HOUSTON -- Tal Smith and Ed Wade, both just dismissed from their front-office roles with the Astros, expressed disappointment Monday that they won't be around to see the club's rebuilding effort to the finish line.
The Astros announced in a statement Sunday night that Smith, the club's longtime president of baseball operations, and Wade, who had been Houston's general manager for four years, were not going to be retained for the 2012 season. Assistant GM David Gottfried has assumed interim GM duties while the club begins to look for a replacement for Wade.
Wade said he was told in a meeting Wednesday morning with owner Jim Crane and president and CEO George Postolos that he wasn't coming back. Wade flew to his Philadelphia-area home later that night for a previously scheduled trip to spend time with his family at Thanksgiving. He returned to Houston on Monday.
"There was really no discussion beyond the timing of the announcement," said Wade, who was under contract through 2013. "I did have an opportunity to talk about some of our staff and the esteem I hold them and [manager Brad Mills]. It was a very brief conversation. We'll move forward from here."
Smith said he was informed of the decision Sunday night while he was preparing to return home from a vacation in Hawaii. Smith has been a fixture in Houston baseball for decades, and this year completed his 54th year in the game, 17th consecutive with the Astros. He wishes he had had a chance to speak with Crane and Postolos before the decision was made.
"I understood sometimes change is what new ownership seeks," Smith said, "but I was frankly surprised they didn't want to at least talk to me or have some opportunity to hear what I had to say on the basis of my experience and knowledge of the franchise over the years."
On Monday, Smith did get a chance to speak briefly with Crane and Postolos, who informed him that they were committed to going in a new direction.
"I really enjoyed the opportunity to get to talk to Jim," he said. "It's the first time we've had any dialogue or conversation other than just a handshake or greeting at the wives' gala or something of that nature. I was able to tell them some things and we had a good exchange.
"George was just maintaining once they made a decision they were going to change general managers, they were going to clear the deck so the new general manager would have an opportunity to set up an organization as he wanted to."
Wade, who was hired Sept. 20, 2007, to replace Tim Purpura, inherited a team with a thin Minor League system and saw former owner Drayton McLane trim payroll over the next few years. The Astros contended in 2008, going 86-75 and finishing in third place, before slumping to 88 losses in 2009 and 86 in 2010.
Recognizing the need to rebuild and trim payroll, the Astros traded Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman in 2010, and popular outfielders Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn in 2011. Pence (Phillies) and Bourn (Braves) brought the Astros eight players in return, including top prospects Jarred Cosart and Jonathan Singleton from the Phillies.
Still, with many of their impact players wearing different uniforms, the Astros lost a club-record 106 games last season.
"We've made tremendous strides," Wade said. "We've cleared some pretty serious hurdles and have worked through some obstacles over the last several months, and I do think the organization is better for it. At the end of the day, I would like to think the work we've done will bear the fruit we all anticipate. Not being able to see it through to the end is disappointing."
The Astros indeed made progress in player development under Wade's watch, and this year finally began to see some prospects make an impact at the Major League level, such as J.D. Martinez, Jordan Lyles, Jose Altuve and Jimmy Paredes.
"At the same time, we were tasked with trying to be competitive and successful at the big league level," Wade said. "I know people like to talk about the [Miguel] Tejada trade [with Baltimore in 2007] and what the end result was of that, but the reality is, the guy made two All-Star teams in two years he wore our uniform. He did his part."
Both Wade and Smith plan to remain active in the game. Smith, 78, still heads Tal Smith Enterprises, which has provided consulting services to 26 of the 30 Major League clubs during arbitration.
"I've said repeatedly that it's never been my intention to retire," Smith said. "I enjoyed the game and see no reason I shouldn't continue to be active in some kind of role."
Wade came to the Astros after eight seasons as GM of the Phillies, who let him go after the 2005 season. During his tenure in Philadelphia, Wade acquired Pat Burrell, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins, who formed the nucleus of the 2008 team that won the World Series.
"I haven't had a lot of down time, and I'm not looking for down time," he said. "I want to be out there and take on another challenge and help the club. Hopefully with my body of work and the reputation I have, that opportunity will present itself."