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News » Gillick is this offseason's sleeper free agent 2008-10-21


Gillick is this offseason's sleeper free agent 2008-10-21


Gillick is this offseason's sleeper free agent 2008-10-21
The talk has been about the pending free agency of CC Sabathia, Manny Ramirez, and Co.

But don't be fooled. The sleeper on the free agent market this off-season doesn't even play the game. He's a man who builds champions — Philadelphia Phillies general manager Pat Gillick.

Gillick says he is retiring — again.

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And at the age of 71, maybe Gillick is serious this time. Maybe the fourth time it will work. Don't, however, bet on it.

Gillick is a baseball lifer. He doesn't play golf. He doesn't hunt. He doesn't fish. He watches baseball games, evaluates talent and finds a way to fit the pieces to create a winning team.

How long will an owner desperate to win wait before calling Gillick and making him an offer he can't refuse?

Several times this season, Phillies president David Montgomery has approached Gillick about staying around. So far Gillick, who when he took the job three years ago announced he would only stay for three years, has declined. Montgomery, however, is expected to make one more push to convinced Gillick to reconsider.

It makes sense.

From Toronto to Baltimore to Seattle and now Philadelphia, Gillick has shown the knack for finding the winning formula. What is most impressive of all is that Gillick so often does it without having to tear an organization apart.

He has won with inherited managers, from Lou Piniella in Seattle to Davey Johnson in Baltimore and Charlie Manuel in Philadelphia. He has built talent in an organization without firing scouting directors and their scouts and minor league directors and their staff.

"Every organization has quality people,'' said Gillick, "and those people have a loyalty to their organization. My job is to find where they fit."

Think about it, the two main candidates to replace Gillick are his assistant general managers, Ruben Amaro, Jr., and Mike Arbuckle, both of whom were working for the Phillies when Gillick arrived.

"You don't feel like you work for Pat,'' said Amaro. "You feel like you work with him."

And Gillick isn't shy about working. He will shake things up on the roster, even if he doesn't in the front office.

There were those who questioned him in Philadelphia when, in the midst of the 2006 season, his first on the job, he decided to dismantle the team, trading Cory Lidle and Bobby Abreu to the Yankees in late July and David Bell to Milwaukee shortly before that.

"I thought we had to change the thinking of the club," Gillick said.

At the time, he predicted the Phillies would be ready to contend again in 2008. They were actually a year ahead of schedule and won the National League East a year ago, only to be swept in an NL Division Series by Colorado. This year, the Phillies won the NL East again, but this time they knocked off Milwaukee in the NLDS and the Dodgers in the NLCS. Now they are preparing for their first World Series appearance in 15 years, facing Tampa Bay in the best-of-seven series that begins on Wednesday.

Will they be able to win the second world championship in the history of the franchise? Time will tell.

They got here with a nucleus put together by the scouting staff that Arbuckle oversaw, which produced, among others, shortstop Jimmy Rollins, left fielder Pat Burrell, left-handed starter Cole Hamels, right-handed starter Brett Myers, second baseman Chase Utley, and first baseman Ryan Howard.

Then came Gillick's handiwork. He filled in the holes with the addition of Brad Lidge, Jayson Werth, Greg Dobbs, Pedro Feliz, Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton.

Now the Phillies are enjoying back-to-back postseason appearances, after making only one postseason appearance in the stretch from 1984 to 2006.

It's the Gillick way.

"You try to put together a ball club you think will work with the type of team you have, the type of manager, the other players,'' said Gillick.

During his first tenure as a general manager, with the expansion Toronto Blue Jays, he withstood temptations for quick fixes early, then reaped the reward with a franchise that advanced to the postseason five times from 1985 to '93 and won the World Series in 1992 and '93.

He then went to Baltimore for a three-year stint (1996 to 1998), during which he oversaw the Orioles' only two postseason appearances (1996, 1997) in the past 25 years.

Then it was on to Seattle (2000 to 2003), which was coming off two successive losing seasons and had produced only three winning seasons in 23 years. There, he oversaw the trade of Ken Griffey Jr., refused to give in to the demands of free agent Alex Rodriguez and watched the Mariners make back-to-back postseason appearances and produce a franchise-record 116-win season in 2001.

Impressed?

Well, also consider that none of those three have been to the postseason since Gillick "retired."


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: October 21, 2008

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