Sunday, June 27, 2004

Fire Ed Wade
The case for firing Ed Wade grows stronger and stronger with each passing day of Phillies mediocrity. Let's review the case for firing Ed Wade:

Since he was hired following the departure of longtime GM Lee Thomas, Ed Wade's primary free agent acquisitions have been: Mark Lewis, Rheal Cormier, Jose Mesa, Roberto Hernandez, Jim Thome, and David Bell. Of those, Thome has been a smash as expected, but only Jose Mesa was ever effective more than briefly, and his tenure ended badly. Wade has made one or two good trades -- the best being the theft of outfielder. Bobby Abreu from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1997 for washed-up shortstop Kevin Stocker -- but for the most part his deals have been disasters or non-factors. In 1998 he acquired an over-the-hill Ron Gant, Cliff Politte, and a clearly spent Jeff Brantley from St. Louis for Garrett Stephenson and Ricky Bottalicco. Stephenson was a fluke 16-game winner for the Cards in 2000, but otherwise that group of players has not distinguished itself. His acquisition of Andy Ashby from San Diego for pitchers Carlton Loewer, Adam Eaton, and Steve Montgomery was a disaster for the Phillies and may yet work out for the Padres. Ashby was lit up in his brief stint with the Phils, and the fans turned on him almost immediately. Loewer broke his leg shortly after the trade and hasn't been the same since, and Eaton has battled injuries his whole career but looks to be a fairly effective middle-of-the-rotation type for the contending Padres. Robert Person, acquired from Toronto for non-entity Paul Spoljaric, had a few effective seasons for the Phillies before signing a huge 1-year deal and then flaming out during the 2002 campaign.

It's the big trades that now look the worst. Wade traded Curt Schilling to Arizona in 2000 for four players -- Omar Daal, Nelson Figueroa, Travis Lee, and Vicente Padilla. Daal had two good months for the Phils in 2001 before disappearing back into mediocrity, Figueroa didn't stick around long and isn't in the majors anymore. Travis Lee (or Travesty, as I called him), loafed his way through two-and-a-half mediocre seasons with the Phillies, before landing his dream job as a Yankees reserve this offseason. Padilla, who looked to be the best of the bunch at the time, has won 33 games as a Phillie and made an all-star team, but has now been derailed by ominous-sounding arm problems. Schilling, of course, has won 68 games since the trade and led the 2001 D-Backs to the World Championship.

In 2002, Wade traded fringe reliever Doug Nickle and future Hall-of-Fame third-sacker Scott Rolen to the Cardinals for reliever Mike Timlin (who left Philly after 2002), Bud Smith (who was injured when the trade was made and never recovered), and third-baseman Placido Polanco, a super-utilityman who has been woefully miscast as a starter for more than two years. Instead of taking the Cards' two draft picks, the Phils now have little or nothing to show for trading away possibly the greatest third-baseman since Mike Schmidt, and possibly the best ever, if Rolen continues to put up numbers like he has so far this season.

In fairness to Wade, these last two deals were made under duress -- Schilling desperately wanted to play for a contender, and Rolen had made it painfully clear he was going to walk after the 2002 campaign. But Wade has a habit of asking for "major-league ready" talent in return for good players, even if that talent is mediocre at best. After all, Kansas City's Allen Baird, operating under even tougher pressure to trade Carlos Beltran, managed to nab a top 3B prospect, a top catching prospect, and a decent AAA pitcher in a 3-way-deal with the Astros and A's. The idea of Ed Wade conducting a 3-way trade seems farcical. He made a nice deal for flamethrowing closer Billy Wagner, but has stubbornly refused to make the creative deals for impact position players that win championships. The organization is also far too protective of its pitching prospects, the majority of whom will never be effective major leaguers -- even if they were signed to huge bonuses.

Back before the 2002 season, I wrote to Wade and suggested a 3-way trade with the Blue Jays and Rangers. The Phillies would trade away Rolen, Marlon Byrd, and a starting pitcher Brett Myers. The Blue Jays would get Myers and Byrd, the Rangers would get Rolen, the Phillies would get Rangers prospect Hank Blalock, Blue Jays CF Shannon Stewart, and Blue Jays pitcher Chris Carpenter. Could this deal have happened? Probably not. But if Wade could get creative, the Phils might not be stuck with underproductive Polanco at 2B (who is blocking a nothing-left-to-prove in AAA Chase Utley), and over-the-hill mediocrity David Bell at 3B. I sent a copy of that trade proposal, by the way, to Phillies beat writer Bill Conlin, who wrote back and called me "an idiot." Well, to paraphrase Parker Posey, who's on top and who's on bottom now, Bill? Blalock is set to be a perennial all-star, Carpenter is lighting it up for the Cards (admittedly after missing all of 2002 and 2003), Byrd is back in AAA, Myers is mediocre and inconsistent, Stewart is still getting on base atop the Twins batting order.

To put together a championship team, you have to think big, and you have to recognize your deficiencies. You also have to be an astute judge of talent. What was Wade thinking last year when he acquired Pittsburgh reliever Mike Williams for the stretch drive? Williams, suffering through an abominable season, proceeded to be worse for the Phillies, which everyone but Wade saw coming in the first place. What was he thinking when he gave Rheal Cormier three years? Or when he signed a way-past-his-prime Roberto Hernandez this offseason? What is he thinking right now, with his team scuffling its way to a miraculous first-place tie with the Florida Marlins? Here's Wade in today's Inquirer:

"I like the makeup of our club," Wade said. "We need the guys that we're counting on to step up and play the way we're capable of playing. If we do that, we'll be in fine shape. That doesn't mean if that's happening we won't be trying to add a piece here or there. The bottom line is one move here or there doesn't guarantee anything if everybody else isn't playing up to his own capabilities."

Memo to Wade: The Phillies are the sixth or seventh-best team in the NL right now. They can win their division, but they need a solid reliever (AKA not Roberto Hernandez), a run producer, and serviceable starting pitcher. Without two of these three things, they have no hope. But I can almost guarantee that Ed Wade will be incapable of obtaining these things.

And that's why he should be fired.

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