Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Ed Wade's Head is Brought to Me

It had been an agitating sports weekend. Tulane bombed. The Eagles bombed. I had a restless night Sunday and an agitated Monday- snapping at people, looking at Harriet for a small slice of joy. My only other happiness was catching a bit of the Capitals matinee yesterday- wondering just how the NHL allows them to claim that there were more than six thousand people there?

But around four in the afternoon, my Christmas wish was granted three months early- and Phillies’ General Manager Ed Wade was shown the door.

This is a coup for the little people. The people who buy the tickets, who care about the club personally- as opposed to those who have a "financial interest" in the club, the “sportsmen” who are "involved" with the club- are triumphant. The Phillies would have been glad to call another 87 or so win season a success- and have you get those ticket renewal forms in right away- for the umpteen the year in a row.

But the common folks demanded his removal: voting with their feet and dollars, the disdainful blogs, the letters to the team and papers.

Somewhere during the awful fake process that led to the hiring of Manuel over roughly one thousand qualified guys, this ball club jumped a new chasm concerning authority in the minds of the fans. This disconnect- between the integrity and sincereity of the Phillies' message and actual action- was a manifestation that the Phillies were a team driven by an agenda rather than winning. Manuel proved the Phillies were going to win only on their own terms. It was as if style points or “being right” counted. If the managment couldn't win without being right or lauded for odd flashes of genius- then they'd just as soon not win. They wanted Manuel- and darn it, you were getting Manuel.

An organization can do this- run a franchise on the basis of personal agendas and a degree of cronyism. But you better win. Or at least not go eight years without making the play-offs.

Did Ed do a bad job? Like all things in life, the answer is mixed. Many good things were done here. Ed did a good job re-creating a talented nucleus of young position players: Rollins, Utley, Howard, Abreu, Pat the Bat. That is pretty darn good collection of young or barely veteran players- for the most part locked into sensible deals. See, oh say, Leiberthal or Randy Wolf- for how that can get missed up to the tune of eight-figures.

But, as I have argued all year long, there are two reasons that make his dismissal necessary.

First, the Phillies are an organization infected by an incredible sense of ennui. By that I mean, almost all organizations benefit from a leadership change after awhile. Ed Wade has been here eight years- if Ed could fix it, it would be fixed right? The stuff that is left is stuff that Ed can’t or won’t address- so get someone else in to try.

Second, in this particular off-season, the Phillies are faced with two things Ed Wade categorically cannot do: fine tune a ball club and make decisions concerning pitching.

The Phillies have identified and locked up a core of players- one challenge is to now surround them with the secondary and role-like players. Avoid the David Bells. Decide at what level of playing Victorino, 50, 100 or 150-games, does he help or hurt the team? What about Lofton? Find someone off the bench who scares people. I have zero confidence in Wade’s ability to evaluate second level major league talent.

Further, other than throwing money at the closer and Leiber- what else has Wade done to build a quality approach to pitching around here? I am not going to extensively document the Phillies pitching follies here- other than to say, for example, "Joe Kerrigan". But the Phillies have tough decisions to make on a ton of guys: Wolf, Padilla, Lidle, Wagner, etc.- and evaluations of some young starters who came up and earned another look in 2006. Who in the Phillies think-tank do you trust to make those decisions- and just what is the methodology and philosophy?

Bottom line- I have not exactly lost trust in Ed Wade. But both a combination of “a time for a change” and the nature of the decisions facing the club suggest that a fresh look and novel perspective are needed. I never had trust in Manuel or his staff- so a re-evaluation of that crowd is a plus too.

If took an insurrection from the common folks to re-orient our beloved franchise from its treadmill to "mediocrity-plus"- than so be it. The Phillies are not a democracy- so sometimes a revolution to depose the comfortable is indispensable.