SweetSpot: Bret Boone

In case you woke up this morning wondering, "Whatever happened to Bret Boone?" I give you this.
Mark Simon and I teased this on the Baseball Today podcast, so here it is. Tom from Melbourne, Fla., writes in:
    I have a slew of answers for Friday's ridiculous question regarding greatest difference in WAR in consecutive years. For the analysis, I wrote a program to search player profiles and career stats on Baseball-Reference.com for every major league player in history. Here are the results.

    Largest one-year increase in WAR for batters (min 350 PA in each year): A total of 30 players have had increases in WAR of greater than 6.0 in a year. The largest one-year increase was by Rickey Henderson from his rookie season in 1979 (-1.0 WAR) to his sophomore season in 1980 (8.7 WAR), a difference of +9.7 WAR. The top-10 list includes several Hall of Famers (Henderson, Eddie Collins, Babe Ruth, Mike Schmidt), two active players (Matt Kemp, Josh Hamilton), a guy called "Nails" (Lenny Dykstra, of course), and two guys who had a standout season (Bret Boone, Tommy Harper). Boone went from a WAR of 0.0 in 2000 to an MVP-esque WAR of 8.5 in 2001.

OK, this is Dave again. I'll run Tom's lists with some of my own commentary.



Besides Henderson, Collins and Schmidt were also cases of players developing from their rookie seasons to their sophomore years. Collins increased his average from .273 to .346 and his stolen bases from eight to 63. (Like Henderson, he also barely met the 350-plate appearance cutoff.) Schmidt hit .196 with 18 home runs as a 23-year-old rookie in 1973. What were the odds that player would develop into the best third baseman of all time? As a sophomore, he hit .282 and led the National League in home runs and slugging percentage while playing a great third base. Dykstra was actually healthy in 1989, but after a midseason trade from the Mets to the Phillies, he had hit just .222 with Philadelphia, dragging down his season numbers. In 1990, he hit .325 and led the NL in hits and on-base percentage. Other than 1993, he'd spend much of his remaining seasons on the DL.

Babe Ruth appears twice, both following shortened seasons. In 1922, he played just 110 games, missing the first six weeks because of a suspension due to offseason barnstorming actitivities and then more time when he has suspended again for jumping into the stands to confront a heckler (imagine if that happened today!). In 1925, he suffered his infamous "Bellyache heard 'round the world" season and played just 98 games while hitting .290. Ruth had initially fallen ill during the Yankees' spring training tour, a stomach ache blamed on eating too many hot dogs. Good stories. Ruth later underwent surgery for what doctors called an intestinal abscess although one teammate suggested Ruth's problem occurred a little lower on his anatomy. Others have speculated alcohol poisoning. Whatever the cause of Ruth's ailments, he bounced back in 1926.

The one name that may surprise you is Tommy Harper. The Seattle Pilots selected Harper from the Indians in the 1969 expansion draft and while he led the AL with 73 stolen bases he hit just .235 with just 21 extra-base hits in 148 games. The team moved to Milwaukee in 1970 and Harper discovered his power stroke, hitting a career-high 31 home runs while playing third base.

Here are the five biggest decreases:



As Tom writes, "Sisler missed the entire 1923 season with a severe case of sinusitis which resulted in double vision, and he was never the same after that." After hitting .420 in 1922, his averaged dropped to .305 when he finally returned in 1924. We talked about Ruth. Ashburn looks like a case of a guy who just got old overnight. A fleet center fielder known his on-base skills and range, Ashburn had led the NL with a .350 average and .440 OBP in 1958 at the age 31. In 1959, those numbers dropped to .266 and .360 and his defensive numbers took a big hit. His speed numbers also dropped -- 13 triples to two and 30 stolen bases to nine. Maybe there was an injury involved here, but Ashburn missed just one game and the Phillies traded him after the season. Looks like a guy who just lost his speed to me. Ripken's 1991 MVP season remains one of the biggest fluke seasons in recent decades. He hit between .250 and .264 every season from 1987 to 1993 except for 1991 when he exploded with one of the great offensive seasons ever by a shortstop. Similarly, Boudreau had one of the best shortstop seasons of all time in 1948, hitting .355 with a .453 OBP (he had 98 walks and just nine strikeouts) while being credited with 3.0 WAR on defense alone. Boudreau had bad ankles and even though he was just 31, 1949 would be his last season as a regular.

Anyway, thanks to Tom for the lists. Good stuff.

The most talented team of all time

December, 15, 2011
12/15/11
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What does that question even mean, "The most talented team of all time?"

