Interview: Pat Gillick, Architect Of The 2008 World Champions
Pat Gillick was the Phillies General Manager in 2008. He’s the man who hand assembled the 2008 World Champion Phillies. I had the honor of speaking with him this weekend about the state of the team now, and the ‘08 World Champs.
SHAY RODDY: What will your role be with the team this year? You’re officially billed as a Senior Advisor to the President and General Manager. What’s involved in that?
PAT GILLICK: Basically I’ll be a senior advisor to not only Ruben Amaro, Jr., but also David Montgomery. I’ll be available to discuss anything about player personnel decisions that they want to ask me. They won’t run everything by me but they’ll ask about things like what do I think about this player, or this guy, or will this be advantageous to the Phillies. They’ll ask anything that they think I could be of value on.
SHAY RODDY: So, will you be in Philadelphia this season?
PAT GILLICK: No, I’ll be doing some work in the minor league system. I’ll be doing some scouting for Marty Wolver, our scouting director, on the minor-league level. I’ll always be available by phone. I’ll make some trips to Clearwater, Lakewood, Reading, etc. I’ll also probably be in Philadelphia two- three times a year. Even when I’m in Seattle, I’ll be able to see all the games on the MLB package and be available by email and phone. I’m always readily available to anyone who needs me.
SHAY RODDY: What are your thoughts, so far, on the job Ruben Amaro, Jr. has done this offseason?
PAT GILLICK: I think Ruben’s done everything you could ask of him, so far. From Cole Hamels, to Howard, Ibanez, Chan Ho Park, etc. He’s made all the necessary moves. In the next six weeks, I think he’ll be looking for another right-handed hitter because everyone knows we’re predominately left-handed, consequently we’re looking for another right-handed bat. I think, right now, Ruben’s thought process is we can get another right-handed bat and then have one of our younger people come forward to be a left-handed reliever, in lieu of J.C. Romero. Be it J.A. Happ, or Bastardo, or Escalona, I’m sure someone will step up. Those seem to be our two priorities right now, right-hander off the bench, and a lefty pitcher to go along with Scott Eyre.
SHAY RODDY: What piece of advice would you either give, or have already given, to Ruben Amaro, Jr. about being a General Manager in the Major Leagues?
PAT GILLICK: Well, I think one thing is you learn a lot more listening to what your scouts have to say and what the other General Managers give you. You really have to listen to be a good GM. One deal we made this winter, where we traded Golson for Mayberry everyone had some input on (myself, Charlie Kerfeld, Chuck LaMar, Benny Looper, and Ruben.) We also all had some input on the Hamels and Howard deals. So Ruben’s been a good listener, and he’s been very inclusive. Like I said before, he’s made all the moves you can expect him to make and we’re still looking forward to the right-handed hitter and left-handed pitcher.
SHAY RODDY: You put together the 2008 World Champions. You saw what it meant to the city, but what does it mean to you and at what point during the season did you really think, this is going to happen?
PAT GILLICK: Well, everyone always looks over it, but injuries are really a big factor. We had an injury filled year in 2007, and the Mets kind of gave us an opportunity and kind of got lucky and snuck in there. In ’08, from the starting point to the deadline [we were pretty much injury free.] Then at the deadline we made a push to get C.C. Sabathia, but didn’t really have the manpower to do anything. That’s when we opted to get Joe Blanton. We then added Stairs at a later point and then Iguchi, for some protection in case something was to happen down the line with one of the infielders. There’s tweaking going on all the time. Rarely the team you break camp with is the team you go into the post-season with. It’s very, very important to be looking to improve and tweak all of the time, because they say rarely the team you go into September with is the team you start in April with.
SHAY RODDY: Do you think there is one specific move you made during your time here that put you over the hump or was it all just little tweaks?
PAT GILLICK: I think it was a lot of tweaks. Maybe even adding Joe Blanton. At the time there wasn’t really a lot of hoopla, but our scouts had seen him and thought he would fit in. He was a steady performer and with our ability to score runs we really thought it’d work. Joe had a little shoulder tendinitis when he came over from Oakland but after that I thought he was pretty steady. He really stepped up big in the playoffs. Another small tweak was adding a second left-hander in the bullpen. J.C. Romero was out there by himself and doing most of the chores of a left-hander and we added Scott Eyre, he took the 6th and 7th inning off Romero so he could just concentrate on the 8th inning. I think the acquisition of both Eyre and Blanton helped us to get into the playoffs.
SHAY RODDY: It’s certainly been said over the years that the owners here tie the GM’s hands and don’t let them spend money the way they want to spend it. Have you ever experienced that here, and do you think those talks should be put to rest, considering the team’s current spending?
