Gillick in his own class among Blue Jays GMs

June 22nd, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five individuals by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while with that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only. For general manager, Pat Gillick is the runaway No. 1, but No. 2 is a wide-open race. Participate in the Twitter poll to voice your opinion.

TORONTO -- A brilliant evaluator of talent who won at every stop on his way to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the conversation of greatest Blue Jays general manager begins and ends with Pat Gillick.

Gillick first joined the expansion Blue Jays in 1976 as their vice president of player personnel, but he quickly moved into the role of GM, where he would lead the organization to five AL East titles and 11 consecutive winning seasons that ended with back-to-back World Series championships. All told, Gillick's Blue Jays went 1,352-1,297 in his 17 seasons at the helm from '78-94.

Blue Jays' Top 5: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF | CF | RF | DH | RH SP | LH SP | RP | Manager

Toronto’s growth through the 1980s into the early '90s runs parallel to some of Gillick’s most important moves. He didn’t hit on every decision, even earning the nickname “Stand Pat” in a time where fans wanted more activity from their club, but Gillick knew that the club needed one final push after falling just short with those great -- and too often underrated -- teams from the '80s.

This really began in December 1990, when the Blue Jays sent and to the Padres for and , who we now know as the greatest position player in club history and the author of the team’s biggest moment -- "Touch 'em all, Joe" -- respectively. Just a few days prior to that, Gillick also acquired Devon White from the Angels.

Related

Pat Gillick and Roberto Alomar at the National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2011.

There were other great trades to set the table for the club’s first World Series, like acquiring a young from the Dodgers in 1987, or timely signings, like the addition of veteran prior to the '92 run. Then there were the necessary in-season moves, like trading for down the stretch in ’92.

Repeating in 1993 was an entirely different challenge, one which Gillick and the front office rose to. He met with , who was coming off 15 brilliant seasons with the Brewers, and convinced the star that the Blue Jays would do anything possible to repeat. He brought in , a two-time champion already and the '89 World Series Most Valuable Player Award winner. Need a spark at the Deadline? Why not , the greatest basestealer to ever live.

Gillick also brought Fernandez, a fan favorite, back for the stretch run in 1993, something that meant a great deal to the late shortstop.

“I think Pat and Paul [Beeston] showed a lot of courage to bring me back here,” Fernandez told The Toronto Star in 1993. “But the first words people said when I got here was, ‘Welcome back, Tony.’ That meant a lot to me.”

Beyond the obvious success that Gillick enjoyed not just in Toronto but later with the Orioles, Mariners and Phillies, he also worked to grow the game nationally in Canada.

The World Series runs sparked a rise in youth baseball across Canada, much in the same way youth basketball numbers are likely to rise following the Raptors’ NBA Championship in 2019. The Blue Jays play for a country, meaning their success and involvement in the game carries a great deal of influence. Gord Ash, who worked alongside Gillick for years and eventually succeeded him as GM, saw this first hand.

"He was proud to be part of the Canadian landscape," Ash told The Canadian Press in 2009. "He was always a champion of the underdog, and if Canada was seen as baseball-barren back then, he was going to change that. He was a believer that by expanding across the country, you would generate interest with kids and more of them would end up playing, which is what happened."

Pat Gillick, then GM of the Mariners and seen with Carlos Delgado, is honoured prior to an August 2002 game in Toronto.

In 27 seasons as a GM, Gillick’s teams held a winning record 20 times and reached the postseason in 11. In 2008, he won his third World Series ring with the Phillies, and in '11 he got the call to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

"Baseball is about talent and skill and ability," Gillick said in his induction speech. "But at the deepest level it's about love, integrity and respect. Respect for the game, respect for your colleagues, respect for the shared bond that is bigger than any one of us."