Gillick not ready to retire

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- After 47 years of baseball, a couple of World Series in Toronto and playoffs delivered in Baltimore and Seattle, baseball's oldest general manager insists he has found his final stop.

"Our contract here is three years," Pat Gillick said from a perch in the back of the press box at Citizens Bank Park.

"I'll take a look at how I feel after that. At some point, I'll say we've had enough."

Gillick looks about the same, not discernably greyer, no fleshier than you remember him. He is the same guy to deal with as he always was, unfailingly polite and courteous but unable to dispel the notion that while he is talking to you he also is thinking about what he would need to broker a six-player trade with Houston. There are media people in Toronto who still consider him the smartest person they ever met.

In conversation and in career paths, he is elusive.

Like Larry Brown, a spectacularly successful NBA coach famous for his rootlessness, Gillick is inherently optimistic. He knows there is a better offer out there for him should the Philadelphia skies darken the same way the did in Toronto, Baltimore and Seattle.

Meanwhile, the day-to-day contract invigorates him.

"I enjoy the association with the players, with the front office staff, with the minor league people ... I enjoy that part of it," he said.

Pro sports is a people business, always has been, always will be.

Not stats ... people.

Understanding that often gave Gillick a leg up.

Long before prospects were subjected to psychological testing, Gillick weighed personalities to see whether a million-dollar contract would screw up a small-town kid.

He put his glove away for good when, as a minor-leaguer in the Orioles' system, he began to suffer arm trouble. When he started with the Jays in 1976 after working his way up through the Astros and Yankees chains, he brought the sensibilities of a scout.

He went to workouts and monitored how players practised. When the Phillies tried to hide George Bell by keeping him out of spring training games, Gillick went to the workouts, saw Bell's savage swing and abundant strength, and landed him as a Rule 5 player.

Gillick left Toronto in 1995 after a bid to buy the Blue Jays fronted by his friend Paul Beeston fell through. That was to be his retirement, but it didn't take.

He left Baltimore after three years because owner Pete D'Angelo was a micro-maniac. He left the Seattle Mariners because he couldn't find the magical combination to get the club into the World Series in four years of trying.

"I thought when I left Seattle I was probably finished," Gillick said.

"We got in the playoffs a couple times up there and we were disappointed we didn't get any further."

So when the Phillies called, Gillick unretired.

"I just felt this was a pretty good opportunity from the standpoint that they came close last year and only finished one game out of the wild card," he said.

"There was a good nucleus here."

Plus, Toronto is only a little more than an hour away by air. His wife Doris Gillick never left Toronto.

"We liked Toronto. My wife had a business there and she couldn't pick up a business and leave," Gillick said.

Gillick makes one allowance to age -- building an organization isn't as appealing as fine-tuning it anymore.

"It depends where you are in your career," he said.

"If you're in your thirties or early forties, building from scratch can be good. If you get a little bit older in the game, it's a lot of fun to try to put the final pieces into a situation."

And he's the man to do it.

Doesn't matter where he's standing, Pat Gillick is always the smartest guy in the room.


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