Does it simply mean the best team? The 2001 Seattle Mariners won 116 games, a total matched only by the 1906 Chicago Cubs. Certainly, that Mariners club had a lot of talent -- Ichiro Suzuki hit .350 and Bret Boone had a monster season and Edgar Martinez got on base and John Olerud was really good and the pitching staff was underrated although not exactly filled with Cy Young winners. Still, I don't think many fans would say that was the most talented club ever assembled, especially since Ichiro is the only likely Hall of Famer.

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Joe Nicholson/US PresswireIchiro Suzuki hit .350 for the 2001 Mariners, who won 116 games.
The 1955 Cleveland Indians had more players on their roster who appeared in an All-Star game at some point in their career than any other team, with 28. Was that the most talented team? It was a good club, won 93 games and finished in second place, and 28 All-Stars is certainly a lot. But considering there were only eight teams per league back then and that from 1959 to 1962 two All-Star games were played each season, a lot of players from that era were "All-Stars." Plus, some of the players were at the end of their careers (Ralph Kiner, Bob Feller) or just beginning (Rocky Colavito played five games).

Or maybe the definition of talent is different. Guys like Martinez and Olerud certainly got the most out of their abilities, as neither were what you would call a five-tool player. But the 1974 San Francisco Giants, for example, featured an outfield of Gary Matthews, Garry Maddox and Bobby Bonds, three athletic players who could hit, run and field. Dave Kingman was on that team, a guy who hit the ball as far as anybody in the game's history. Shortstop Chris Speier was a 24-year-old All-Star. Steve Ontiveros, a 22-year-old rookie third baseman, showed promise by hitting .265 with more walks than strikeouts. On the pitching staff, John D'Acquisto was one of the hardest throwers in the league. Ed Halicki was a 6-foot-7 right-hander with a blazing fastball. It was a talented team. It also lost 90 games.

Maybe the 1975-76 Reds were the most talented team ever assembled: Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Dave Concepcion, Ken Griffey Sr., George Foster, Cesar Geronimo. The '76 team led the National League in home runs, batting average, stolen bases, doubles, triples, walks and -- of course -- runs. Bench, Morgan, Concepcion and Geronimo all won Gold Gloves. But the pitching staff didn't compare: Don Gullett threw hard when he first came up, but relied on a forkball by the mid-70s; Gary Nolan had been a 19-year-old phenom in 1967, but was a finesse guy with great control after years of shoulder problems. Closer Rawly Eastwick threw hard, but the staff as a whole didn't -- in fact, the '75 team ranked last in the NL in strikeouts.

Anyway, just some random thoughts for a slow Thursday afternoon. What do you think is the best way to approach this topic? Got suggestions for the most talented team ever? Discuss below and we can address the topic in the future.
Mariners CelebrateDan Levine/AFP/Getty ImagesA common picture from the 2001 Mariners season: Ichiro Suzuki and Mike Cameron celebrating.
"Two outs, so what?"
--Catchphrase for the 2001 Seattle Mariners


Every Mariners fan has his or her favorite game from 2001. After all, we watched nearly every one or followed online the ones we couldn’t see on TV or attend in person.

I have two. The Mariners had romped through the first half, going 63-24 and leading the division by 19 games. By fortuitous circumstance, Seattle hosted the All-Star Game that year and it had been a Mariners celebration, with eight players named to the roster, including starters Ichiro Suzuki, Bret Boone, John Olerud and Edgar Martinez. The American League won the game 4-1, with Freddy Garcia earning credit for the win and Kazuhiro Sasaki recording the save.

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Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesIchiro was one of eight Mariners All-Stars in 2001. The Mariners even hosted the game.
It would have been easy for the club to relax with such a big lead, but that’s not how the 2001 Mariners played baseball. In the first game following the All-Star break, they hosted the San Francisco Giants and Barry Bonds, then chasing Mark McGwire’s single-season home run record. Sure enough, Bonds launched a long home run in the first inning and the Giants held a 3-2 lead entering the bottom of the ninth. But David Bell homered on a 3-2 pitch from Robb Nen to send the game into extra innings. In the 11th, Mike Cameron walked with one out and stole second. With two outs, Tom Lampkin hit a chopper over the middle that second baseman Ramon Martinez gloved, but with no chance to get Lampkin. Cameron kept churning around third and beat Martinez’s throw home.

Relax? The Mariners would go 17-6 in their first 23 games out of the break.

