Phillies

A summer of appreciation for Ed Wade — and it's long overdue

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Brett Davis/USA Today Images

A summer of appreciation for Ed Wade — and it's long overdue

The Phillies will honor Bobby Abreu with a place on their Wall of Fame before Saturday night’s game.

It is a well-deserved honor for a man whose career, with the passage of time and the aid of new perspectives, has become more and more appreciated.

Abreu’s spot on the Wall of Fame and his place as one of the top players in Phillies history is a testament to Ed Wade, another man whose career, with the passage of time, looks better and better.

And maybe this summer is finally being appreciated.


(Dan Loh/AP Images)

It has been a summer of ceremony at Citizens Bank Park. Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard — world champions and club icons — were all honored with retirement nights and the fans came out in force to show their respect.

Rollins went first in early May and his speech included a notable tip of the hat to Wade for his role in putting together the 2008 World Series championship team.

Two months later, Howard did the same thing.

Utley’s remarks in June were shorter than his two infield mates’, but he’s mentioned Wade’s impact on the best era of Phillies baseball many, many times in the past.

Wade was Phillies general manager from late 1997 until the fall of 2005. Those were difficult years for the franchise as it walked a tightrope between building a roster that could win and a ballpark that could fuel the revenues needed to compete in baseball’s new world.

Wade was let go after the 2005 season. It wasn’t necessarily a baseball decision because things were moving in the right direction. The Phils won 88 games that season and finished two games behind first-place Atlanta and one game out of the wild card. Under today’s system of two wild-card teams, the Phils would have made the playoffs in 2005 and Wade’s place in the future probably would have been secured.

Wade was let go more for business reasons. Attendance dropped by 600,000 in the second year of the new ballpark, a place Wade had helped design. That loss of revenue was a sign of fans’ impatience. It called for change and Wade was let go.

Tough business, baseball.

Wade never moaned about his firing in Philadelphia. He acknowledged that the rise to the playoffs that the franchise sought and eventually got didn’t happen fast enough. He acknowledged his mistakes — it’s an unpredictable game and all GMs make them — said he was proud of the good things that he’d done and moved on to Houston a couple of years later where he brought eventual NL MVP Jose Altuve to the majors and oversaw the drafting of eventual Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel and eventual World Series MVP George Springer. Those three players helped the Astros go from a rebuild to a World Series championship in 2017. Wade was not around to enjoy that title. He got caught in an ownership change and was let go after the 2011 season, but his fingerprints were all over that Houston title team — just as they were the Phillies title team.


(Tom Mihalek/AP Images)

When Pat Gillick was hired to succeed Wade in Philadelphia, he acknowledged that he was taking over a good club that had worked the ball into the red zone and just needed a little help getting over the goal line. In his opening press conference, he talked about the good work Wade had done, and as the Phillies got better and better and won the NL East in 2007, and bigger titles in subsequent years, Gillick, class man that he is, never forgot Wade in passing around the credit.

“This is Ed Wade’s team,” Gillick once said.

Of course, there were others who had a hand in the construction of those great Phillies clubs, people like Lee Thomas (Rollins was drafted when he was GM), Mike Arbuckle, Marti Wolever, Ruben Amaro Jr., and many more, but Gillick, a huge contributor himself, was dead on in his praise of Wade.

Wade was GM when the Phillies drafted and developed Utley, Howard, Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Ryan Madson and Pat Burrell, all contributors to the championship years.

He was the GM who put a young front office man named Mike Ondo in charge of the Rule 5 draft and said, “Let’s get him,” the year Ondo identified a kid named Shane Victorino as worthy of being selected.

He was the guy whose famous, from-the-heart Thanksgiving morning email helped put Jim Thome over the top as he agonized over whether to take the money in Philadelphia or stay in his comfort zone in Cleveland.

He was the guy who did not cave to pressure and trade Howard when he was a young minor-league prospect blocked by Thome.

He was the guy who did not trade a minor-league second baseman named Utley to Oakland for Barry Zito.

And he was the guy who had the ba … OK, guts … to hire Charlie Manuel when the whole town wanted Jim Leyland.

That hire has been validated hundreds of times over — just listen to the cheers Manuel gets these next few days during Alumni Weekend — most notably with Manuel’s raising the World Series trophy in October 2008 and Gillick’s saying that hanging on to Manuel (Gillick considered a change after the 2006 season) was the best move he ever made.


(Rusty Kennedy/AP Images)

Wade watched the Phillies celebrate the 2008 World Series from afar. Abreu watched it from his home in South Jersey. He actually opened a bottle of champagne and toasted his former mates. A little piece of him was still with that nucleus of players, even though he had moved on in a trade to the Yankees in July 2006.

