to swim through the deep ocean of "potential" players he picks up to somehow bring the Phillies to a championship. Can anybody decipher the meaning of his press conference banter? He makes vague statements that are so without ambition or clarity that you are left to make your own assumptions and that is not the way Phillies fans that are paying to see this team should be treated. But it goes beyond that. What kind of a business/baseball man is Ed Wade? When it comes down to crunch time and he could be a player in any number of big deals for major players he instead picks up a handful of average players and broken down veterans and says they have to "play up to their potential".
I think his attitude towards players is just as big of a problem, if not the biggest problem, in his approach to managing. In a recent comment made to the press regarding Doug Glanville, Wade made what is to me the most unbelievable statement he has ever made regarding any player. When asked about Glanville and his future, Wade said "I love Doug Glanville. There is one thing that people get on him about, which is his on-base-percentage. But when i'm watching him play, I realize that if he weren't there I would miss him." I have absolutely no idea what liking a player has to do with running a "championship caliber" team. I don't have a single clue how his thought process allows him to make such terrible decisions that are based not on the fundamentals of a baseball player's ability, but on likeability. What does that have to do with anything? Likeability and whether he'd miss someone aren't reasons to keep a player. But getting on base? Ah, who cares about that? Last time I checked the only thing that matters if you are on a baseball team is hitting the ball, throwing the ball and catching the ball. This isn't a social club. I don't care if he is likeable or not. Do you think anyone really liked Larry Bowa when he played for the Phillies and flipped off the fans at Veterans Stadium? And Lenny Dykstra was never known for being very fan friendly, yet people loved that guy. And the reason is the only one that matters and that is that when he was healthy he was a champion of the game.
Doug Glanville has a .277 career batting average and last year in 162 at bats he got 14 RBI with an OBP of .244. I agree with Wade. Glanville is a likeable guy and I hate to put down such a nice guy. But this is about baseball and the quality of a player. Keeping Glanville around because you miss him is such an outrageous statement for the general manager of a baseball team to make that it almost sounds made up. However, if you know the reason he didn't want Schilling around and why he didn't want him back on the team, than you understand how his blind admiration of Glanville's sparkling personality is not so far fetched. Ed Wade once spoke about Curt Schilling and how "detrimental" the things Schilling said to the press were to the ball club. Ed Wade wanted Schilling gone because he wasn't likeable in his eyes and he didn't want him back for the same reason. Is this the way a man runs a professional baseball team? He would rather have an average player at the plate with what he deems an unimportant thing such as a less than impressive OBP because he is likeable, than have one of the most brilliant pitchers today because he is not so likeable? This is an outrage. And the pure stupidity of Ed Wade is beyond compare.
The sheer irony of him saying that he thinks Schilling's attitude was detrimental to the Phillies is that there is no one whose attitude is more detrimental to the success of the team than Ed Wade. He is running the operation with a belief that likeability and potential are reasons to retain, acquire or offer a huge deal to a player.
Pat Burrell is a good example of Wade acting hastily. He signed Burrell to a $50 million six year contract in the winter of 2003 and while Burrell has proven to be a magic man when he has his head together, he's also proven he lacks mental toughness and has a tendency to strike out often by swinging a little too freely. Wade got carried away and offered the young player far too much. It's been said that maybe the pressure of such an enormous contract affected Burrell. But as an example of Wade's misspending it is paramount. Upon signing him to that contract Ed Wade stated "Our goal is to draft, sign, and develop championship caliber players." Yes! There it is again.
And last season when what the team needed was more solid pitching to help a rotation largely killed by injury, Wade brought in Paul Abbott, an over the hill journeyman that went 3-11 with a 6.47 ERA. It was an utter disaster and painful to watch. Is this perhaps what Wade means by potential? If you decipher it, all that means is: "I hope this works". I don't know anyone who feels that this is the way to run a professional baseball team. This is not some small market team. The expectations should be high and the man running the show should be expected to be a lot smarter.
Then, there is the firing of Larry Bowa. We can talk all we want about the pros and cons and obviously some will agree it was a good thing, while some, like myself, will say it is a sad thing and that Bowa was not the major reason the 2004 Phillies didn't succeed. Before the season began Wade stated that "Anything less than the playoffs would be unacceptable", and that is an interesting statement. In other words if the Phillies don't make it there, then someone will pay. And I think that no matter what the problem was, Wade put the bull's eye on Bowa. If the Phillies fell short, Bowa would take the fall. So Wade was able to make dreadful moves and yet sneak by with no scars and put all of the blame on Bowa. When people like to endlessly talk about Bowa putting too much pressure on the team I wonder why no one pays any attention to that statement made by Wade before the season even began. Publicly stating that "Anything less than the playoffs would be unacceptable" seems out of line. If Bowa is going to be pointed to as a source of pressure for the Phillies last season I don't know how Wade gets away with that one.
He could have perhaps made up for Bowa's firing by hiring passionate and proven winning manager Jim Leyland. But he played with the fans emotions and pretended to be interested in someone he never thought would come out of retirement. Leyland called his bluff and came on like gangbusters for the job. Smart guy that he is Leyland knew that he didn't have the job when he realized that Wade already had the coaching staff chosen. Wade hired Jim Thome's best friend, Charlie Manuel. This is nothing personal against Manuel. It is personal because of Wade's sloppy way of hiring him. And how he chooses to run this team in such a wishy washy and confusing way then brazenly talks as if he has something to back up his confident arrogance and dismissive attitude. Ed Wade is not an example of a winning GM, and the fact that he keeps his job is laughable. However, it isn't a big mystery. Wade saves the owners a lot of money and that is their main focus. With that in mind, it's obvious that firing Ed Wade will only happen if there is new ownership. It is as certain as the sun rising that if the owners stay the same Wade will remain.
In his seven years here as General Manager he has traded away two of the best athletes in the game of baseball. He has passed up an opportunity to hire a World Series winning manager to replace a manager who brought the Phillies to their first back-to-back winning seasons since 1982 and 1983. He has made countless deals that have not benefited the Phillies. He has created his own general manager language that no one else speaks or understands. He has exposed his insecurities and the fact that he is in over his head by trying to turn fans against Curt Schilling by stating Schill asked to be traded. A less than professional move made by a man who should know better. He has talked down to the devoted fans of the team and alienated them by claiming to care more about the Phillies than the fans who pay year after year with the hopes that a winner will be fielded. What an insult.
Wade is swimming further and further into the deep end and has lost the lifeboat. The fans are not with you. You have lost them.
And now the bull's eye is squarely on you, Ed Wade, which is exactly where it has belonged all along.