Phillies Fire GM Thomas, Tap Wade
PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Two months after saying he expected Lee Thomas to be with the team in spring training, Philadelphia Phillies president David Montgomery fired the team’s general manager Tuesday.
Montgomery said Ed Wade, Thomas’ assistant, will become acting general manager with full responsibility for running the team’s baseball operations through the 1998 season.
``There are some changes we want to make, and I’ve determined that it’s easier and perhaps more effective to implement those changes by first making a change at the top,″ Montgomery said.
The change itself was not unexpected, despite Montgomery’s weak endorsement of Thomas at the end of the season.
Speculation that Thomas, who had one winning season during more than nine years on the job, would be fired began in earnest on June 20, when Montgomery replaced Bill Giles as team president.
``When a new guy comes in, he wants his own people,″ said Thomas, who spoke at Veterans Stadium after Montgomery announced the change. ``When I came in, I made some changes.″
But Thomas, 61, said he was surprised the Phillies waited until after the GM meetings and the expansion draft.
``I just thought maybe it should have happened a little quicker, but it didn’t,″ he said. ``I have no hard feelings toward anybody, especially the Phillies.″
Wade, 41, worked as an intern in the Phillies’ public relations department after graduating from Temple in 1977. After stints as the public relations director for the Houston Astros and Pittsburgh Pirates, he rejoined the Phillies in 1989 as Thomas’ assistant.
``I know the passion Phillies fans have for their team,″ he said. ``And I know what this city is like when the Phillies are playing well. I want to help our fans experience those feelings often.″
Whether Wade retains the job beyond the upcoming season depends on how well he does, and whether Montgomery can find somebody better outside the team.
``Standing before you is the candidate from within,″ Montgomery said. ``Hopefully, there won’t be a part two to this discussion, but in fairness to this entire organization, I owe them the right to talk to people outside.″
Wade said he’s not worried about looking over his shoulder. ``I think he’s going to waste a lot of hours looking somewhere else,″ he said.
Montgomery said there was no timetable for hiring a permanent general manager.
Thomas’ tenure in Philadelphia was marked by one shining season. In 1993, the Phillies became one of only three teams since 1900 to follow a last-place finish with a first-place finish, winning the NL East title with a 97-65 regular season record.
The Phillies beat the Atlanta Braves for the league championship, then took the Toronto Blue Jays to six games before losing the World Series.
The team captivated the city with it’s rough style, swagger and ``Macho Row″ locker room, which featured veterans Darren Daulton and Lenny Dykstra, and manager Jim Fregosi.
Thomas helped build that team by acquiring Dykstra from the Mets, first-baseman John Kruk, third-baseman Dave Hollins and closer Mitch Williams, who surrendered the dramatic World Series-winning home run to Joe Carter.
A former big-league outfielder and first baseman, Thomas won the major league executive of the year award in 1993, but the Phillies have floundered since then, going 258-325 in the past four seasons.
Overall, the Phillies were 647-746 in the nine full seasons he had the general manager’s job.
``It’s been a long run,″ he said. ``And I enjoyed it _ most of it.″
Part of the Phillies’ current problem is that the team tried to live too long off the magic from 1993.
``That was not realistic,″ said Wade, who added that the Phillies will try to building for long-term success by developing their own players in the minors.
``Our ultimate goal ... is to try and find the players who can be here a long time,″ he said.