If Ed Wade could have done it over again, he would not have traded Curt Schilling or fired Terry Francona in 2000.
As Wade looks back at his eight-year tenure as Phillies general manager, those are two of his regrets.
But not his biggest.
"I'll always be disappointed we didn't get to where we wanted to go, which was the same place our fans wanted to go, the postseason, the World Series," Wade said.
Failure to make a postseason, and the accompanying outcry of ticket-buying fans, led to Wade's dismissal in October 2005, a week after the Phillies were beaten out for the National League wild card by one game by the same Houston Astros club that appointed him as their new GM on Thursday.
Often rigid in his dealings with reporters during his final, pressure-cooker months with the Phillies, Wade displayed the personality and sense of humor that close acquaintances know he's always had in a telephone interview Friday. It was his first full day of a three-year contract with the Astros, and his club had won, 18-1, the night before.
Wade joked that he wished Astros second baseman Craig Biggio, who will retire next week, had done so two years ago. Biggio, you'll recall, hit big home runs in back-to-back games as the Astros knocked the Phillies out of the wild-card lead in Sept. 2005. Had the Phillies won that playoff berth, Wade might still be running the team's baseball operations.
Wade also poked fun at himself for his much-talked-about skydiving mishap last month in South Jersey. A licensed veteran of 36 jumps, he encountered wind and had to make a quick call: Hit power lines, a building or a tree. He picked the tree, and it's a good thing he got snagged because "I would have been a Volkswagen hitting the ground if I didn't."
Wade, 51, had to be freed from the tree by rescue workers, and he suffered some significant bruises. But not enough to keep him from training for his first marathon. He'll be part of Team Travis, a group of about 180 that will run in memory of 1st Lt. Travis Manion in the Marine Corps Marathon next month in Washington. Manion, of Doylestown, was killed this year in Iraq. He was 26.
Sitting in his new office in Houston on Friday, Wade said that despite the pounding he took in Philadelphia for not making the playoffs, his "baseball juices still flow" and he was eager for his new challenge. He still follows the Phillies and is proud of the players that came into the system during his tenure, the ones who are battling for a playoff spot today.
Wade is also proud of his former assistant, Ruben Amaro Jr., who was runner-up to Wade for the Astros job.
"It was a very awkward situation, because I know how good Ruben is and how good he's going to be," Wade said. "People want to question my ability to evaluate talent, but I convinced Ruben it was time to stop playing and put his skills to use in the front office. A couple of baseball people chastised me for giving him the opportunity because he hadn't paid his dues, and I understood that. But he was everything I was looking for. There's no question if the Astros chose Ruben, he would have done a super job. When - not if, but when - he gets an opportunity, he'll be great."
If not getting to the postseason in eight seasons was Wade's biggest regret, trading Schilling and firing Francona were close behind. Schilling was traded in July 2000, more than a year before he could have been a free agent. Francona, who has gone on to win a World Series in Boston, was let go after that season.
"In retrospect, I would have held on to Schilling," Wade said. "It would have been better if I ignored his trade demand one more time and run the risk of only getting draft picks" if he left via free agency.
"I wouldn't have fired him," Wade said. "I just think he's validated his career so effectively in Boston, and I'm very happy for him. I like the way he conducts himself.
"All the stuff he went through that last season - 97 losses, the Schilling trade - it was a tough environment. He was hammered publicly. Having lived through it myself, I understand why that occurs.
"We might have both ended up out the door, but if I could do it over, I'd have kept him."
Wade addressed other matters for which he has received criticism:
On trading Scott Rolen: "That situation is portrayed different ways publicly, but the fact is, we offered him a lot of money [$90 million guaranteed] and he made it clear there was no way he was staying."
On Pat Burrell's six-year, $50 million contract extension in February 2003: "There's some revisionist history there. At the time of the extension, I don't remember it being criticized. It was a market-based deal. He had a huge upside. Some of the criticism that was rained on him in the first half this season doesn't look on the mark now because he's turned it around and played well."
On hiring Charlie Manuel over Jim Leyland: "I felt Charlie was the right guy for that situation and circumstance, and what he's accomplished the last couple of years validates that."
On the widely held belief that Leyland didn't get the job because he wanted to make wholesale changes, including trading Burrell: "I don't recall that being a topic of discussion. The depth of the interview never got to that. It was more about managerial style than composition of the club."
On Manuel's insinuation that the decision to trade Placido Polanco instead of moving him to third base in 2005 was made because the front office had a commitment to David Bell: "I never dictated a lineup or batting order to any of our three managers. The only conversation we had in reference to that was when David hurt his back in spring training and we started hearing references to it being a horse race [for the third-base job]. I made the point, 'Let's not forget the year David is coming off.'
"That trade was dictated by time and circumstance. [Tim] Worrell had left and we were desperate for someone to get the ball to [Billy] Wagner. People want to say the guy we got [Ugueth Urbina] ended up in prison. That's irrelevant because we had no expectation of keeping him beyond '05. He did a good job, but not as well as we hoped.
"The bottom line for any general manager is you try to be aggressive in improving your club. Sometimes things work out; sometimes they don't."
People who know Wade say he was initially bitter about his firing, but he has come to terms with it now. He received a glowing, unsolicited recommendation for the Astros job from Phils president Dave Montgomery, the man who fired him.
"I had become a lightning rod for the negativity," he said. "They needed a fresh start."
And two years later, Wade gets his own fresh start. The skydiving GM has landed on his feet in Houston.
Good Wade, Bad Wade
Here are some good moves made by Ed Wade - and some bad ones.
Did not move Ryan Howard in a hasty trade when some teams thought they could steal the young slugger who had been blocked by Jim Thome.
Traded for all-star closer Billy Wagner.
Presided over contending teams in 2001, 2003 and 2005.
Scouted Bobby Abreu and championed a trade for him as assistant GM in 1997.
Signed shortstop Jimmy Rollins to a five-year, $40 million contract with an $8.5 million club option for 2011 - bargain numbers for the 2007 MVP candidate.
Much of the team's current nucleus, including Howard, Pat Burrell, Chase Utley, Brett Myers, Ryan Madson, Cole Hamels, Shane Victorino, Carlos Ruiz and Kyle Kendrick, was procured during his tenure.
Failed to make the playoffs in eight seasons.
Didn't get enough to show for trade of pitcher Curt Schilling.
Traded Placido Polanco, the best piece he got for Scott Rolen. Polanco then became an all-star in Detroit.
Failed to make a significant trade that would have bolstered the Phils as they faltered down the stretch in their bid for the 2003 wild card.
Long-term contracts for Pat Burrell and Mike Lieberthal proved to be onerous.
Much ballyhooed trade for pitcher Andy Ashby was a dud.
- Jim Salisbury