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“Pat Gillick was sure he wanted to wear the general manager’s hat one more time.
Nearly two years removed from a stint with the Seattle Mariners and having been rejected by the Los Angeles Dodgers a year earlier, Gillick interviewed with the Dodgers and Phillies in October 2005.
The Dodgers clearly were the more glamorous team, and they also played in the city where Gillick went to college at the University of Southern California. But the Phillies, with young players like Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard, intrigued Gillick, and he decided to go with the team that could not get over the playoff hump.
The Phillies, of course, climbed to the top of the baseball mountain by winning the World Series in 2008, Gillick’s third and final season as the team’s general manager.
“Probably the best [decision] I ever made was coming to the Phillies and not going to the Dodgers,” Gillick said. “After I didn’t get the job in L.A., I kind of felt like I wanted to come back and show the Dodgers they made a mistake.”
His mission has been accomplished over and over.
The Dodgers first realized they made a mistake when Gillick’s Phillies beat L.A. in the 2008 National League Championship Series, and they were reminded again Monday morning when a 16-man expansion-era veterans committee elected the former Phillies GM for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Gillick, 73 and still working as a senior adviser to Phillies president David Montgomery, received 13 votes and was the only person among the 12 nominees elected. He became the first general manager elected to the Hall of Fame since Lee MacPhail in 1998.
Marvin Miller, the former chief of the Major League Baseball Players Association and the man credited with turning baseball into an ultra-lucrative profession, fell one vote shy of the 12 needed for election. He clearly was not happy about it.
“Maybe it wouldn’t have made any difference. Maybe if club president Dave Montgomery hadn’t made the personally wrenching decision to replace general manager Ed Wade after another agonizingly close miss at the end of the 2005 season, the Phillies would still be coming off four straight postseason visits that encompassed just the second world championship in franchise history.
Probably not, though.
Maybe if the Phillies had hired somebody other than Pat Gillick to get them past what Montgomery politely referred to as their “postseason challenge,” the pieces would have fallen into place anyway.
Probably not, though.
That’s not a knock on Wade, who Gillick has consistently credited with putting the building blocks for later success into place. It’s not a knock on other candidates; Gerry Hunsicker was prominently mentioned as a possibility at the time and there’s no reason to suspect he wouldn’t have done a bang-up job.
Instead it’s a reflection that, through the prism of hindsight, it’s now clear that Gillick was the right man at the right moment in Phillies history to help nudge the organization to the next level after having also guided the Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners to more success than they had before or since.
That Midas touch was recognized yesterday with the announcement that the Expansion Era Committee had voted the 73-year-old baseball lifer into the Hall of Fame. He’ll be inducted in Cooperstown on July 24.
Maybe he would have earned enshrinement based on his success at his first three stops and didn’t need to assemble the team that broke through by making the playoffs in 2007 and won it all the following season, his last before stepping back into his current role as a senior adviser for the Phillies.
December 7 Philadelphia Daily News:
“The Phillies baseball people were gathered their third-floor suite yesterday morning when senior advisor Pat Gillick’s cell phone buzzed.
It might be . . . It could be . . . It was.
The call was to inform Gillick that he had been elected to the Hall of Fame by the Expansion Era Committee. An impromptu party broke out. A bottle of champagne with Gillick’s face superimposed on the label suddenly appeared, courtesy of team travel director Frank Coppenbarger. There were hugs all around.
Gillick received 13 of the 16 ballots cast and was the only nominee to receive the necessary three-quarters majority. And while there is no question that he deserved the honor, it was a slight surprise considering all the attention that was paid to a pair of heavyweight candidates that also appeared on the ballot: Former Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Marvin Miller and late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.
Miller was snubbed for the third time, falling just one vote short. And the reaction from the legendary labor leader, now 93, was both predictable and understandable.
