Gillick's career filled with rewarding moments
Former Phillies general manager up for Hall of Fame election
PHILADELPHIA -- Pat Gillick was on his cell phone Thursday, on a brisk walk somewhere in his neighborhood just outside Seattle, when he was asked about his most rewarding personnel moves with the Phillies.
He was expected to mention Jayson Werth, Brad Lidge, Jamie Moyer, J.C. Romero and others.
In fact, he did.
But that is not where he started. Gillick, who will learn Monday if he has been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the 16-member Veterans Committee, began with Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, who managed the club before Gillick replaced Ed Wade as general manager in November 2005.
"My whole feeling is you have to have the right people in place to make the right decisions," said Gillick, who said keeping Ruben Amaro Jr. and Mike Arbuckle as assistant general managers also was one of his best moves. "Charlie was the right guy. Usually a guy comes in like me, the first thing you do is fire the manager. You get rid of the manager. I knew Charlie from the American League. Charlie has a different style, but Charlie gets the job done."
Gillick offered some anecdotal evidence to support Manuel's positive influence in a clubhouse. Gillick spent 27 seasons as a GM, including three with the Phillies (2006-08). He won 11 division titles and three World Series, including two with the Toronto Blue Jays (1992-93). He is the only general manager in baseball history to take four franchises (Toronto, Baltimore, Seattle and Philadelphia) to the postseason.
He has seen and heard everything.
He said he typically received anywhere from six to 10 phone calls a season from agents complaining about the way his manager handled their players. That is anywhere from 144 to 240 phone calls from agents over 24 seasons before he joined the Phillies.
No agent ever called to complain about Manuel.
"I never got one call," Gillick said. "That's kind of how I measured, from Charlie's standpoint, about what's going on in the clubhouse. He has a good relationship with these people."
Gillick said he is honored to be nominated for the Hall of Fame, but he said he has not been stressing about the vote. He still serves as an advisor to Amaro, who succeeded him following the 2008 World Series, and he said that has been keeping him busy.
But Gillick talked Thursday about the philosophies that put him a vote away from baseball immortality.
Perhaps the biggest trait that helped him succeed? Taking calculated risks.
|"In the years I've worked, not only did I have good people to work with, but I had a lot of good players to work with."|
|-- Pat Gillick|
Gillick certainly hit more than he missed in his career.
Examine his three seasons with the Phillies.
Twenty-three days after getting the job in 2005, Gillick traded Jim Thome to the Chicago White Sox for Aaron Rowand, Gio Gonzalez and Daniel Haigwood. It allowed Ryan Howard to become one of the game's best run producers. Rowand, meanwhile, provided a spark on and off the field for two seasons.
"We were backed into a corner [because of Thome's no-trade clause]," Gillick said. "Jim was a heck of a guy. He only wanted to go to Cleveland or Chicago, so where we were and the fact we didn't have much leverage, I think we came out of it pretty good."
But the Phillies were 46-54 on July 28, 2006. They were 14 games out of first place in the National League East and 7 1/2 games behind the NL Wild Card leader. So Gillick initiated a fire sale. He traded Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle to the New York Yankees in a salary dump. They got C.J. Henry, Carlos Monasterios, Matt Smith and Jesus Sanchez in return. Only Sanchez remains, but Gillick and others in the organization maintain they still like the deal because it was addition by subtraction. It allowed Shane Victorino to play in right field and Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley to assert themselves as leaders in the clubhouse.
Gillick also traded Rheal Cormier, Ryan Franklin, David Bell and Sal Fasano.
Following the Abreu trade, Gillick said the Phillies probably would not compete until 2008 at the earliest. Some people thought Gillick said it to motivate the team, but he said Thursday that wasn't true.
"When Bobby left, there was a new personality on the team," Gillick said. "Rollins and Utley were the new personalities. You don't know how long it's going to take for that change to take. And then when you give young players the opportunity like Victorino and [Cole] Hamels, they usually don't produce right way. But they produced quicker than we anticipated."
