PHILADELPHIA -- Ed Wade turned the Philadelphia Phillies into a winner. He couldn't make them a champion.
Wade was fired as general manager Monday after failing to get the Phillies into the playoffs during eight years on the job.
Philadelphia went 88-74 this season and finished one game behind NL wild-card winner Houston. It was the Phillies' third consecutive winning season and fourth in five years, but they missed the playoffs for the 12th straight year and 21st time in 22 seasons.
"The expectation is that you need to make the playoffs, and we didn't live up to those expectations," Wade said. "I've seen it happen in other places. There's never a good time for something like this, but that's not my decision to make."
Wade was unpopular in Philadelphia, especially after he hired Charlie Manuel as manager to replace Larry Bowa. He was heavily criticized for his reluctance to make significant moves before the trade deadline and for giving big-money, long-term contracts to players who have underachieved.
Fans never really warmed up to the Phillies this season, even though they were in the playoff chase the entire year. Attendance at two-year-old Citizens Bank Park dropped off by almost 600,000, down from 3.25 million in 2004.
"I think public perception is a big part when you talk about selling," Wade said. "In order to move things forward, if the decision was based on the performance of the club, obviously not getting into the postseason is a big role in that, but I also think the fact that I became a lightning rod for criticism for the organization, with me out of the picture, it makes things easier from that respect."
Team president David Montgomery said he was aware of the fans' opinion.
"We do listen to the fans and we try to connect to the fans," Montgomery said.
Wade, 49, replaced Lee Thomas in March 1998 after serving an assistant for Thomas for eight years. He has two years remaining on his contract but wasn't offered another job in the organization.
Wade inherited a team that had finished last two straight years and had posted a losing record in 10 of the previous 11 seasons. He fired Terry Francona after the 2000 season, hired Bowa and rebuilt the team around young stars such as Bobby Abreu, Pat Burrell and Jimmy Rollins.
"This was a very difficult decision. Ed has devoted himself completely to this organization for 16 years, the last eight as general manager," Montgomery said. "I believe he's done a good job. We're a better club today than when he took over. However, we set goals for ourselves. We haven't achieved our goals. I think it's appropriate at this time to find a new GM."
Montgomery said assistant general managers Ruben Amaro Jr. and Mike Arbuckle could be candidates to replace Wade. Neither would be a popular choice among fans, who want the team to bring in a proven winner.
The new person will have authority to change managers and coaches, even though Manuel has two years remaining on his contract.
"When we find the right GM, he will have the responsibility going forward to make changes regarding the manager, coaches and trades," Montgomery said. "I would hope he looks at the job Charlie has done and say he did a pretty good job."
Wade's biggest trades involved dealing disgruntled stars. He sent pitcher Curt Schilling to Arizona for first baseman Travis Lee and pitchers Vicente Padilla and Nelson Figueroa in 2000. He traded third baseman Scott Rolen to St. Louis for infielder Placido Polanco and pitchers Mike Timlin and Bud Smith in 2002.
Padilla had one All-Star season with the Phillies, while Schilling led Arizona and the Red Sox to World Series titles. Polanco had a solid stint in Philadelphia and was traded for reliever Ugueth Urbina during the past season. Rolen, out with an injury this postseason, has been a major part of the Cardinals' potent lineup when healthy.
Once the Phillies got closer to moving into their new stadium, Wade had the opportunity to spend more freely in free agency. His first major move was signing first baseman Jim Thome to an $85 million, six-year contract in 2002.
Thome lived up to expectations in his first two seasons but missed most of this year with injuries. Rookie Ryan Howard had an outstanding season filling in for Thome, who will be difficult to trade because he has three years remaining on his contract for about $45 million.
The new general manager must also decide whether to retain closer Billy Wagner, who wants a three-year contract worth about $27 million to $30 million. Montgomery and Amaro plan to meet with Wagner on Wednesday.
Wade worked his way up to general manager from public relations intern. He once shared an office with Dave Raymond, who was an intern in the promotions department and went on to become the Phillie Phanatic.
Wade also spent time as the public relations director for the Astros and then Pittsburgh. He isn't ruling out looking for another job as GM.
"I absolutely think I can do this job and have effectively done this job," he said. "I know what it takes to be an effective general manager."