Monday, March 12, 2007

Pat The GM

This much we know about Pat Gillick:

He likes Hawaiian shirts.

He can be candid, even blunt, about his team's prospects.

He likes to take a flyer on marginal players.

He likes players with whom he is already familiar.

He trusts his eyes more than he trusts printouts.

He doesn't appear to want a long tenure here or anywhere else for that matter.

The shirts are more or less appropriate for the summer game albeit not everyone's taste. In the end, no one cares how the GM dresses; all we care about are the 25 men who dress every day with numbers on their backs.

Last year Gillick announced his team would not be ready to contend in 2007. Then he proceeded to unload one of its most successful members among others and the remaining players responded by going on a tear that fell just short of the playoffs. Noticeably, Gillick has remained silent on the team's prospects since then and has made several moves that have strengthened the club. The consensus is he still has at least one more move to make, namely, acquiring bullpen help. His relatively busy off-season does not suggest he still regards the Phils as also-rans.

As for the Rule 5 players, career minor leaguers, cast-offs, recovering wannabes and other diamonds-in-the-rough Gillick is forever bringing into camp for a look-see, it's been noted by commenters such as RSB that his time and that of his scouts and coaches might be better spent concentrating on drafting and developing prospects, including those from abroad. Gillick's love of these fringe players is not unlike playing the lottery every day; harmless but not worth a lot of one's time or hopes.

The whole matter of acquiring or signing players with whom one is familiar is perhaps one of the most troubling inclinations of the Phils' GM when one considers the list and how they've done in Philadelphia. Certainly Ryan Franklin and Arthur Rhodes are the most prominent retreads to under perform when reunited with Gillick, but there have been others. Someone needs to remind Pat that familiarity still breeds contempt more often than not. Just ask former Flyers' GM Bob Clarke who had a similar penchant for acquiring players he'd previously traded, though in his case more often than not he was beset by pure second-guessing.

As for the whole matter of traditional versus sabremetric evaluation, it is more difficult to determine what role and in what percentages each plays in building a modern baseball franchise. Gillick may be antipathetic to the new math but surely there are some in his organization who believe in and practice it. Gillick is on record as saying he'd fly across the country to meet face-to-face with a prospect, seasoned or not. There's nothing wrong with that approach in an era when virtually all kinds of business are too often conducted facelessly behind LCD's. The bet here is someone back at the ranch is looking at WHIPS and OBP's, too, perhaps not as much as in Oakland, Boston or other cities but surely to some extent.

How long will Gillick remain in Philadelphia? If the team makes it to post-season in 2007 but exits after the first round, he will likely remain one more season and try to better that showing. If they fall short again, he may decide he's had enough and retire somewhere that offers an ample selection of Hawaiian shirts at the ready.


RickSchuBlues said...

Gillick was brought in to help elevate this team instead of continuing to wear out that 84-88 win treadmill. It hasn't happened yet, and if this team performs above that threshold this season, it will come as a surprise to me. Gillick has his savvy and his connections (and that wonderfully evasive quality so beholden to his higher-ups), but I don't think it's jumping the gun to point out that his services might be a tad bit overrated.

Anonymous said...

I do wonder if Gillick's best years are behind him. He is after all pushing 70. But his resume allows me to give him the benefit of the doubt. He has turned every team he has been with into a winner, and has two rings in his collection. That is one more ring than the Phillies has won in its entire history.
I do believe this will be a make or break season for him. If the Phils show some spunk and make it to the postseason, Gillick will be back. If they stumble out of the gates again and fail to play October baseball, then there might be a new sheriff in town in '08.
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