Friday, October 17, 2008

The Vindication of Ed Wade

In 1998, the Phillies hired Ed Wade to be their general manager. Soft-spoken and cautious, Wade was never popular with the boisterous, blue-collar fan base in Philadelphia. It also didn't help that the Phillies routinely stunk. But, from the very beginning of his tenure, Wade paid a lot of attention to scouting, player development and the draft, through which the Phillies would quickly secure future stars like 2007 NL MVP Jimmy Rollins, Pat Burrell and Chase Utley.

In 2001, following the hiring of Larry Bowa as field manager, the team got off to a fast start, was in first place for much of the season and ended up finishing just two games out of the playoffs. Based on the team's 2001 success, hopes were high with each successive year, especially beginning in 2003, after the signing of All-Star first baseman Jim Thome. Despite Thome, a high-priced payroll and sky-high expectations, the Phils barely missed the playoffs in 2003, 2004 (Bowa's last season as manager), 2005 and 2006. Wade, who was fired after the 2005 season, was blamed for much of the team's failures.

Wade is now GM in Houston, and the Phillies are run by legendary GM Pat Gillick and manager Charlie Manuel. The conventional wisdom is that it's Gillick's craft moves and Manuel's soft touch that enabled the Phillies to finally make the playoffs in 2007 and reach the World Series in 2008. But, believe it or not, the nucleus of the team - Rollins, Burrell, Utley, 2006 NL MVP Ryan Howard, 2008 NLCS MVP Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Ryan Madson - was drafted and developed by none other than Ed Wade. It is thanks to his moves - and some of his non-moves, in which he could have traded away players like Utley and Hamels a few years ago for short-term fixes - that have enabled the Phillies, my Phillies to reach this point. In characteristic Ed Wade fashion, of course, he's not taking much credit:

Wade is busy trying to build a championship club in Houston, and he is far too modest to claim any credit for the success of the 2008 Phillies. His first instinct is to credit the team’s scouts and player development personnel who drafted and developed league MVPs Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins, ace pitcher Cole Hamels and All-Star Chase Utley on his watch.

Yet, the 2008 Phillies are an example of what kind of team can build even if he is not willing to take credit for it.

“I just think it reinforces the point that every baseball guy will make if you ask him the same question, (and that’s) that the life blood of any organization is based in player development and scouting,” Wade said.
True. An I never thought I'd say this, but I'm saying it now: thanks, Ed. Phillies phans everywhere owe you a great deal.


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