THIS IS THE dual nature of the game, the inner conflict, the emotional tug of war.
Ed Wade and Ruben Amaro Jr. are friends. Good friends. Really good friends. The Astros' general manager identified the spare outfielder as front-office material when he held the same position with the Phillies. The current Phillies general manager asked him to be the godfather to his second daughter.
They have done deals together. Last summer, when the Phillies needed pitching, Amaro sent prospects to Houston (lefthander J.A. Happ, outfielder Anthony Gose and infielder Jonathan Villar) for righthander Roy Oswalt. It's possible that without Oswalt, the Phillies could have missed the playoffs last season.
For the next 3 days, though, they will be wishing each other nothing but the worst. The Phillies open the season with a series against the Astros. During those games, each wants nothing more than to beat the other's brains out. After it's over, they'll smile and shake hands and root for each other until they meet again at Minute Maid Park in September. That's just the way it goes.
They're an odd couple in a lot of ways. Wade's playing career fizzled at Temple. Amaro made it to the majors. Wade got his start in baseball as an intern in the Phillies' public relations department. Amaro was born into the game, the son of former major leaguer Ruben Amaro Sr. Wade comes across as buttoned-down and corporate. Amaro has a bit of gunslinger in him.
It was those contrasts, in part, that attracted Wade to Amaro in the first place. "I thought the perspective he could bring was different than mine. Not only a former player, but a former player with his uniform still unlaundered, so to speak. He was not that far removed," Wade said. "He always struck me as very bright, articulate. Obviously, the Phillie roots couldn't have run any deeper. The fact that he was bilingual. Everything that's been talked about as his attributes all existed when he was a player."
Late in spring training of 1998, Amaro was fighting to hang on as a player. Wade had recently had the "interim" tag removed from his GM title. Amaro just wanted to plant a seed, to let him know that at some point he'd like to stay with the organization as a scout, minor league coach or manager, whatever. He was blown away when Wade offered him the assistant general manager's job on the spot.
He wasn't ready to hang up the uniform just then, but Wade held the position open. At the end of that season, he accepted. Over the years, the relationship deepened.
"We kind of made a track between my office and his office in October and November when we're trying to sign 6-year free agents and all that other business. And he kind of threw me into the fire to work on those things. Just like any other front office when you spend a lot of time with people, more than with your families. I grew to like him and respect him a great deal," Amaro said.
An interesting test occurred in September 2007. The Astros had an opening. Wade, who had since been replaced in Philadelphia by Pat Gillick, and Amaro were the finalists. Wade got the job, but it worked out well for Amaro, too. He took over after Gillick retired following the 2008 season.
Laughed Wade: "They say you're supposed to hire people who eventually could take your place. I did well."
Amaro also chuckled when asked if his relationship with Wade made playing the Astros more fun. "It makes me more nervous, man," he said. "Are you kidding me?"
AROUND THE BASES
* Head cases: Blue Jays outfielder Corey Patterson was hit on the back of the head by a 95 mph fastball in an exhibition game last week. He fell to the ground, rolled over several times and was taken to the hospital. He was fortunate he wasn't seriously injured.
Yet he and his teammates recoil at the idea of using the Rawlings S100 helmet, which is designed to better protect against severe head injuries, because they simply don't look cool. "They're just a little bit embarrassing. We call them the bobbleheads," said prospect Eric Thames, and he apparently speaks for players everywhere. Just dumb.
* Quote of the week: New Cubs manager Mike Quade, a Chicago native, to the Chicago Tribune on what his first Opening Day as the man in charge means: "I'm happiest for family and friends that can't believe they hired this knucklehead."
* Yes, crying in baseball: When 22-year-old Brandon Belt found out he'd make the Giants roster and would be their starting first baseman, he was overcome with emotion. Which led to this exchange with veteran Aubrey Huff, who moved from first base to rightfield.
Huff: "Hey, Belt, are you crying?"
Belt: "A little bit."
Huff: "Why are you crying? I'm the one who's gotta play rightfield every day."
* Funny guys: The satiric website www.onionsportsnetwork.com posted a hilarious story recently.
"In an attempt to move the organization into a new era, the New York Mets announced Friday they will part ways with the New York Mets, releasing all 40 of its roster players and its entire farm system. 'They were given a fair chance to prove themselves, but they've shown a disappointing lack of productivity for the past 64 years,' Mets general manager Sandy Alderson [said] . . . Following his announcement, Alderson said, 'Good bye,' and left, as he had just informed himself of his own release."
* Second chance: Veteran lefthander Dennys Reyes, whose tentative contract with the Phillies fell through in December when he was red-flagged after a physical, has made the Red Sox Opening Day roster over Hideki Okajima.
* Plugged in: According to WIRED.com, the Cincinnati Reds have invested in about 120 antennas around Great American Ball Park to be sure fans in attendance have no trouble getting web access for MLB's latest apps during games.
* Winning formula: Braves third baseman Chipper Jones told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the key to this season is simple. "We're going to have to play more consistently against teams not named Philly. Philly beats up on the teams they should beat up on," he said.
PHAIR AND PHOUL
* Combination lock: Shortstop Jimmy Rollins is the longest-tenured Phillie since making his major league debut in September 2000. Since then, his doubleplay partner has been Chase Utley the majority of the time. But did you know that Rollins has played next to 20 other second basemen for at least an inning during his Phillies career? The others, according to Baseball-Reference.com: Marlon Anderson, Kevin Jordan, David Newhan, Felipe Crespo, Tomas Perez, Nick Punto, David Bell, Placido Polanco, Matt Kata, Ramon Martinez, Abraham Nunez, Danny Sandoval, Joe Thurston, Greg Dobbs, Tad Iguchi, Eric Bruntlett, Miguel Cairo, Juan Castro, Cody Ransom and Wilson Valdez. P.J. Forbes and Brad Harman also appeared at second during this span, but Rollins wasn't at short at the time.
* Trivia time: Match these middle names to the appropriate Phillies: Phifer, Calvin, Edward, Enrique, Javier, Cameron, Larun, James, Ariel, LeRoy, Michael, Duncan, Thomas, Ben. No peeking!
* Schedule madness: The Phillies are scheduled to play the Braves, the team expected to be their biggest challenge in the NL East, nine of their first 40 games and six of their last 23, including a series at Turner Field to close out the regular season. In between? Just three times in 99 games.
* Investment opportunity: A lot of feedback has come in lately suggesting that the local media lacks the guts to tell the truth, specifically that the Braves will win the National League East this season instead of the Phillies. Hey, if you really believe that, you're wasting time - and losing money - by just venting. According to Bodog.com, for example, you can get 4-1 for the Braves to win the division and 11-1 for them going to the World Series.
* Library corner: Triumph Books has released two Phillies-related titles to coincide with the start of the season. "Shane Victorino: The Flyin' Hawaiian" is by Alan Maimon and "162-0: Imagine a Phillies Perfect Season" is by Paul Kurtz.
* Play it again, Harry: If you missed the Harry Kalas CD from the "Baseball Voices" collection, it's now available for the first time on iTunes and at Amazon.com. Narrated by big-league announcer Pat Hughes, the 21-track tribute celebrates Harry the K and includes some of his most famous calls and memorable moments.
* Trivia answers: Clifton Phifer Lee, James Calvin Rollins, Roy Edward Oswalt, Placido Enrique Polanco, Raul Javier Ibanez, Chase Cameron Utley, Domonic Larun Brown, Ryan James Howard, Jose Ariel Contreras, Harry Leroy Halladay III, Colbert Michael Hamels, Brian Duncan Schneider, Bradley Thomas Lidge, Louis Ben Francisco.