Abreu played nine seasons and 1,353 games with the Phillies. He hit .303 with 195 homers and 814 RBIs. He stole 254 bases. He had an on-base percentage of .416 and an OPS of .928. The people who run baseball teams these days go absolutely gaga over his career numbers and you can bet that Abreu will receive strong Hall of Fame consideration when he hits the ballot for the first time this winter.

But first, it’s the Phillies Wall of Fame.

It’s an honor that never would have happened if it weren’t for Ed Wade.

Back in the mid-90s, when he was assistant GM under Thomas, Wade was assigned a couple of teams to scout during spring training. One of them was the Astros. Abreu caught Wade’s eye and when it looked like the young outfielder might not be protected in the expansion draft of 1997, Wade hounded Thomas to get the kid, some how, some way. The Phils ended up convincing Tampa Bay to select Abreu in the expansion draft and send him their way for Kevin Stocker.

It was a pretty good get, as they say.


(George Widman/AP Images)

One of the first things they teach you in this business is to pick up the phone and talk to the people you write about. Sorry. There are no comments from Ed Wade in this story. Had I called him for some thoughts, he would have protested — “Go away, angle boy,” — and tried to talk me out of writing this. He no longer works in baseball and is content watching from afar, away from the headlines.

But make no mistake about it. Ed Wade had a significant influence on the game and a huge influence on two championship teams.

On Saturday night, he will sit quietly in Citizens Bank Park and hear yet another star player thank him for the impact he had on his career.

The appreciation is long overdue.

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Potentially awkward scenes we could see during 2020 MLB season

Potentially awkward scenes we could see during 2020 MLB season

Baseball fans are hoping for the best. 

Everyone that loves the sport is hopeful that the owners and players can iron out their financial differences and come to an agreement that clears the way for a 2020 season. In the meantime, we are left to wonder what a season played in the midst of a pandemic might look like. 

Beyond there being no fans in the ballparks when the season starts, players would also keep their distance from one another, both on and off the field. 

A potentially awkward scene comes to mind. Say the home team wins in walk-off fashion. What would the celebration look like? We're used to seeing the entire team stream out of the dugout and charge whoever delivered the winning hit, mobbing him somewhere along the basepaths and ripping his jersey off.

Or in the case of a walk-off home run, everyone waiting at home plate to dump the Gatorade bucket on the hero and jump around in unison.

We saw Phillies star Bryce Harper in the middle of several such celebrations last season, most notably after his walk-off grand slam against the Cubs. What would that look like in 2020? Harper sprinting around the bases, charging towards home plate where ... no one is waiting for him. Everyone gives him a thumbs-up from a distance and goes their separate ways? It's a weird scenario to think about. But it will likely play out quite a bit should there be a season. 

Former Phillies outfielder Jeff Francoeur was a guest on the Phillies Talk podcast this week and said that if he were still playing, he'd probably still hug a teammate after a walk-off and just pay the fine.  

Back to the possibility of playing in empty ballparks without fans. At first thought, that doesn't seem like too big of a deal for the players. Baseball is baseball, it's still the same game with or without fans. But not having the energy and electricity that the fans provide could have a big impact on certain players, particularly the Phillies' best player. Francoeur, for example, explained how players sometimes really use the fans' energy to get up for day-games when the fatigue of the season mounts.

No one feeds off the fans more than Harper. He loves playing to the crowd at Citizens Bank Park — pumping up the fans sitting behind him in right field and gesturing to the crowd behind the dugout after a big home run. Harper fires up the fans, and vice versa. 

Harper is equally effective in feeding off negative energy on the road. He's probably been booed in opposing ballparks more than any player in baseball and he's been dealing with it since his teenage years. He was heckled throughout a game in San Francisco last season, with one fan yelling 'overrated' each time Harper stepped into the batter's box (a chant Harper hears in most road cities). He channeled that negativity into a pair of monster home runs and made sure to let the fans know about it afterward.

His first game back in Washington last season is another great example. Nationals fans were all over Harper the entire night. He responded by going 3-for-5 with two doubles and a two-run home run into the upper deck.  

Harper is a showman. He relishes his roles of fan-favorite at home and villain on the road. Harper will still be effective playing in an empty ballpark. But it's fair to wonder if the lack of energy could have an adverse impact on him.  

It's one of countless unknowns as we brace for what promises to be a baseball season unlike any we've seen. Of course, there is still plenty of work to be done to ensure there will be a season. The clock is ticking. 

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Revelations and takeaways from the Roy Halladay E60 documentary

Revelations and takeaways from the Roy Halladay E60 documentary

There was so much of note in Friday's powerful hourlong E60 documentary of the life and death of Roy Halladay. Heartbreaking recollections from his widow, Brandy, troubling details of his addiction to prescription opioids, and the valuable lesson that hopefully can come from such a painful tragedy.