My other game came a couple of weeks later. The Mariners led the Twins 3-2 in the eighth inning when Lou Piniella sent out little-used utilityman Charles Gipson as a defensive replacement in center field. Sure enough, later that inning Gipson threw out the potential tying run at home plate. That was the 2001 Mariners -- Piniella making every right move, all 25 guys contributing and delivering clutch throws and big hits. Baseball is a team game made up of individual talents. But I've never seen a baseball team where the sum of the team exceeded the individuals like the 2001 Mariners. They were a team in perfect harmony.

* * * *

"I haven't seen him hit the ball with any authority."
--Mariners manager Lou Piniella on Ichiro Suzuki, late in spring training


The Mariners had lost to the Yankees in six games in the 2000 American League Championship Series, but then Alex Rodriguez signed with Texas as a free agent. The Mariners countered that loss by winning the posting process for Ichiro Suzuki and signing him to a three-year, $14 million contract. In a less-heralded move, the team also signed free-agent second baseman Bret Boone. Still, nobody knew exactly what to expect from the club.

Spring training got off to a bad start. Jay Buhner, third on the team in home runs in 2000, suffered a torn arch in his left foot in his first at-bat and would miss most of the season. More troublesome was the performance of Ichiro, whom Piniella had initially planned on hitting third in the lineup. But Ichiro wasn’t hitting the ball with any power and the Seattle papers wondered if he was overmatched by major league pitchers who threw harder than the pitchers he'd regularly faced in Japan. Piniella and hitting coach Gerald Perry expressed their concerns that teams would just bunch their defense to the left.

Finally, in late March, Ichiro smacked a home run. "I shook his hand when he got to the dugout, just like I would with anyone else," Piniella said. "He had a big smile. I know it was good for him to hit the ball hard in that direction."

It was a small turning point for the Mariners. Maybe their Japanese import would be OK after all. Still, Piniella decided to install Ichiro as his leadoff hitter.

Like all of Piniella’s moves that year, it was the right one.

Ichiro got two hits in the season opener. A few days later he went 4-for-6 with two runs, a double and a two-run, game-winning home run in the 10th inning in Texas. A couple of days after that came The Throw. Ichiro had started a go-ahead Mariners rally in the top of the eighth with a pinch-hit single. In the bottom of the inning, facing the boos and taunts of Oakland fans who had been hounding him throughout the series, he sent his own message when he gunned down Oakland’s Terrence Long at third base with a laser beam from right field.

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Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesA familiar sight for M's fans in 2001: Bret Boone flipping his bat after a home run.
"I'll tell you what, you could hang a lot of clothes on that throw,” Piniella said. "It was going to take a perfect throw to get me -- and that's what he did,” Long said.

Just like that, Ichiro was a national sensation. He hit .336 in April, with hits in 23 of 25 games. The Mariners, meanwhile, went 20-5, including a three-game sweep in the Bronx. After the Mariners thumped the Rangers in one series, A-Rod predicted with complete insincerity but amazing accuracy that the Mariners would win 115 games. On May 23, Bell hit a home run in the eighth inning to beat the Twins, kicking off a 15-game winning streak. Ichiro and then Boone appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Later, Ichiro, Boone, Cameron and Martinez appeared on the cover of ESPN The Magazine, under the billing "ALL WORLD."

* * * *

"It wasn’t supposed to end like this. It wasn’t supposed to end here."
--Bret Boone, after losing the ALCS to the Yankees


The Mariners never let up. Ichiro would win the batting title with a .350 mark and lead the league in hits and stolen bases. Boone had one of the greatest seasons a second baseman ever had, hitting .331 with 37 home runs and a league-leading 141 RBIs. The beloved Martinez, 38 years old, hit .306 with a .423 on-base percentage and 116 RBIs. Slick-fielding first baseman John Olerud had a .402 OBP and scored and drove in more than 90 runs. Cameron knocked in 110. Mark McLemore played all over the field and scored 78 runs and swiped 39 bases. With Ichiro, Cameron, Boone and Olerud, it was one of the best defensive teams I've ever seen. The pitching was the best in the league, as well. Garcia led the league in ERA, Jamie Moyer won 20 games and Sasaki, Arthur Rhodes and Jeff Nelson provided a dominant bullpen trio.

