Monday, October 10, 2005

After the eighth straight season the Phillies failed to make the playoffs under Ed Wade’s watch, the prodigal general manager of the Phillies was finally relieved of his duties. Those eight seasons saw the rise of stars such as Curt Schilling and Scott Rolen, only to see them shipped off for no-names and has-beens.

We got what was supposed to be a steal from the Atlanta Braves: they get catcher Johnny Estrada, we get pitcher Kevin Millwood. If ever there were to be a case made for a “Curse of Ed Wade,” this would be the prime example. All of Philadelphia watched as Estrada rose to the top as a catcher with a volatile bat, as we watched very few great outings from Millwood, and the only one that comes to mind is his no-hitter in 2003 against the San Francisco Giants.

Wade made a name for himself lately for timidly trading away young talent for old relievers, like when we got Todd Jones and sent Josh Hancock and Anderson Machado to the Cincinnati Reds.

You may breathe now. It’s over. Someone from the organization, namely Ruben Amaro, Jr. or Mike Arbuckle will take over. Or, if team president Dave Montgomery feels like going outside of the organization, they can chase former general managers Gerry Hunsicker (Astros), Pat Gillick (Blue Jays, Mariners) and John Hart (Indians, Rangers), or current general managers Brian Cashman (Yankees) and Theo Epstein (Red Sox), whose contracts run out November 1.

Whatever the case, the new guy will have his hands full with the Phillies. First, there’s the Billy Wagner situation to be resolved. The flame-throwing closer is a free agent and is seeking a $27 million/3-year deal, if not from the Phillies, then from a team on the east coast, namely the Orioles or Mets, who are looking for a ninth-inning answer.

And then there’s the Jim Thome/Ryan Howard saga. Howard requested a trade from the Phillies before the start of the 2005 season, and will likely do the same if room is not made for him. However, the Phillies do have some leverage with the young slugger. They have one more year in which they can keep him in the Minor Leagues, which can give them time to determine if Thome is worth the effort, or they can get Howard to switch to the outfield, and possibly move Abreu to centerfield. However, the platoon that worked so well with centerfielders Lofton, a free agent, and Jason Michaels would be broken up.

It will be tough for the Phillies to unload Thome, but an American League team would be the most likely to take him as a designated hitter. Thome, who averages 40 HR and 110 RBI per season, has a burdensome contract and his injury liability is almost certainly on the front burner on the mind of anyone considering acquiring him. And any trade involving Thome will almost certainly result in the Phillies covering a decent portion of his contract.

So, we usher in a new era with our Phillies, and if ever there was a time to break up the Braves’ imperialism of the NL East, it was 2005. The Phillies will try to drag that, and shortstop Jimmy Rollins’ 36-game hitting streak, into 2006.