jimmy rollins

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

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.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies

The heartwarming Jimmy Rollins reunion that was 17 years and 6,757 miles in the making

The heartwarming Jimmy Rollins reunion that was 17 years and 6,757 miles in the making

You may never truly know the impact you have on someone. All you can do is go about things the right way, treat people the way you’d like to be treated and the rest is history.

For Jimmy Rollins, he came back to Philadelphia to be honored by the fans he knew were always there, but he learned about one he never knew he had.

Meet Seito, a lifelong fan of Jimmy Rollins.

According to Reddit, Seito met Rollins in 2002 in Tokyo when he was nine years old, as you can see in the photo he’s holding up. He came to Rollins’ retirement night to have a reunion with his idol, and at long last, got what he was hoping for.

As the post explains, Seito held his sign up before the game and had no luck in reaching Rollins, but what happened next was awesome and shows the power of the Internet. 

After a plea online for anyone who may have connections to Rollins and a trip to guest services, Bonnie Clark, vice president of communications with the Phillies — who Rollins thanked very early on in his speech — greeted Seito and set up the reunion in the suite Rollins and his family were enjoying the game from.

The video is heartwarming.

The way Rollins takes time to look back at the photo and surely reminisce about the past 17 years, and what’s even more awesome is the reaction from Rollins’ family as he explains the context of the photo.

Rollins also posted about the encounter on his Instagram.

Forget the highlight video and the from-the-heart speech; this is what Saturday night was all about. The connections that fans have with their heroes and the genuine moment we were all fortunate to have been able to see.

Thanks J-Roll and Seito for showing us how many miles and how many years the game of baseball can impact.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies

Angry boos drown out cheers on an emotional night at the ballpark as Phillies give away lead vs. Nationals

Angry boos drown out cheers on an emotional night at the ballpark as Phillies give away lead vs. Nationals

Maybe it was the simple fact that there was a big, sellout crowd in the ballpark for Jimmy Rollins’ retirement ceremony. Maybe it was because the rebuild is over, the stakes are higher and the fans are more engaged now.

Whatever the case, the boos were louder and more frequent at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday night than they have been in some time.

And so were the cheers.

It was that kind of night for the Phillies and their fans — the thrill of a dramatic five-run rally in the seventh inning, the agony of giving it all away an inning later.

“Tough loss on a really special night for Jimmy,” manager Gabe Kapler said after his club let one get away in a wild, 10-8 loss to the Washington Nationals (see observations).

The Nationals, down 8-5 entering the eighth inning, rallied for four runs in that inning to take the lead for good.

The Nats put two men on base against veteran Pat Neshek in the frame. With two outs, Kapler pulled Neshek in favor of lefty Adam Morgan.

One night after setting a club record with his 16th straight scoreless appearance to open a season, Morgan gave up a three-run homer to pinch-hitter Kurt Suzuki and a solo shot to Victor Robles as the Nats surged into the lead.

Faced with the decision of having Neshek try to clean up his own mess against lefty-hitting Andrew Stevenson or go to Morgan and have the Nats respond with the right-handed hitting Suzuki, Kapler chose the former.

“In that situation you like a fresh Morgan who's been arguably your best pitcher all year against a pinch-hitter,” Kapler said. “That's the way you make them make the move.”

Morgan threw Suzuki two changeups. The second one went out of the park. Robles then hit a 1-0 fastball. The crowd booed loudly as each home run settled into the seats.

Previously, Morgan had given up just five hits in 12 2/3 innings.

“Any loss is tough, but to lose it like that was pretty hard,” Morgan said.

Morgan was not the only ineffective Phillies reliever. Juan Nicasio was nicked for two infield hits in the seventh then threw away a bunt as the Nats scored two unearned runs to take the lead before the Phillies got it right back in the bottom of the inning on four RBI doubles. Kapler had been watching Seranthony Dominguez’ workload so he gave Nicasio the ball in that situation.

“Ultimately, you have to trust your pitchers and not just the same pitchers you use to win a game every night,” Kapler said. “You've got to trust your entire bullpen and we trusted Nicasio there.”

Nicasio has allowed 24 base runners in 15 1/3 innings. How much longer can he be trusted?  

Jake Arrieta pitched six innings and gave up three runs. He was lifted for pinch-hitter Cesar Hernandez with one out and runners at second and third in the sixth. Hernandez struck out feebly against Patrick Corbin and Andrew McCutchen struck out looking. End of threat.

Kapler said it was a tough call to pinch-hit for Arrieta in a tie game.

“It really was,” he said. “He was pitching really well. But the one thing that I maintain is that we're going to be aggressive at every turn. We're going to try to win games when we have a chance to win ballgames. In that situation with a runner on second and third with one out, it was pretty much the only situation we were going to hit for him. Maybe bases loaded, nobody out a chance to break the game open, a chance to turn the tides. We were going to take advantage of that. Same thing with our bullpen usage. If we have a chance to win baseball games, we're going to go after them. We're going to go after them hard, we're going to go after them aggressively and I'm not going to come off that position.”

The loss left the Phils at 18-14.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies