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Former Jays boss Gillick says Anthopoulos is on the right track

Baseball Hall of Famer Pat Gillick throws out the ceremonial first pitch in the Philadelpia Philies spring training baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin, Fla., Tuesday, March 22, 2011. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Kathy Willens

Pat Gillick knows it's hard for Toronto Blue Jays fans to remain patient with a franchise that hasn't been to the post-season since 1993.

The former Blue Jays executive, in town Friday to be honoured at the team's home opener, said top franchises aren't built overnight. He added that he likes what general manager Alex Anthopoulos has done with the club in his one full season on the job.

"He's a smart, intelligent guy and he's an information gatherer," Gillick said Friday. "It's going to take time. Everybody says, 'Well, you're just buying time.'

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"Well I'll tell you, it takes time to put something together and I think he's on the right track."

Gillick, currently a senior adviser with the Philadelphia Phillies, is considered by many to be the dean of team architects. He has spent 50 years in baseball and helped build three World Series championship teams, including the Toronto clubs that won titles in 1992 and 1993.

Former Jays second baseman Roberto Alomar was also honoured before Friday's game against the Minnesota Twins. The team also recognized slugger Jose Bautista's 2010 season, when he led the major leagues with 54 home runs. Alomar and Gillick will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer.

Gillick was wearing a Blue Jays ring during his media availability Friday. He said when he looks at it, he's reminded of one epic moment in particular from Game 4 of the 1992 ALCS.

"Ninth inning in Oakland, when Robbie hit the homer off (Dennis) Eckersley," Gillick said. "There's been a lot of conversation about '93, and Joe Carter hitting the (Series-winning) home run off Mitch Williams, but I think that home run that Alomar hit off Eckersley in '92 was maybe bigger, in my mind, than the one Joe hit."

Gillick said he was amazed that Alomar was able to get a read on the ball.

"There were a lot of shadows in the park at that time of day," Gillick said. "It was probably 4:30, 5 o'clock in the afternoon, and that home run gave us a chance to go on, and win that series against Oakland and play that series against Atlanta.

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"So when I look at that ring I very much think, 'What if he doesn't hit that home run that day?' It might have been a different outcome than it was. So it was a tremendously important home run for the team, and I think a very important home run for the franchise."

Gillick and Anthopoulos have chatted on a few occasions over the last few months. The veteran baseball man told him it's important to stay the course.

"Don't lose your nerve because of the fans, because of the media and even because of ownership if you know you're on the right track," Gillick said. "Because when you change game plans all the time, that's where a lot of things are lost. It's going to take a while. So I just say be patient. I think they're heading the right way."

Anthopoulos said he ran into Gillick earlier this spring while scouting a pitcher at a high school game.

"I don't care if the kid pitched or not, 45 minutes of getting to talk with him was worth way more than going to see a kid for the draft," Anthopoulos said. "I love the fact that he's still tied to this organization. (He's) the best GM of all time, which is pretty telling. Being a GM and getting into the Hall of Fame, I didn't even think it could happen.

"But if there's anyone who deserves it, it's him."

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Gillick, who won his third World Series title with the Phillies in 2008, said stockpiling the system and assembling a solid group of young players is the way to go.

"I think it's important that you get a homegrown nucleus," he said. "I think that's what Alex is trying to do here."

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