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Black Wednesday: Thome, Hamels Done for 2005

The bad news, from

The uncertaintly surrounding Jim Thome's return to Philadelphia and Cole Hamels' return to Double-A Reading is no more -- neither will be back this season.

Still unable to throw, Thome has opted to have season-ending surgery on his right elbow to clean out what has been termed a "fraying" of the tendon. He'll have the procedure performed by Dr. James Andrews on Tuesday in Birmingham, Ala.
Hamels hasn't felt right since experiencing back pain last month and recently had a CT scan performed. General manager Ed Wade said the team will likely shut Hamels down for four to six weeks, meaning he won't pitch for Reading before its season ends, let alone Philadelphia.

Thome is expected to be healthy for spring training. Hamels I suppose will be okay as well, at least until the next one. Given that a healthy Ryan Howard is certainly preferable to a dinged-up Thome, I don't think this is a killer for the Phils' playoff chances, though obviously Thome in full possession of his powers could have provided a huge boost. As for Hamels, it's certainly not good that he'll miss still more developmental time: the guy simply needs innings. But as September rotation options go, he was probably in line behind Ryan Madson, Gavin Floyd (who pitched a strong game Wednesday night for Scranton) and arguably Eude Brito anyway.

There are two things that bother me about this, though, and they're interconnected. First, Thome missing the rest of this year means he won't have the chance to rebuild his trade value, which all but ensures that the Thome/Howard decision will be deferred into the 2006 season. No team would trade for Thome with his big contract and his health in question; the Phils would be mad to deal Howard before knowing whether their $14 million slugger will be able to hold up through the season.

The second is that Thome's going under the knife all but ensures that Ed Wade will be back for an unfathomable and maddening 9th season as Phillies GM. As excuses go, there are few better than a season-ending injury to your highest-salaried player. Never mind that if Wade had gotten his way, Howard likely would have been dealt to Toronto for Ted Lilly or some similar middling arm, and we'd be watching the Tomas Perez/Todd Pratt platoon at first base. With team executives essentially looking for reasons not to get rid of Wade, it will be all too easy to focus on the team's "bad luck" rather than the actual decisions made by the GM.

Get well, Jim and Cole, and may you both return to better days.