Former GM Wade set Phils in motion

Posted: March 29, 2010

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Ed Wade doesn't have a ring from the Phillies' 2008 World Series championship, even though he certainly had a hand in building that team - the core of which remains in place this year.

That, of course, is not how Wade is remembered by many Phillies fans. For proof, all you have to do is glance at the philly.com comments after the Houston Astros extended the contract of their general manager early in spring training.

"We should all feel sorry for die-hard Astros fans. Ed Wade is terrible."

"Ed Wade getting fired had a lot to do with Philadelphia becoming a champion."

"I boycotted the Phils in 2005 to send the message that he had to go."

It's true the Phillies didn't reach their ultimate destination until after Wade was dismissed as the general manager, but it's nearsighted to dismiss his contributions.

Eleven of the 25 players on the 2008 World Series roster joined the organization during Wade's tenure as GM. Five of the eight lineup regulars were Wade acquisitions, including four - Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino, and Carlos Ruiz - who remain. World Series MVP Cole Hamels was drafted during Wade's tenure, as was lefthander J.A. Happ, who has become a key member of the starting rotation.

Though Wade may never be recognized by the fans for his contributions to what the Phillies accomplished in the latter stages of the aughts decade, the groundwork laid by the former general manager and his assistant, Mike Arbuckle, should not be diminished.

New ballpark helped

Wade, who was the GM from 1998 through 2005, said the Phillies' move to their new ballpark in 2004 generally is considered the first step in the franchise's turnaround, but he believes it goes back further.

"The year before we went to Citizens Bank Park, that was the most public part of it," Wade said. "That's when [Jim] Thome and [Kevin] Millwood, and David Bell came on board. There were a lot of physical indications at that time. We finally knew we weren't going to be 22d or 23d in revenue and payroll anymore.

"But, realistically, the success that has been experienced there started even before that, when Jimmy Rollins was drafted. And Utley was drafted. And Howard and Hamels and Brett Myers and the other guys that came through the system."

Perhaps Wade's biggest contribution to what the Phillies have become was his patience during his time as the team's general manager. The 1997 Phillies were 68-94 and finished last in the National League East for the second consecutive season. The team's payroll in Wade's first season was less than $30 million, anemic even for that time period.

"All of us are competitive by nature," Wade said. "I wanted to win the first year that I had the opportunity to have the job, but the reality was we weren't in the position to do certain things. The system was still growing from the standpoint of quality and depth. We weren't of the mind-set to sacrifice the future for what possibly could be a short-term grab."

In Wade's first five seasons, the Phillies got Pat Burrell, Ryan Madson, Myers, Utley, Howard, and Hamels in the draft. By 2003, with their cash cow under construction, the Phillies proved they could sign the game's top free agent, Thome.

All those things created the foundation upon which the best team in the National League now stands. Wade's biggest contribution to the Phillies' current status may be what he didn't do.

Deals can help, and hurt

"I told people I could have gotten Barry Zito from Oakland in his prime," Wade said. "All it would have taken was Chase Utley, Ryan Madson, and Michael Bourn, and people would have been ecstatic at that point in time because we would have gotten one of the top lefthanded pitchers in baseball. But you wouldn't have had a parade down Broad Street in 2008, if we made that deal."

Good fortune also was needed, and that's what Wade had when he tried to trade Howard because the young first baseman wasn't going to play ahead of a healthy Thome.

"I actually made an offer to another club for a good, young player who would have filled another position for us," Wade said. "The GM on the other club rejected it because all of Ryan's home runs were in the minor leagues at the time. He made a reference to Sam Horn."

Wade tried throughout his time in Philadelphia to strengthen the Phillies' bullpen, but from Mike Jackson to Ugueth Urbina to Billy Wagner, his trades and free-agent signings never worked. As cruel fate would have it, one of Wade's first moves as the Houston GM was to trade Brad Lidge to the Phils, and he turned into the closer that got the Phillies to the finish line. But that's not why former Phillies GM Pat Gillick credited Wade's work after the team advanced to the World Series in 2008.

"What Pat said meant a lot because, coming from somebody like him, it helped validate what we thought we were doing all along and what we felt we had left behind in 2005," Wade said. "But they got it to the finish line. No matter what Pat said, the moves that he made took it to the point where it finally happened in 2008."

Contact staff writer Bob Brookover

at 215-854-2577 or bbrookover@phillynews.com.

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