The Phillies started to play better immediately, and Gillick reversed course and acquired Moyer, whom he calls one of his best trades, Jeff Conine and Jose Hernandez. The Phils still fell short of the playoffs, but they were in position to compete in 2007 and beyond.
Gillick acquired Freddy Garcia, Adam Eaton, Werth, Rod Barajas, Greg Dobbs and Antonio Alfonseca in various ways before the 2007 season. He picked up Romero, Tadahito Iguchi, Kyle Lohse and Russell Branyan during the season as Philadelphia won the NL East for the first time since 1993.
"The most fortunate or luckiest move we made was getting Werth as a non-tender," Gillick said. "I knew Werth's stepfather [Dennis Werth] with the Yankees. We drafted Jayson No. 1 [in the 1997 First-Year Player Draft] when I was in Baltimore. I knew a lot about his background. I knew a lot about the family, what kind of people they were. There were good bloodlines there. And I thought while he was injured, the times he did play [with the Los Angeles Dodgers], he played pretty good. I thought he had a chance to come back."
Gillick added Lidge, Geoff Jenkins, Chad Durbin, Pedro Feliz and So Taguchi before the 2008 season and acquired Joe Blanton, Matt Stairs and Scott Eyre during the season as the Phillies won their second World Series in franchise history.
"You get some recommendations on people that other people become disinterested in," Gillick said. "Be it Werth, who was non-tendered. Be it Durbin, who was non-tendered. Be it Romero, who was released. Lidge had been up and down when we got him. Those types of things, you hit on some and you miss on the others."
The hits proved critical. And the misses didn't derail the organization, which was just as important.
Gillick mentioned Garcia, Eaton and Jenkins as the moves that did not work.
"Eaton just couldn't get it going and Garcia, looking back, was probably hurt when we got him from Chicago," he said. "There are a couple moves that you say, 'Well, you took a shot.' We thought we were in a good position if we got Garcia. It's funny. We went to the playoffs anyway and he didn't contribute too much."
Gillick said Phillies doctors looked at medical reports about Garcia and felt comfortable with what they saw.
"Our people were satisfied he was healthy," he said. "Evidently, something happened. I had Garcia when I was in Seattle, and he wasn't even close to what he was. The guy you saw in Philadelphia was not the real Freddy Garcia, because he's a much better performer than that."
The Phillies never flew in Garcia for a physical, which is not uncommon during trades. (They never flew in Roy Oswalt or Cliff Lee before completing those trades, for example.) And for that reason, Gillick said, based on the information he had at the time, he probably would make the trade again.
"Hey, that wasn't a bad deal at the time with the position we were in," he said. "And our guys had seen him the last month of the  season. Our information during the last month of the season was very, very current information."
But Gillick mostly made the right moves in Philadelphia. He has one World Series championship and two division titles to prove it. He has a similar track record in Toronto, Baltimore and Seattle, too.
"I've been fortunate," he said. "In the years I've worked, not only did I have good people to work with, but I had a lot of good players to work with. I had real good people. I've always said during a 162-game season, you have to have people you can count on. That's big.
"It's funny, when I started out, physical ability was 70 percent and makeup was 30 percent. And now 30 years later, I'd say makeup is 65 percent and physical ability is 35 percent. It's changed. You can have all the ability in the world, but what if you don't take it to the field every day? I'd rather have some guy take it to the field every day and give you what he's got day in and day out than somebody who you say, 'Well, he's got great talent, but where is it? Get him out of low gear. Get this guy going.' But he never gets out of low gear. He never gets going. You need to have camaraderie in the clubhouse. Wherever you're working, be it a baseball team or at a business, you want to walk in there and say, 'Geez, it's great to be at work. Let's go get 'em,' as opposed to walking in there knowing there's going to be a commotion."
Gillick hopes for a little commotion Monday at the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. It is there where he will learn if he is headed to Cooperstown, N.Y., or not.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.