Gillick Era Ends without a Ring

When Pat Gillick came to Seattle in 2000, Mariners' fans hoped he could be bring home the elusive World Series title. Four seasons and two postseasons later, he leaves the Emerald City having given M's fans a long list of memories but no championship ring.

Pat Gillick was supposed to be the answer.

His track record was outstanding. He led Toronto to the World Series in consecutive years, then put together a Baltimore team that made two ALCS appearances.

The Mariners brought him out of retirement to do what Woody Woodward could not - bring Seattle a World Series ring.

Upon his arrival he immediately faced the daunting task of trading Seattle's most heralded athlete, Ken Griffey, Jr. Years later, many considered his first move a surprising success with the Mariners receiving the Reds' opening day starter from the prior year and a young promising centerfielder.

He brought home John Olerud and Aaron Sele, and acquired Kazuhiro Sasaki, Arthur Rhodes, Mark McLemore and Stan Javier. The result? Quick success.

In 2000, his first year on the job, Seattle finished two games away from the World Series. Mariner fans began to believe in Gillick's every move.

That off-season, he began to showcase his philosophy, acquire free-agents in the off-season, signing no long-term deals, not even for the premier shortstop in the game. Alex Rodriquez's departure left Seattle without two of the the best players in its history.

Faced with adversity to a magnitude few general managers had faced before, Gillick responded.

He signed Bret Boone and Ichiro Suzuki. With teh pieces in place, the Mariners tied the 1906 Chicago Cubs for the most wins in Major League history with 116, a season that will forever be remembered in Seattle sports history.

Once again, however, the M's fell short of the World Series, losing to the Yankees in the ALCS for the second straight year.

The lack of an in-season acquisition raised eyebrows during 2001 as Mariner fans started to notice a trend, that being a general manager who made great deals in the off-season but failed to make the in-season deal that could put the team over the top.

2002 and 2003 would be no different; the signing of Jeff Cirillo was supposed to be the off-season answer in 2002, however the move headed south from the start. Two years later, Cirillo has replaced Vin Baker as the top dog the Seattle sports scene's dog house. The Mariners are determined to unload him no matter the cost this offseason.

Gillick, unwilling to take from the future and give to the present, made no significant deadline deals in 2002, and an aging Mariner team watched an eight-game lead evaporate over the last two months, missing the playoffs for the first time under Gillick.

2003 picked up where 2002 left off. This time it was Randy Winn who was supposed to provide the answer. Once again the Mariners found themselves in first place at the trade deadline, with a general manager who wouldn't budge. No deals were made, the team faded and the M's were left out of the playoff picture yet again.

During Gillick's four-year reign in Seattle, the Mariners' payroll ranked 14th 11th, 8th and 11th in the majors. Not once, however, during that time did they add significant payroll or personnel during the season. The ownership group let it be known that they were reluctant, if not opposed to adding one dollar to the already high payroll - despite the sell-out crowds - so the team had to rely on Gillick to mastermind a deal.

It didn't happen. Not in 2002. Not in 2003.

Why didn't Gillick make a major move? Was he reluctant after acquiring Eddie Murray and Harold Baines in Baltimore and not reaching the World Series? He shouldn't have been. When winning the World Series in 1992 with Toronto, Gillick brought over Tony Fernandez before the deadline and gave up Darrin Jackson without acquiring additional payroll. Fernandez was instrumental in securing Toronto's second straight championship.

Is it a coincidence that all four American League playoff teams made a deadline move this year? Even cash strapped Minnesota, which was in third place at the deadline, and Oakland, in second, both made significant deadline moves. The Twins acquired Shannon Stewart and Oakland loosened its purse strings on Jose Guillen. Maybe most importantly, both teams did it without sacrificing their future.

Pat Gillick walked away from the Mariners having won more games then any other general manager in the last four years, but he also walked away at a time when there has been a shift in baseball's front office. A youth movement has begun across the baseball landscape. The average age of general managers whose teams made it to the postseason this year is 44.

It is time for the Mariners to move away from the old-school approach Gillick took. During the Mariners unprecedented run in 2001, Gillick himself said, "Over the course of seven months, you've got to have people who get along with each other, who have a common goal. We look for players who put team goals above personal goals."

Well its also important to have players who don't fade in the second half, who can move runners over and who don't look at three strikes without taking the bat off their shoulder.

Getting along with your teammates builds chemistry, but it doesn't drive in runs. Gillick's desire for chemistry impeded the Mariners from adding a player who could have pushed them over the top.

There is no doubt Gillick was a masterful architect - he built a solid foundation before each season - but he wasn't a renovator. Mariner fans waited 14 years to get an answer for the lack of production in left field, and now that it's solved, more answers need to be filled in the front office.

Pat Gillick was supposed to be that answer. Instead, he leaves the Mariners with more questions.

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