Generation gap widening in GM circles

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:20 AM ET

INDIANS HILLS, Calif. -- The Blue Jays asked Pat Gillick to return as their general manager during the 2001 World Series.

Gillick declined and stayed with the Seattle Mariners.

Since then? There were a couple of job offers, he moved into a consultant's role with the M's and built a house in Prince Edward Island.

This off-season, the Los Angeles Dodgers wanted to hire Gillick, the Boston Red Sox considered hiring him and the Philadelphia Phillies did hire him.

At age 68, Gillick is back, with one of the 30 top jobs in baseball, loping through the lobby at the annual general managers meeting this week carrying his brown leather satchel in his left hand.

It's an off-season in which Theo Epstein walked away from the Boston Red Sox, while another new-wave GM, Paul DePodesta, was fired by the Dodgers.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays hired Andrew Friedman, 28; the Texas Rangers hired Jon Daniels, also 28, and the Arizona Diamondbacks put 35-year-old Josh Byrnes in charge.

Raise your hands if you think:

- Friedman, who looks like he had his braces removed last month, will evaluate which pitcher to obtain;

- Daniels is going to tell Rangers owner Tom Hicks, or his children, to go over budget on a free agent;

- Or, Byrnes, a former Haverford College player, will tell Jeff Moorad, the team's managing general partner, what deal to make?

So, what was Chicago Cubs GM Ted Hendry doing at the age of 28?

"Head coach of the Creighton Blue Jays, youngest Division I baseball coach in the nation," Hendry said of his days in Omaha, Neb. "I wasn't sharp enough to worry about coaching a team with a tough schedule in tough weather for baseball."

When Gillick was 28 in 1965, he was the regional scouting director for the Houston Astros.

"When I was that young, I thought I knew a lot more than I did," Gillick said.

"What happens is along the way you learn how much you don't know. I was exposed to all of that. When I got the job in Toronto, I was 38. I realized you've got to put in your time and pay your dues."

When he was with the Jays, Gillick didn't even have a computer in his office. Grilled in 1993 on the reason for the Jays' then record 11-consecutive winning seasons, he credited his deep scouting staff.

His key to success was having more information than the next GM. With Seattle, after losing Ken Griffey and Alex Rodriguez, he still put the M's in the post-season in 2000 and '01.

And he even learned how to use a computer.

"Lots of the young guys are bright and know what they are doing, but I think it would be beneficial to them if they had a little more experience," Gillick said. "This is learning as you go and that's difficult, learning about scouting and player development."

The openings in Boston and Los Angeles, meanwhile, have yet to be filled.

"In L.A., they tried one concept and it didn't work," Gillick said. "I don't think they wanted to go with the same profile. They wanted a change. Philadelphia wanted to go outside the organization and for somebody who could put a fresh face on it."

Gillick has a team with a $96-million US payroll and two quality first basemen: Jim Thome and rookie of the year Ryan Howard. He also has to re-sign closer Billy Wagner.

"Getting this job wasn't do-or-die," he said. "If I got back, it would be fine, if I didn't get back, it wouldn't bother me. Some people look at this as rotisserie baseball, but that's a small part of the job."

Never more than this season has there been a generation gap when the GMs meet.

Charles Monfort, owner of the Colorado Rockies, noticed the change.

"We thought about having meetings here when we decided to bid for a franchise in 1987 ... for those of you who weren't born yet," Monfort said jokingly.

"I dealt with Theo a lot. I never looked at him as a stats guy or an analyst. I looked at him as a GM," Hendry said. "We've always used statistics, but you have to rely on scouting and a gut feel or you're in trouble. It would be a mistake to do everything off the computer.

"A team is never wrong when it hires someone like Gillick."


Videos

Photos