The Things I Think: Thank God for Ed Wade!

How their former GM made the Phils a shoo-in for the NL East title. Plus: Thoughts on Mike Vick, and an unforgettable McNabb moment in Rome

I go on vacation, and the Philadelphia sports landscape changes so much for the better that people now want me to go back on vacation. And if the God of Sports came to me and said, Mike, leave the area and the Phillies will go to another World Series, I would willingly go. Of course, there’s the small matter of bills and mortgage payments. But I’ll let you guys deal with all that.

While I was out of the country, the Phils rattled off eight straight wins and made a trade for one of the best starting pitchers in the National League, Roy Oswalt. So, my only conclusion is this: the Phillies will go on to win the National League East again, and snipe any pretender in the playoffs, whether it’s the St. Louis Cardinals or the San Diego Padres, or the Atlanta Braves. [SIGNUP]

I love all these people in love with the Braves, a team that dropped four games in the standings to the Phillies within two weeks. And you know why? Because they just aren’t ready for the prime-time baseball that needs to be played in August and September. Consider that the Phillies have been able to stay close to the top in the NL East despite having every member of their starting lineup, except two, on the disabled list this season. Is that not a karma indicator of things to come?

People around baseball — and a large number of fans in this city — have been waiting for the Phils to collapse, considering that they’ve had to field a starting team with the likes of Wilson Valdez and Cody Ransom and Ben Francisco in the lineup every day. Instead, they’ve chopped into the Braves lead with this skeleton crew.

The acquisition of Roy Oswalt by Ruben Amaro was a stroke of genius. It IS the move that will put the Phillies over the top and make them a division winner as the season comes down the stretch. Most of Oswalt’s numbers this year are as good as the dominant numbers he’s posted much earlier in his career, his losing record notwithstanding.

Of course, his acquisition was also a case of blind, dumb luck.

Amaro backed himself into a corner when he traded Cliff Lee last year to the Seattle Mariners for prospects. At that time, he had to have known it wasn’t the right move — but he was a slave to the Phillies’ unspoken payroll ceiling. The Phils general manager was hoping that he’d be able to get away with fielding a staff without Lee. When it was clear this season that he couldn’t, he had to find a willing trading partner to give him a starting pitcher who was BETTER than what he had in the middle of his rotation, better than the Joe Blantons and the Kyle Kendricks of the world. Enter Ed Wade.

How Wade in Houston is able to get away with trading a stud like Roy Oswalt to the Phillies for marginal return — J.A. Happ is at best a third starter in a decent rotation, Anthony Gose is 19-years old, and Jonathan Villar is a shortstop who made a ton of errors at single-A — is beyond my comprehension. It’s one thing to justify to your fan base that you have to dump a salary like Oswalt because you are trying to rebuild your franchise. But keep in mind that Wade also sent $11 million to the Phillies to help them PAY for Oswalt. If I were the Astros GM, I couldn’t look myself in the mirror, much less look my fan base in the eye on the remote implication that I was trying to help my previous employer. (And, oh, by the way, Wade is godfather to one of Amaro’s kids!) If I was doing sports talk radio in Houston, I’d have Ed Wade’s head on a spit. But that’s their problem, not mine.

Bottom line is this: the Phils were wrong to let Lee go. But Ruben Amaro must be leading a charmed life. Acquiring Oswalt actually puts the Phillies in better shape than they would have been had they kept Lee for this year. They now have Oswalt under contract for at least next season and if they choose, a season after that. Lee would have been gone, signing with a team that would be willing to give him a six-year contract this off-season.

Funny how things work out.

* * *

I was at Eagles training camp on Tuesday and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell rolled in with current NFL ambassador John Madden on the Madden cruiser. Goodell was there to exchange camp pleasantries with Eagles brass, but also to meet face-to-face with troubled quarterback Michael Vick.

Goodell had spoken twice already to Vick by phone after the controversy of Vick’s public birthday party, when a dog fighting co-conspirator named Quanis Phillips got shot. Prior to meeting face-to-face with Vick, Goodell suggested that he hadn’t made any decision regarding further suspending the Eagles backup quarterback.

“As I told him a year ago, he can’t afford any lapses in judgment,” Goodell told a media gathering at Eagles camp.

And just what was the thing in Virginia Beach, Mr. Commissioner? That’s not a lapse in judgement? What was Goodell looking for in his conversations with Vick, an admission along the lines of this: “Yo man, why you sweatin’ me? Yeah, I put a cap in Q’s ass. What you gonna do about it?”

Anyway, at the end of the meeting Tuesday night, Goodell announced officially that he wasn’t going to discipline Vick any further, no suspension, no nothing. But, the NFL will put in place some steps to give Vick “more monitoring and support” to help him make “better decisions.” This is a grown man, mind you. Michael Vick is 30 years old. He needs guidance to make better decisions?

Don’t we all.

* * *

I swear to God, the following is a true story.

I was in Rome, Italy last week, eating lunch with my daughter at a small joint called La Bruschetta, off a side street of the Via Veneto. My waiter, a man named Boniface Sacconi, was delighted to be serving two Americans because, he said, of his love for American sports. The man revealed to me that he has a satellite dish and he especially likes to watch American football, college and pro.

He asked me where I was from. I told him Philadelphia. He turned to me and said, “Ah, the Eagles!”

And then he placed his hands on his neck to simulate choking.

“Ah, McNabb…a-choka!”

Swear to God.

Listen to MIKE MISSANELLI weekday afternoons on 97.5 The Fanatic.