Griffin: Pat Gillick newest member of Hall-of-Fame
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL-Monday was a great day for the profile of Canadian baseball in general and for fans of the best Jays teams in particular that culminated with back-to-back World Series wins in 1992-93. Former Jays' executive Pat Gillick was introduced at the winter meetings as the lone Expansion Era inductee to the Hall-of-Fame for 2011 as selected by a 16-person baseball veterans committee composed of former players, executives and writers. Also on the ballot were the late George Steinbrenner and founder of the players' union, Marvin Miller, who both also deserved recognition.
Gillick was with the Jays from 1976 until leaving to join the O's in 1996. Even though the legendary scout, player development director, GM and now senior adviser, has worked with five other organizations, he will most be remembered for his work with the Jays.
Gillick's career in baseball front offices began with the expansion Houston Colt 45's in the mid-'60s, the team that became the Astros, followed by a three-year stint with the Yankees before joining the Jays in '76 when the second Canadian franchise was awarded. Following 21 successful years in Toronto, he went on to the O's, the M's and then the Phillies, capturing a total of three World Series championships, including back-to-back in Toronto.
“I can't tell you what an honour this is," Gillick said at his morning press conference. "Really, I think it's on behalf of all the people that I've worked with over the years. That's who I feel this honour is for. The owners, the scouts, the managers, the player-development people, the players. They all share in this award.
“You can't do this job alone. It's a difficult job to do anyway, but you've got to have help. The fortunate thing about it over the years is I've had great help from all these groups. As I've said many times, I never felt I had a job. I love going to work every day. Great job, great camaraderie, great people. There were some really fine candidates and I was just very, very fortunate to be standing here.”
Gillick's influence on the success of the Jays as an organization and a force to be reckoned with from the mid-'80s to mid-'90s and on the development of baseball in Canada is still being felt. His favourite team remains the 1985 Jays.
“It felt like you got to the top of the hill," Gillick explained. "You were climbing the whole time and finally you got there. We ended up losing to Kansas City and they went on and beat Whitey (Herzog's) club in the World Series. But I think that was the most satisfying season, just the fact that we worked so hard from '76 from the expansion draft right to '85 where you kind of said, 'Wow, we kind of made it to the top.'"
Conversely, the biggest disappointment of his executive career came two years later.
“The toughest season for me was 1987," the 73-year-old member of the Canadian Baseball Hall-of-Fame recalled. "We had a 3-1/2 game lead with six to play and ended up losing to Detroit. That had to be the toughest. It was one of those situations where you were sliding downhill and they had momentum. We ended up playing them in the last three games of the season in Detroit and we lost all three. That was a tough one for us."
The influence Gillick has had on the Jays remains even now. If not for the influence and friendship he established with club president Paul Beeston as they were running the Jays like they owned it back in the early days, Beeston likely would not have had the passion for the game to return again in 2008 beginning the process of turning the franchise around.
“More important than what he taught me was the people he introduced me to," a thrilled Beeston said. "He exposed me to the baseball side as opposed to the business side. There is no doubt that fun we had together is what allowed me to stay as long as I did and to come back and do it again. The great thing about Pat was that he treated everyone as if they were a member of the organization, players, fans, media, front office and he did it with class and honesty.”
Gillick believes there is more to being a general manager than just putting together a roster. In fact, in the entire stats vs. scouting argument, Gillick continues to push for the scouts, even though like all modern baseball executives he understands and uses stats.
“One of the things that I think is very important is character," Gillick said. "When I started in this game I thought it was 70-percent ability and 30-percent character. The longer I've been in it, I think it's 60-percent character and 40-percent ability. If you're going to be out there through spring training and 162 games, you need people with character.
“The job of the general manager is not to select the players, it's to select the correct people to select the players, the correct evaluators. Everywhere along the way I've been fortunate to have people that are good evaluators of talent."
Gillick is looking forward to the likelihood that standing on the same podium with him in July will be second baseman Roberto Alomar, the man he traded for along with Joe Carter in 1991 that propelled the Jays to consecutive World Series wins. The announcement of players voted on by the BBWAA will be on January 5.
“He's deserving," Gillick said of Alomar. "He's probably the best second baseman that I've seen all-round, defensive and offensively in thelast 20 years. He certainly should be given strong consideration. I know he was very close last year, so I hope that he would make it. It would be a thrill if he did make it and we could both go in at the same time."
Gillick was the only candidate chosen from a list of eight former players, three executives and one ex-manager by the 16-member voting committee. The Boss, George Steinbrenner, who passed away at the all-star break this summer will have his time to get in, but once again the Veterans Committee messed up by not voting in Marvin Miller, the founder of the players union that brought in free agency and changed the game forever.
Hall-of-Fame induction weekend in Cooperstown, NY is July 22-25, 2011.