Astros Fire Ed Wade & Tal Smith: The New Era Begins
Where have you gone, Ed Wade? A nation's no-hit, aging, injury-prone free agent infielders turn their lonely eyes to you. Where have you gone, Ed Wade? A nation's worth of middle relievers looking for multimillion contracts turn their lonely eyes to you.
Ed Wade is gone. So is Tal Smith. Jim Crane promised changes when he took official control of the Astros last week. And after less than one week, the changes being made are changes that I, for one, can believe in, as General Manager Ed Wade was fired last Wednesday (the news broken by Fox Sports last night) and Astros president Tal Smith was relieved of his duties.
Wade's assistant GM, Dave Gottfried, has been named the interim GM, but he's not expected to stick in the spot -- the club, however, needs someone at the helm as baseball heads off for winter meetings next week. But Crane is acting like a man with a plan, so it's not too hard to believe that the replacements for Smith and Wade will be made in rather quick fashion.
The familiar list of names to take over as President and/or GM is already being reported: Gerry Hunsicker, the former Astros GM and now in an executive role with the Tampa Bay Rays; Houstonian Andrew Friedman, the GM of the Rays; and Kim Ng, a former assistant GM with the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers and now working with Major League Baseball.
Other names being thrown around are Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine and senior director of player personnel for the Rangers, A.J. Peller, as well as Oakland A's exec David Frost and Florida Marlins exec Dan Jennings.
But that's something to be dealt with at another stage, like when the interviews start or the hirings are made. The most important thing to remember is that Wade is gone. Finally.
I was never a fan of the Wade hiring. He was not well-liked or respected with the Phillies (h/t Astros County for that link), and his main qualification for the job appeared to be that he had worked for Tal Smith in the past and they got along.
There are people out there who say that Wade should not shoulder all of the blame for what has happened with the Astros. And that's correct, Drayton McLane deserves a large chunk of that blame. But in the end, it was Ed Wade that put together the roster of what has quickly become the laughingstock of MLB.
Yes, I know of the limitations under which he operated. Of how Drayton McLane wanted to cut spending, and didn't believe in spending money on the draft or on the minor league operations. But there are many GMs who operate under much worse financial constraints. General managers like Friedman in Tampa Bay, and Billy Beane in Oakland. Terry Ryan built a winning team with much worse financial constraints in Minnesota, and now he's returning to fix that organization.
And those financial limitations sure didn't stop Wade from giving ridiculous contracts to aging, injury-prone infielders like Kaz Matsui, Pedro Feliz or Bill Hall. He gave a three-year, $15 million contract to Brandon Lyon, an injury-prone closer who had twice lost the closer's job while with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Wade's the guy who traded for Miguel Tejada the day before the Mitchell Report was released amidst the rumors that Tejada would be named. He's the guy who made trade after trade with his former employer, and except for the Michael Bourn/Brad Lidge trade, he appears to have been fleeced on every single deal.
And as Business Week documented last month, there's absolutely no doubt that Wade was in over his head when he dealt Michael Bourn to the Atlanta Braves at the trade deadline in July.
These are mistakes that a GM working under so-called severe financial limitations couldn't afford to make. And they're mistakes that, for the most part, Friedman and Beane have avoided (though the luster is finally beginning to fade on Beane).
Maybe Wade is just a scapegoat. But when you're Jim Crane, and you've just purchased a team that finished with the worst record in baseball, that has a dispirited fan base and which has become kind of a national laughingstock, then changes have to be made. And the first move, the smart move, is getting rid of the guy who put together that roster.
Besides, is there anyone out there who doesn't think that the Phillies won't find some way to reward him for all of the good that he did for their franchise over the past several seasons?
P.S.: Does anybody know if Tal Smith is taking that damn hill with him when he leaves MMP for the final time?
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