Years after flying the O's coop, Phillies GM still delivering

Baseball Insider

October 31, 2008|By DAN CONNOLLY | DAN CONNOLLY,dan.connolly@baltsun.com

PHILADELPHIA - In the midst of the World Series fiesta on the Citizens Bank Park field late Wednesday night stood a calm man wearing a sport jacket, dress slacks and a toothy grin.

The champagne-spewing, trophy-holding Philadelphia Phillies buzzed all around the septuagenarian, who patiently answered questions from the media and accepted congratulations from everyone else.

Among all the big-money, high-profile athletes celebrating the Phillies' first title since 1980 - a Game 5 clincher over the upstart Tampa Bay Rays - only this failed left-handed pitcher named Pat Gillick is a slam-dunk, near-certain Hall of Famer.

The Phillies' general manager and renowned mastermind routinely waltzes into organizations and propels them to the next step. Wednesday night, he completed the task for the Phillies, the second club he has led to a title and fourth he has taken to the playoffs.

"The success he has had everywhere he has been kind of speaks for itself," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said of Gillick. "And the job he has done here definitely plays a big role in where we are at."

Key the sighs from the Orioles' faithful.

Mentioning Gillick's name is sure to engender mixed feelings in Baltimore. He brought his club-building magic to the Orioles in November 1995 and the next two seasons had them in the American League Championship Series, one step away from the ultimate dance.

But he exited in 1998 when his contract expired, leaving behind a swollen payroll, an acrimonious relationship with club owner Peter Angelos and a scuffling franchise that has not sniffed .500 since.

To be fair, Gillick's presence doesn't guarantee a title. He had two with the Toronto Blue Jays, but was there for 17 seasons. He had four 90-plus-win seasons in Seattle, including 116 victories in 2001, but he never made a World Series with the Mariners. Still, he's a winner. In his past 22 seasons as a GM, only twice has his club not been above .500 - in 1998 with the Orioles and in 1994 with the Blue Jays.

His success is defined by two undeniable strengths: He knows how to pick the right club, and he is the best at adding spare parts to create balance and chemistry.

Gillick is adept at evaluating a club's potential from afar before taking a job. He chooses franchises with some stars in place and money to fill needs.

Though he is 71 and expected to retire, Phillies fans should hope that he never leaves. Because, historically speaking, when Gillick walks, his old club staggers. The Blue Jays, Orioles and Mariners haven't made the playoffs since he quit those organizations.

It could be different in Philly, though. The nucleus is under club control until at least 2011. The players are young and talented, and already champions.

Thanks in part to Gillick, whose next ride after today's parade might be into the sunset. He's again on top of the baseball world, his Hall of Fame reputation fully intact.

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