One of the classic photos from the 2007 clinching celebration of the Philadelphia Phillies winning the NL East has pitcher Adam Eaton and broadcaster Chris Wheeler celebrating with manager Charlie Manuel.
The photo above featured one beloved figure, Manuel, and two guys at the other end of the fan popularity scale, Eaton and Wheeler. Talk about a picture being worth a thousand words. Now all three have been subtracted from the Phillies’ picture and the team is better off in all three cases. Call it addition by subtraction. Eaton left in 2008, while Manuel was fired last year and Wheeler at the start of this season.
The benefits of Wheeler’s dismissal from the broadcast booth will be felt immediately. Wheeler was “Captain Obvious” to a Philadelphia fanbase tired being talked down to by a guy who never played past Marple Newtown High School in Suburban Delaware County. Wheeler constantly preached about things like “the no-doubles’ defense” and “playing the game the right way” to the point of nausea.
By Sept. 21, the powers-that-be at Comcast, which owns the rights to the Phillies’ games, saw enough and told Phils’ president David Montgomery that any new TV deal had to include Wheeler’s dismissal. As unpopular as Wheeler was, Comcast went to great lengths to find replacements for him (and fellow broadcaster Gary Matthews) who were not only liked, but beloved by Phillies’ fans. In pitcher Jamie Moyer and pinch-hitter Matt Stairs, they found a couple of fitting heroes.
Both are well-spoken and have baseball street cred that rises above the high school level.
For his part, Eaton has the dubious distinction of being the only guy booed at the Phils’ World Championship ring celebration. Fans thought, rightly, it was bogus for a guy who only pitched in 21 games for that team to get a ring and let him know about it.
Let’s hope for his sake the Phils don’t schedule a “Chris Wheeler Appreciation Night.”