Monday, January 26, 2004

Preaching the Gospel of Ed

Count the Daily News's Sam Donnellon among the converts to the Church of Wade. Expanding on yesterday's "Wonder what Scott Rolen is thinking" piece by Jim Salisbury in the Inquirer, Donnellon notes that the Phillies have earned his trust thanks to the way they've managed their affairs recently:

The Phillies have done almost everything we have asked them to do over the last two seasons, starting with the crafty and consolidated wooing and signing of Jim Thome, the pricey acquisition of Kevin Millwood, the signing of David Bell to fill the void Scott Rolen left at third. You can hammer them for not seeing Jose Mesa's meltdown coming, and for their weak trade-deadline pursuits of another closer (Mike Williams?) and another bat (nobody). But if you do, then realize the improbability of this offseason's conquests, when prospects and young arms were dealt to obtain Billy Wagner and Eric Milton, two arms with impressive pedigrees.

Some of those prospects would have been gone if general manager Ed Wade were more aggressive at the trade deadline last July, as people like me wanted him to be. "We made baseball decisions that people didn't agree with," Wade said the other day. "And obviously people can now say we were right and you guys were wrong."

Wade even explicitly addresses the belief of Rolen and others a few years ago that the Phils were a big-market team with small-market purse strings. In what amounts as a "Nyah-nyah, told you so," the GM recalls what happened when he'd talk about the reality of Veterans Stadium as a revenue source:

"He didn't believe we were portraying it accurately at the time," Wade said of Rolen, who forced a trade to St. Louis. "Or that we were going to do what we said we were going to do. Well, lo and behold, we're in a new facility, we're anticipating the revenue streams and we've already spent a chunk of it last offseason ... We're spending another chunk of it this offseason."

Lo and behold, Rolen's new team in "heaven," St. Louis, is cutting payroll as it prepares to finance its own new stadium. And wasn't it surreal this winter when Curt Schilling targeted the team he once deemed cheap and uncommitted as one of the teams to which he would be traded?

Props to Donnellon for having the stones to admit he was wrong, and props to Ed Wade for swinging for the fences when he finally got the green light. But before everybody tears a rotator cuff from all the back-patting, it bears remembering that the Phillies for years did in fact allocate resources more like the Twins and the Royals than the Astros and Diamondbacks (two teams in markets comparable to Philadelphia). The Phils would slap band-aids on top of wounds that required major surgery, and pronounce themselves ready to compete, when even a casual observer could conclude easily that that was a bald-faced lie.

Yes, I understand that ownership's hands may have been tied by the Vet -- but should the fans have been made to pay for that? David Montgomery & Co. should have been prepared to act like a big-league team regardless of the stadium situation -- and if they weren't, they should have rung up the good folks and Comcast to see if they were interested in entering the baseball business. I'm glad the Phillies are acting like a real team now, but management shouldn't get a pass on prior years' behavior. We deserved better than we got.


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