"I just wanted him to slow down," Brandy said.

"Roy had none," she said of the balance in his life at points.

"He didn't feel he had the luxury of making mistakes, he was truly tormented."

How Halladay's opioid addiction began

Halladay popped his back during the 2011 season and pitched through it. He pitched through pain the night the Phillies' playoff hopes ended in a gut-wrenching 1-0 loss to the Cardinals in Game 5 of the NLDS after a franchise-record 102 regular-season wins.

Brandy told a story of Roy experiencing such back pain that he once fell down sneezing around that time.

Halladay began taking prescription opioids in the spring of 2012, obtaining them by paying cash to a doctor in Florida who was recommended to him by a Phillies teammate.

"He was continuing to hurt himself, and the more he hurt himself, the more dependent he would be on medication," Brandy said. "He was breaking his back. He actually shrunk three inches from compression in his spine. That's insane."

Former teammate and pupil Kyle Kendrick, who looked up to Halladay as a role model and mentor, noticed that something wasn't right. 

"At his locker, I was right next to him. You'd try to talk to him and you'd feel like he wasn't there," Kendrick said. "As a friend, I felt like I should say something. I felt like he might need help. A teammate and I said something to someone who worked for the team."

The teammate confronted Halladay about his drug use during the 2013 season but nothing changed.

Fear of public scrutiny

Halladay's body became dependent on the medications to function. All the while, he privately dealt with the fear of others finding out. He was tormented by the potential public scrutiny.

"Everybody should be able to ask for help and they shouldn't be looked down on and judged for that," Brandy said several times throughout the documentary. If there is one lesson to be learned from this tragedy, it is that.

Roy Halladay went to rehab for his painkiller addiction during the 2013 season, his final year in the majors. Many Phillies fans will remember the stress-filled, sweat-soaked 13 starts Halladay made that final year. At times, that was a reaction to the medication in his system.

He left rehab early, Brandy said, because he had been recognized and someone had snuck a phone into the facility. Roy was nervous about word of his stint in rehab leaking out.

The struggle to find a purpose

After retirement, in the years before Halladay recaptured some of his joy and passion by coaching his sons' baseball teams, Roy "stopped taking care of himself, inside and out," according to Brandy. His weight rose to over 300 pounds at one point in retirement, then down to 205 at another.

He reentered rehab in January 2015 for the painkiller addiction and was there three months. When he returned home, he began seeing a psychiatrist and was formally diagnosed with ADD, depression and anxiety. 

In retirement, Halladay struggled to find a purpose. 

"He was lost, he didn't know what to do with himself," Brandy said. "Flying was therapeutic."

Doc's days in the air

The circumstances of Halladay's death were documented in a 2018 toxicology report and in a report from the National Transportation Safety Board last month. He had Zolpidem, amphetamine and morphine in his system at the time he crashed his Icon A5 plane into the Gulf of Mexico. According to the NTSB report, Halladay was doing extreme acrobatics when he lost control.

Halladay received his pilot's license in 2013. He had spent much time in the air with his father, Roy II, a pilot, from a young age, and had accrued more than 700 flying hours himself before the crash.

"He was an excellent pilot," Roy II said of his son. "Mechanically, his skills were very good. He kept working for additional ratings."

Yet still, Brandy didn't feel it was totally safe. 

"He was trying to fill this void by buying boats and planes and cars and shoes," she said. "Roy was an adrenaline guy, he was always looking for that rush."

When Roy got his Icon A5, a plane that made him feel like he was flying a fighter jet, "he was so excited, he couldn't control himself," Brandy said.

"My concern was after he got the (Icon A5), he kept talking about how sporty it was, how much of a sports car it was," his father said. "I said be careful with it."

The tragedy

Halladay died 35 days after getting the Icon A5. According to the NTSB report, he frequently flew at low altitudes in shallow water and flew underneath a bridge in Tampa with Brandy on board 12 days before the fatal crash.

On the day of the crash, he and Brandy were supposed to see one of their sons' band perform at a school concert. Roy told Brandy he'd return the Icon A5 to the airport and meet her there. He texted her while she was driving, "I'm so sorry, I should have just gone with you, another wasted day." Instead of flying north to the airport, he had flown west to the Gulf of Mexico where the crash occurred.

"I had so much more in the future I wanted for us and it was hard to know that it was just done," Brandy Halladay said.

"I know in my heart it was an accident. I want to make sure that people understand that he was just a man. Perfect, I hate that word, perfect. I just want him to be Roy. I hope somebody hears our story and says, 'Wow, I'm going to ask for help.'"

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