Sam Donnellon | No Pat answers with Phillies GM


Posted: July 11, 2007

WE ONCE HELD these truths to be self-evident: That Ed Wade's 8-year tenure as Phillies general manager was a disaster and that Pat Gillick is a proven winner, producing playoff teams in all three of his previous stops as a GM, winning a pair of World Series in his first.

But as the Phillies drive head-on toward and beyond their 10,000th franchise loss, the equation seems flipped these days. Those talented character guys who led the charge onto Coors Field on Sunday, creating all kinds of goodwill on the eve of the Barry Bonds All-Star fiasco - well, many were added on Ed's watch. Meanwhile, the savvy moves Gillick was to make to push this team over the hump have instead become just the latest boulders to pull it back to and below mediocrity.

Today, five more wins - which Gillick cited when taking the job - seem no less difficult than reversing global warming.

Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Michael Bourn - all were drafted while Wade was in the front office. Carlos Ruiz was an inexpensive free-agent signing. Shane Victorino was a Rule 5 pickup.

Wade's undoings were his trades and signings, and the big deals he gave Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell - making one hard to deal, and the other impossible. I still chuckle about a conversation with White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen during the 2005 postseason, when he chided Philadelphia media and fans for their treatment of their former rightfielder.

"You ask the other 29 teams, they'd love to have a Bobby Abreu,'' he said of his friend and countryman.

"Even with his contract?'' I asked.

"Oh no,'' Guillen said. "Philly would have to pick up some of that.''

Wade did way too much of that, and those ever-present Phillies payroll restrictions forced him to ride out those mistakes, like the contracts

offered to David Bell and Tim Worrell. There were other Wade signings that looked good at the time, but added thorns to his crown. Worrell, Dennis Cook, Turk Wendell - none delivered what the former GM paid for.

It's not hard to imagine how much more aggressive Gillick might have been in the offseason if he could have struck the salary of Burrell from the books, after doing the same with Abreu. On the job for 20 months, Gillick also can not be blamed for the lack of prospects in the minor leagues.

But the cost of the Freddy Garcia mess is not just the $10 million he will be paid this season, but the two young arms dealt for him. A package including Gio Gonzalez or Gavin Floyd right now might just produce that fourth or fifth starter Gillick recently said he aims to obtain.

Then again, they were supposed to be the price paid to rent Garcia, a purported No. 1 starter. That is why there was a collective civic shudder the other day when that quote about acquiring an arm hit the fans, especially as the name of Bourn was bounced about.

No one is quite sure what kind of average he will have as an everyday guy someday, but that sixth-gear speed, and a willingness to be taught, suggest he should be kept at all cost, especially with Aaron Rowand's free agency looming.

There are too many other land mines buried into this club, like the ineffectiveness and advanced age of its bullpen.

That's not all Gillick's fault. Take a look around the National League East and you will find an amazing assemblage of old and oft-injured arms being counted on. Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, Orlando Hernandez, Garcia, Jon Lieber, John Smoltz, Mike Hampton, Tom Gordon - this is your grandfather's NL East!

This is major league baseball.

After refusing to give Billy Wagner 4 guaranteed years, Gillick signed aging Tom Gordon away from the Yankees. Hmm. He gave the nod for Brett Myers to move to closer when Gordon broke down. At 26, with no previous arm troubles, Myers now embodies the uncertainty surrounding this team. Will he return to full health? Will he return in time to help? Should the Phillies put him back in the rotation?

Here's what we know with certainty: Pat Gillick's magic wand is busted. His moves, with rare exception, have left us pining for Wade's days of due diligence. "Stand Pat'' - his nickname tracing to his days in Toronto when he had talent, a farm system, and a free-spending brewery as owners - seems a misnomer here.

So does his reputation forĀ fleecing others in trades.

Gillick will be 70 next month. He has another year left on his contract after this season, and the common thinking is that this is his last GM job, his last baseball gig that doesn't have something like adviser or consultant attached to it. It would be nice to believe the wand can still be fixed, that there are a few zaps left in the old wizard - or at least five more wins.

The self-evident truth, though, 20 months in, is that he hasn't given you much to go on.


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