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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