Gillick's foresight evident in Phils' Werth deal
Voted into Hall of Fame, longtime GM had knack for finding talent
Four years ago this month, then-Philadelphia Phillies general manager Pat Gillick signed outfielder Jayson Werth to a one-year contract for $850,000.
On Sunday, the Washington Nationals had to shell out $126 million to sign Werth to a seven-year contract -- an average of $18 million per season.
It's no wonder, you may think, that those voting on behalf of the Veterans Committee would put Gillick in the Hall of Fame on Monday, the day after the Nationals signed Werth.
The recent turn of events involving Werth and Gillick aren't truly related, or at least there is far more to the stories, but what all of this does show is the astute work of the 73-year-old Gillick.
Gillick is a man who has had a passion for baseball all of his life. He has been blessed with a mind that never forgets the smallest of details and a work ethic that would put a triathlon athlete to shame.
The other significant asset of Gillick is a leadership ability that unites and inspires the people who work with him and helps to form a core of great loyalty.
All of this came into a full emotional outburst on Monday, when the baseball personnel of the Phillies were gathered in the suite of current general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. during the Winter Meetings at Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
A dozen of the Phllies' baseball people were assembled to go over their game plan for the Meetings when the telephone rang at 9 a.m. ET in Amaro's suite.
Charley Kerfeld, a special assistant to Amaro, answered the phone and then turned to Pat to say, "It's for you."
Even though the members of the Phillies were gathered to discuss baseball business, they also knew a call for Gillick could arrive and, if so, it would carry great significance. The timing was tied to an expected announcement by the Hall of Fame.
Gillick went into another room to take the call from Hall of Fame Chairman of the Board Jane Forbes Clark.
"When Pat came out of the other room, we were waiting with a bottle of champagne with his picture on it," said Gordon Lakey, the Phillies' director of Major League scouting and a longtime associate of Gillick. "There were tears in Pat's eyes and a little smile on his face that told us all we needed to know. There weren't many words at first, but there was a ton of emotion with hugs all the way around."
Gillick had not only been elected to the Hall of Fame, he had swung the door to Cooperstown, N.Y., wide open for others who have devoted their lives to scouting and player evaluation.
Gillick's entry into the Hall of Fame was based largely on his highly successful record as a GM for the expansion Toronto Blue Jays, the Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners and Phillies -- but those who know him know that his start in the game and his heart and soul has been as a scout.
No scouts have ever been enshrined in Cooperstown, and only five previous Hall of Famers could be classified as club architects: Ed Barrow, Larry MacPhail, Lee MacPhail, Branch Rickey and George Weiss.
Prior to being elected, Gillick had told The New York Times: "If I was fortunate enough to get into the Hall of Fame, it would sort of validate all of the scouts I've worked with, and really what I've based my whole career on.
"I don't think it's an individual award. It's an award that would recognize what scouts have accomplished."
"Pat's election means the door to the Hall of Fame has been opened to a segment of people [scouts and general managers] who have been overlooked through the years," said Lakey, who first worked with Gillick 40 years ago with the Houston Astros. "I'm thinking about people like Roland Hemond and others who have done so much for our game."
Lakey said when he was at the Winter Meetings that many of the scouts he talked to felt a sense of accomplishment with Gillick's honor.
"Pat is like a brother to me and to many others," Lakey said.
"The thing that gets overlooked about Pat is that even though he was the general manager of four teams, he never made major changes in front-office personnel when he took over," said Lakey. "He had the ability to unite the people who were already on board and to inspire those people with his communication and his worth ethic."
Gillick's instincts of a scout paid off when the Phillies signed Werth in December 2006 after the outfielder had been cut loose by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The day after Werth was declared a free agent, Gillick paid a visit to the outfielder's home in Springfield, Ill., to sign him to a Phillies contract.
Gillick had remembered the talent of Werth from the time he was O's GM and Werth was a first-round Draft pick.
Gillick realized he had to move fast and apply a personal touch to get Werth signed. He did just that.
Just like a good scout. Just like a Hall of Famer.
Fred Claire was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1969-98, serving the team as Executive Vice-President and general manager. He is the author of "Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue." This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.