Crucial to the Jay Way has been the front office's abiding belief in its own judgment. Toronto plucked third baseman Kelly Gruber from the Cleveland Indians two years ago in the major league draft for $25,000. Two weeks ago, as a late-season call-up, Gruber got the game-winning hit in the 14th inning of a 2-1 win over Milwaukee. "A lot of guys ask me, 'How can you go out and pick up a guy who hit .243 in Double A?' " LaMacchia says. "But when we broke Gruber down in high school, we saw his tools. Once he develops them and lets them take over, he's going to be a real good player."
Seeming disappointments to other chains become mainstays to the Jays. Catcher Ernie Whitt, infielder Garth Iorg and pitcher Jim Clancy were all picked up in the 1976 expansion draft. By clever use of the major league draft, Toronto has acquired Upshaw, leftfielder George Bell, pitcher Jim Acker, infielder Manny Lee and outfielder Louis Thornton, as well as Gruber. Doyle Alexander, whose 16 victories lead the staff, was signed after the Yankees released him, and reliever Tom Henke was taken from Texas as compensation for the Rangers' signing of Cliff Johnson—since returned—as a free agent. Third baseman Mulliniks and second baseman Damaso Garcia arrived via trades. The man behind all these moves has, of course, been Gillick.
LESSON 3: Never Stand Pat
In many ways, Gillick is the Blue Jays. His style is the team's: energetic but casual, enthusiastic but professional. "We knew when we came in as an expansion team we'd have to be aggressive to get talent," says Gillick, kicked back in his office in his usual corduroys and cowboy boots. "No one was going to just give it to us." Not intentionally, anyway.
Gillick's personnel judgments are not questioned. "There's only one difficult part of the game." says Paul Beeston, the Jays' business V.P., "and that's judging players. After that you're a McDonald's franchise." As general manager, Gillick has used every legal measure to get his mitts on prospects. He has gone as far as Taiwan and Australia (where he has a part-time scout) looking for a single player. He turned the major league draft, designed to free up players stuck in overstocked franchises, into a raid on promising minor-leaguers. (Thanks partly to Gillick. the purchase price for such players has been increased from $25,000 to $50,000.) And he has developed one of the game's best pipelines to the Dominican Republic, where four of the Jays come from. It was also where he met his German-born wife, Doris, then a stewardess with Pan Am. Gillick was there in '68 on, yep, a scouting mission.
And, of course, he has made a few calls—on the average, five hours' worth a day, $75,000 worth a year. From memory, the sly Segap can punch up phone numbers of teams, scouts, players or sportswriters for that one byte of information that might make or break a deal. "His mind is incredible, it's like a computer—what do they call it, a multi-frame?" Beeston says. "You know, the big one." Gillick has even dialed some of the opposition's operatives, guys who deal with players day to day, to check up on possible tradees. "Someone lower down in an organization is often flattered you want his opinion," Gillick explains. Flattered enough to provide useful information.
From his mother, a silent screen film actress, Gillick got his knack for memorization; from his father, the sheriff of California's Butte County and a fine minor league pitcher, his investigative and baseball acumen. At Ridgewood Military School in Woodland Hills, Calif., he was already exchanging vital stuff with another future general manager; Gillick was the center for quarterback Bobby Beathard, now G.M. of the Redskins. By 17, with an IQ that tested at 169, he had gone on to USC, where he earned a B.S. in business and a spot on the roster. He opted for the minors over the FBI in 1959 ("My application was already in to J. Edgar Hoover"), and had a 45-32 career in five seasons. One of his minor league managers. Earl Weaver, predicted that Gillick would someday be a general manager. "He memorizes The Sporting News," said Weaver at the time. In 1963 Gillick opted for the majors over the minors when he joined the Astros' front office. He went to the Yankees in '74, but when George Steinbrenner refused to guarantee him the sort of authority he wanted. Gillick jumped ship and joined the Jays.
He swears his goal this year wasn't to take the division, but merely to win 96 games and to develop some young talent. "Even if they were losing he wouldn't be biting his nails because he knows he has done a good job," Doris says. "He's very quiet when the team is going bad. When things get too good, that's when he goes nuts. Poor Patrick. He's weird."
LESSON 4: Women and Children First
Security. Stability. Safety. The franchise fosters the notion of Fam-i-lee—but to Muzak.