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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Bobby Abreu, Cliff Lee, Scott Rolen headline polarizing list of ex-Phillies on Hall of Fame ballot

Bobby Abreu, Cliff Lee, Scott Rolen headline polarizing list of ex-Phillies on Hall of Fame ballot

MLB's 2020 Hall of Fame ballot was released Monday and it included six former Phillies of varying degrees of popularity. In fact, it's hard to even say which of the six is the most beloved in Philly. 

Bobby Abreu
Raul Ibanez
Cliff Lee
Scott Rolen
Curt Schilling
Billy Wagner

• At first glance, you might say Lee. He had great moments with the Phillies, memorable playoff games, and that low-key swag that drew fans to him. But things ended in a clunky way when he came back the second time. An elbow injury caused Lee to miss the final 1½ years of his contract and he was pretty much invisible during that time. He was also noticeably absent when the 2009 NL Championship team got together at Citizens Bank Park this past summer. The answer is still probably Lee, but it was a sour end for plenty of folks.

• Abreu is very well-respected around the game for being an ahead-of-his-time player with gaudy, well-rounded stats, but he was and still is polarizing around here. A portion of the fan base will always look at Abreu as an overrated compiler who was scared of walls. The other portion — it may be an even 50-50 split these days — appreciates the player Abreu was and realizes he'd be worth $200 million today.

• Phillies fans haven't forgotten Rolen's elite defense. Rolen was truly one of the best defensive third basemen of all time. But he orchestrated his way out of here and that is remembered equally, if not more so. 

• Schilling ... yikes. Not delving into that one beyond an acknowledgment that his post-playing career has been remarkably strange.

• Ibañez was well-liked here and everywhere else he played. He may manage in the majors some day soon. He had an incredible first half in 2009, his first year with the Phillies, then was just slightly above average the rest of his three-year career with them.

• Phillies fans don't feel especially attached to Wagner, who was great here but lasted only two seasons. Unlike the other five on the list, Wagner should be in the Hall of Fame, in my opinion. Wagner was a more dominant reliever than Trevor Hoffman or Lee Smith. He had six seasons with an ERA under 2.00. He saved 422 games. He could have hung around for three more seasons to hit the arbitrary number of 500, which would have made him a Hall of Famer. Instead, Wagner retired on his terms after posting a 1.43 ERA for the Braves in 2010.

It will be interesting to see whether Abreu, a first-time candidate, gets the groundswell of support we've seen in recent years with players like Tim Raines.

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Phillies free-agent target: Zack Wheeler

Phillies free-agent target: Zack Wheeler

Leading up to baseball’s winter meetings, we will take a daily look at some of the game’s top free agents and how they could potentially impact the Phillies.

Today, we check in on Zack Wheeler, a right-hander who is seen as having much untapped potential.

The vitals

The very talented Wheeler has a big fastball — his career-high 96.8-mph average velocity was fourth-best in the majors among starting pitchers in 2019 — and excellent breaking stuff, but injuries and inconsistency have prevented him from blossoming into a star. He is 44-38 with a 3.77 ERA lifetime. He was the No. 6 overall pick by San Francisco in the 2009 draft. He was traded to the Mets two years later for Carlos Beltran, who is now the Mets' manager. Wheeler will turn 30 in May.

Why he fits

His career is trending upward and a team might be getting him just as he’s about to put it all together. Wheeler has been mostly healthy the last two seasons, going 23-15 with a 3.65 ERA in 60 starts. He has pitched 182⅓ and 195⅓ innings, respectively, the last two seasons, a good sign after struggling with injuries early in his career. In both 2018 and 2019, he was one of the best in baseball after the All-Star break, going a combined 14-3 with a 2.26 ERA.

Wheeler also reached a career high by throwing a first-pitch strike 65.8 percent of the time, a top-10 mark that placed him ahead of Jacob deGrom, Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander.

Given the supply and demand for starting pitching in the majors, Wheeler is headed for a big payday, but not as big as the top arms in this market. That might allow the Phils to spread around their dollars and fill multiple holes.

Why he doesn’t fit

From Charlie Morton in the starting rotation to David Robertson, Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter in the bullpen, the Phillies have been burned by injuries to free-agent pitchers. Wheeler missed significant time recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2015 and 2016. He spent time on the injured list in 2017 and was briefly sidelined in 2019 with what was called shoulder fatigue. He rebounded quickly and was able to make 31 starts, but his health history can't be ignored.

The Phillies need to be protective of their high draft picks. They would surrender a second-round pick for the right guy. The question remains: Is the inconsistent Wheeler the right guy? When push comes to shove, the Phils would probably do it.

The price tag

Some team is going to bet on Wheeler being ready to reel off several years of good health and effectiveness. The industry feel is that Wheeler could come in somewhere between the four-year, $68 million deal that Nathan Eovaldi got from Boston last year and the six-year, $140 million that Patrick Corbin got from Washington. In other words, he could be looking at a $100 million payday. 

Scout’s take

“The velocity is intriguing. My concern is he gets hit too hard for the kind of stuff he has. He’s had some health glitches so that makes it a risk for the kind of money he’s going to get. But the raw stuff and potential are definitely there. It just depends on a team’s willingness to risk.”

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