PAT GILLICK: I think that’s entirely erroneous information. Our owners are very supportive and they want to win just as much as the fans want to win. Sometimes people are very good at spending someone else’s money. Our owners are willing to spend money if the money makes sense. Our payroll has gone up maybe 30 percent. We’re looking at being in the top six or seven in baseball, spending wise. So, our owners will spend the money and I don’t think that criticism is very justified.
SHAY RODDY: When you say you think you’ll be in the top six or seven in baseball, do you think you’ll be in the top six or seven consistently now, or is it just because you can afford to spend like that with the extra World Series revenue?
PAT GILLICK: A lot of that depends on performance. If you go to last place in the division, and drop 2 million people then you’re not going to have a $132 million payroll. So, if we can stay competitive, we should be able to keep it, but if something happens and we drop to last place in the division, and we’re not an attractive or fun team to come watch, then we’ll need to make the necessary payroll adjustments.
SHAY RODDY: Everyone’s talking about a repeat. I think it’s kind of silly to talk about the World Series before the season even begins, but you’ve been around the sport a long time, so why do you think it is so hard to repeat, and why is this team different than the past failures, or is it?
PAT GILLICK: Well, as I mentioned at the top, you need to be fairly injury free, that’s one of the things. Another is you need to have somebody step up. Last year, everyone thought we were going to grind everyone out. As it turned out, in the latter part of the season, it was really our pitching and defense that prevailed. There’s a few factors: the injury factor, a few heroes, timely hitting, luck, and hunger are all factors. One thing I think about this group is in ’05, ’06, and ’07 they got close to getting to the World Series. In ’05, and ’06, they didn’t get into the playoffs, but going into Spring Training, this year, they’re going to really want to compete, they have that type of attitude. If everything works out for us with the injury factor, I think we’ll have a very good club this year. We should be good this year, and it’s exciting that Chase [Utley] will be 100 percent.
SHAY RODDY: How much did Chase’s injury effect him last year and how much did you know that you didn’t let out to the public?
PAT GILLICK: We knew he was hurtin’. Chase is a guy who goes out there and doesn’t want to complain, or divulge anything that is bothering him. You could tell by the way he was swinging that he was in a great deal of pain, so I think it really affected him. That’s why I’m so optimistic that he’ll have a very good 2009.
SHAY RODDY: There’s been a lot of talk about who the fifth starter will be. When you break camp in April, who do you see your fifth starter being?
PAT GILLICK: Well, I can’t really say because I haven’t seen them in Spring Training. We have five guys in there, Adam Eaton is certainly in there, Kyle Kendrick, J.A. Happ, Carlos Corasco, and Chan Ho Park will certainly have a chance. From an experience standpoint you’d have to say Kyle Kendrick, Adam Eaton, and Chan Ho Park. Consequently J.A. Happ, and Carlos Corasco would fall to the bottom and you’d have Eaton and Park 1, and 1a, and Kendrick 2. That isn’t necessarily how it’s going to work out in Spring Training, that’s what Spring Training is for; to see how much improvement they’ve made from ’08 to ’09. I can’t really tell you if there is a favorite, I can only really tell you who’s most experienced. We’ll have to see how these people pitch during the exhibition season.
SHAY RODDY: This offseason, you brought in Raul Ibanez and parted ways with Pat Burrell. Do you think Ibanez is an improvement over Burrell, a wash with Burrell, or a downgrade? How much do you think Ibanez being left-handed hurts his value?
PAT GILLICK: I’d rather have a right-handed hitter, probably. Ibanez hits lefties well though, and covers more ground than Burell, Ibanez is a better base runner. Arm wise, Pat could probably out throw him. I think Ibanez is a better hitter, even though he’s left handed. He drove in over 100 runs last year with a team that didn’t score a lot of runs; we put a lot of people on base. We hated to lose Burrell, but at the same time, I think we found a very good replacement in Ibanez.
SHAY RODDY: Everywhere you’ve gone, you’ve been successful. What’s the one key to building a championship team?
PAT GILLICK: It’s probably character. When I started 30-40 years ago, I thought physical talent was most important. I thought it was about 80% physical talent, and 20% makeup. Now I see it as more 60% ability and 40% makeup. Character builds a TEAM. What we try to do is find people who fit together. That’s what I’ve tried to do; acquire people who I felt built into a team concept and an unselfish approach. Sometimes it’s hard to find those people, but when you do they make, especially a 162 game season very enjoyable in the clubhouse.
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