Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Wade Strikes Again

Ed Wade continued his ruthlessly efficient quest to plug the Phillies' gaps, inking well traveled but dependable reliever Tim Worrell to a two-year, $5.5 million contract yesterday. (Inquirer, Daily News.) Worrell will set up Billy Wagner, but can be used a closer should something happen to Wagner; the 36-year-old saved 38 games for the Giants last season after Robb Nen was felled by injury.

If there were any doubts remaining that the Phils are serious about making a World Series run next season (and beyond), they should be gone now. Over the last two years, Wade has spent serious money to acquire a game-breaking power hitter, a seasoned and effective (when healthy) third baseman, a pair of top-of-the-rotation starters, one of the game's premier closers, and a quality setup guy. He also has locked up the team's best young players with long-term contracts. After years of applying Scotch tape when a blowtorch and soldering iron were needed, the Phillies finally are acting like a team that plays in the country's fifth largest city.

The Braves, Marlins, and Expos have all suffered significant losses since the end of the World Series, and the Mets are at least a season or two away from contending. The Phillies, on the other hand, have taken decisive steps to address their weaknesses and should enter their inaugural season at Citizens Bank Park as the consensus favorite to win the National League East, if not the pennant.

Don't take my word for it. David Pinto at Baseball Musings writes:

Unlike the Brewers, Tigers and Pirates before them, the Phillies appear to be serious about combining a new ballpark with a winning team. With Atlanta losing two key offensive players in Sheffield and Lopez and with Florida losing one in I-Rod, the Phillies are looking more and more like the favorites in the NL East.

(Pinto's post also led to an amusing exchange that invoked Larry Bowa and Mr. Ed. No, really.)'s Tom Singer chips in:

Ed Wade continues to go through his checklist, and assemble his team, by the numbers.

And the number one keeps looking better for Philadelphia. The Phillies have supplanted the Braves atop the National League East polls -- at least on paper, at least in the dead of winter, at least before John Schuerholz swings into action. ... Watching Wade fill up the Phillies one hole at a time, it doesn't take a stretch of the imagination to envision a championship for Citizens Bank Park's housewarming.

Even the cynical types at the Daily News are impressed. Sam Donnellon points out:

The Phillies are no longer cheap. If Ed Wade is slow, then rigor mortis has set in for George Steinbrenner. On the day after we learned the Florida Marlins will not even offer arbitration to Ivan Rodriguez, their World Series MVP, that the Braves don't want Greg Maddux back, the Phillies' general manager threw another fat check at another proven reliever and moved closer to retaining Kevin Millwood.

... [I]f Millwood accepts arbitration, the Phillies' payroll will be closing in on $100 million when they walk into their new park next season. And clearly the front-office types aren't bracing for that -- they're excitedly anticipating it, especially after Millwood called their arbitration offer a relief the other day.

"I was happy to see that," Wade said.

The Phillies can do both Millwood and Eric Milton, Montgomery said, because they likely will eclipse 3 million in attendance next season, and because their anticipated revenue streams will also include concession and parking income.

"Flexibility," Wade said.

"Flexibility," said Montgomery.

(Please add this to your official Phillies front-office vocabulary list. You know, the one with "due diligence" on it?)

Most years I like December to stroll leisurely through my life, to make the most of sweet Christmas anticipation. Last year and this, though, I'd rather it be on its way, the better to usher in April sooner. Is it Opening Day yet?


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