Gillick's method produced success
General manager's old school use of scouting benefits Phillies
The success of the Philadelphia Phillies this season is a story that is being saluted by veteran baseball scouts in every Major League organization.
The reason is rather basic -- no general manager has been a bigger booster of scouting through the years than Phillies general manager Pat Gillick.
During a period when he is rightfully proclaimed as a Hall of Fame candidate, Gillick shuns the spotlight and praises his scouts and other baseball development people.
That's the reason why Pat Gillick has been one of the most successful and respected general managers in history.
If you were to use a Gillick method to get a scouting report on Gillick himself, you would turn to the people who know him best.
That's why I asked two long-time Gillick associates, Gordon Lakey and Don Welke, to give me a report on the man behind the success of this year's Phillies.
"When you are a part of an organization where Pat is the general manager, the first thing you realize is that it's not really about Pat, it's about the organization and the goals of the organization," said Lakey. "You never have the feeling of working for Pat; you work with Pat. He creates that type of environment."
Lakey was a trusted scout for Gillick with the Blue Jays from 1985 until 1996 and has been with the Phillies since 1998. You can be assured before Gillick took the GM job with the Phillies in November of 2005 he got a full rundown on the team and the organization from Lakey. Gillick simply doesn't do anything without having the best possible information at hand.
The first scout and one of the few that Gillick added to the Phillies' staff when he took the GM job was Welke. No surprise here. Welke was with Toronto during all of Gillick's 17 years with the Blue Jays from 1978-1994 and then spent three seasons with him in Baltimore from 1996-98.
After helping Gillick get under way with the Phillies in 2006, Welke moved on to the Texas Rangers.
"The interesting thing about Pat is that he has never taken a lot of people with him when he has moved from Toronto to Baltimore to Seattle and now to Philadelphia," said Welke.
"The thing he has done is to work well with the people who have already been in the organization. He understands there are good and hard-working people in every organization and he has the ability to bring them together with a common goal and focus," said Welke.
Welke's point is very well taken when one considers that a number of general managers come into a new situation and begin to make significant changes as opposed to tapping into the talent that already is present.
"Pat is a very humble man and he really relies on the people around him," said Welke. "Even though he is a great evaluator of talent he seldom makes a statement about a player in a meeting with his scouts. What he does do is to listen very well. He always is seeking information and asking for opinions."
The scouts who know Gillick best say there are three areas that are of great interest to the veteran general manager when he is considering acquiring a player -- how has the player been performing; what is the makeup of the player; and what is the health of the player.
If all of that seems rather basic, it really strikes to the philosophy of Gillick. He believes in his scouts and he believes in hard work and dedication. He believes in supporting his scouts and giving credit to his scouts while preferring to stand in the background.
In an era when some general managers are half the age of the 71-year-old Gillick and rely heavily on computers, the man leading the Phillies has struck a note in favor of experience and great scouting values.
It's about time we hear a cheer for the "old guys" who have dedicated their lives to the game they both understand and love.
Fred Claire was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1969-98, serving the team as executive vice-president and general manager. Fred's book (Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue) was published by Sports Publishing LLC. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.