“The Baseball Hall of Fame’s vote [or non-vote] of Dec. 5 hardly qualifies as a new story,” he said in a statement. “It is repetitively negative, easy to forecast and therefore boring . . . A long time ago it became apparent that the Hall sought to bury me long before my time, as a metaphor for burying the union and eradicating its real influence.”
“At this point, it is not clear whether Ruben Amaro Jr.’s public proclamations of satisfaction with his outfield are the words of a man who knows something that black-and-white numbers fail to relay, or if they are part of a calculated rhetoric designed to mask the perception of a buyer in need.
Whichever the case – and there is some degree of evidence for both – the Phillies‘ general manager reiterated the mantra yesterday as he sat in the hotel suite that doubles as the organization’s command center during the winter meetings.
“It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to do something that is a redundancy,” Amaro said yesterday, less than 24 hours after the team lost rightfielder Jayson Werth to a 7-year, $126 million contract with the Nationals.
In other words: Unless the team feels it can find a significant upgrade, it is content to enter the season with reserve outfielder Ben Francisco serving as the righthanded bat that Werth provided for most of the last three seasons.
But there is plenty to suggest the Phillies are dedicating more than passing attention to other options. One name that emerged yesterday was former Braves, Mets, and Rangers rightfielder Jeff Francoeur, a one-time uber prospect whose career has hit something of a roadblock over the last three seasons. One league source said yesterday that Amaro and Phillies assistant general manager Scott Proefrock would meet with Francoeur’s representatives at some point during these winter meetings, which run through Thursday. That same source said that Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, a longtime hitting coach, has told people that he thinks he can help Francoeur fix his swing.
December 7 Philadelphia Inquirer:
“The table was littered with papers, a counter near the bathroom was stocked high with boxes of snacks. Members of the Phillies‘ baseball operations staff sat on chairs or couches to form the makeshift base of operations in a suite at the Dolphin Hotel, where this week’s winter meetings are being held.
Ruben Amaro Jr. would like everyone to think not much is going on in the room. The Phillies, he said, are still prioritizing bullpen help over acquiring an outfielder to lessen the sting of losing Jayson Werth to Washington in free agency.
Domonic Brown may not be a part of a possible outfield platoon, Amaro suggested, because he might need more minor-league time.
Any move, the GM said, likely would not come this week. “I think it’s going to be fairly quiet for us,” Amaro said.
Of course, Amaro said something similar last winter shortly before acquiring Roy Halladay in a blockbuster trade.
This time, the Phillies are at least testing the temperature of the market. They are far from the only team here interested in a righthanded outfield bat and a lefthanded reliever – and many options exist. In a players’ market, where hefty contracts are frequently being handed out, the most prudent action could be patience.
Given that, the New York Daily News reported that the Phillies were expected to meet with free agent Jeff Francoeur’s agent, Keith Grunewald, sometime during the meetings. The Phillies expressed interest in Francoeur long before the meetings began, but he is just one possibility for a platoon in right field. Scott Hairston and Matt Diaz are among the others.
December 7 Philadelphia Daily News:
“It’s not every day the Phillies are outbid by the Washington Nationals. And 24 hours after Jayson Werth signed a 7-year, $126 million deal with the perennial NL East doormat, the reaction from the Phillies reflected that.
“I’m disappointed,” club president David Montgomery said. “We had made an effort to retain Jayson. But at the end of the day, I guess our efforts were dwarfed by another franchise.”
The Phillies are believed to have offered Werth a contract in the neighborhood of the 4-year, $66 million deal that Jason Bay signed with the Mets last offseason. The Phillies website reported the exact terms to be $60 million over 4 years, including a vesting option.
“I’m happy,” said former GM Pat Gillick, who drafted Werth with the Orioles and later signed the Illinois-native when he was as a little-known free agent before the 2007 season. “How can you not be happy? He goes all the way back to Baltimore with me and farther back than that because his stepfather Dennis played for me in Triple A in New York. I’m happy for him. That’s a lot of money. You can buy a lot of real estate in Springfield, Ill., with $126 million.””
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