The team went 18-9 in June and July and 20-9 in August. They were selling out every game -- the M's would lead the AL in attendance that year, outdrawing the Yankees, a team that had won three straight World Series titles. Local TV ratings were off the charts. The team clinched the division title soon after the return to action after the 9/11 attacks halted play for a week. A champagne-soaked celebration didn’t seem appropriate. Instead, the team gathered near the pitching mound for a prayer. Somebody brought out a flag and the players walked the flag around the stadium, thanking the fans for their support. As Seattle newspaper columnist Art Thiel would write, "They found a way to honor their achievements, fans and country without histrionics, triteness, or bad taste. A season of greatness found a seminal expression apart from the game."

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Otto Greule/Getty ImagesThe Mariners celebrated their division title in subdued fashion.
All that was left was the season record for victories. The 1998 Yankees had won 114 games. The 1906 Cubs, in a much different era, had won 116 games. Piniella pushed hard, keeping the regulars in the lineup. The Mariners surpassed the Yankees in Game No. 160 as Olerud and Boone homered and Moyer pitched a gem. The next day, they tied the Cubs as Boone homered in the first inning and five pitchers combined for a 1-0 shutout. No team had ever won more games. "I think if you assembled an All-Star team and put them in our division, they couldn’t win 116 games," Boone said.

Maybe Piniella pushed too hard. Maybe the team was gassed from the record drive. Maybe the pressure to match their regular season was too great. Or maybe the playoffs are just a crapshoot. The Mariners, of course, aren’t regarded as one of the greatest teams of all time. They’re not mentioned in the same breath as those ’98 Yankees or the ’86 Mets or ’75 Reds. They didn’t win the World Series; they didn’t even reach it.

They beat Cleveland in five games in the Division Series, rallying to win the final two games after getting bombed 17-2 in Game 3. But there were problems. Shortstop Carlos Guillen had contracted tuberculosis, and there were fears he’d infected the entire clubhouse. He missed the Cleveland series and played sparingly in the ALCS against the Yankees. Martinez had pulled a groin against the Indians and was ineffective in the ALCS. In the first two games, Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina pitched gems. Seattle won Game 3 14-3 and led Game 4 1-0 on Boone’s homer in the eighth, but Bernie Williams homered off Rhodes to tie it and then Alfonso Soriano hit a two-run walkoff homer off Sasaki. Game 5 was an anticlimactic 12-3 blowout.

* * * *

"I'm tired of [expletive] losing, I'm tired of getting my [expletive] beat, and so have those guys. We gotta change this [expletive expletive] around and get after it. And only we can do it. The fans are [expletive] off, and I'm [expletive] off, and the players are [expletive] off. And that's the way it is. There's no [expletive] easy way out of this, can't feel sorry for ourself, we gotta [expletive] buckle it up and get after it."
--Mariners manager John McLaren, June 2008


The decline wasn’t immediate. The 2002 club was in first place as late as Aug. 18 and won 93 games, but missed the playoffs. Piniella, in part to be closer to his family in Florida and in part because he was angry management hadn’t added any reinforcements at the trade deadline, left after the season to manage Tampa Bay. The 2003 club led the division by five games on Aug. 15, but Oakland got hot and the Mariners faded. Once again, 93 wins wasn’t enough to make the postseason.

By 2004, the team was aging and in decline and general manager Bill Bavasi, who had replaced Pat Gillick, was ill-equipped to handle the transition. Still, the downfall was excruciating. The Mariners had arguably become baseball’s premier franchise. They were filling Safeco Field. They were fun to watch. They had some of the highest revenues in the sport. Maybe they weren’t the Yankees -- but they were the next-best thing.

Since 2004, the team has gone 566-714, including 100-loss seasons in 2008 and 2010. The offenses the past two years have been two of the worst baseball has seen in decades. Attendance, once more than 43,000 per game, has fallen to 23,489. The decline in popularity is evident in the team’s radio broadcasts. The only commercials with player endorsements involve Jay Buhner, who has been retired 10 years, and Seattle-area native Travis Ishikawa, who has never played for the Mariners.

So what happened?

The foundation for demise was set in the Gillick era. Due to free-agent signings, the Mariners had no first-round pick in 2000, 2001 and 2003 and failed to sign 2002 first-rounder John Mayberry Jr. Those four drafts produced just two major leaguers of significance -- Adam Jones, who was traded to Baltimore in the Erik Bedard trade; and Eric O’Flaherty, who the club released after the 2008 season.

The team did suffer some bad luck with a slew of pitching prospects in the early part of the decade. Ryan Anderson, compared to Randy Johnson for his 6-foot-10 stature and blazing fastball, was a top-10 prospect but blew out his shoulder and never reached the majors. Jeff Heaverlo tore his labrum. Clint Nageotte battled injuries. Gil Meche had pitched well as a rookie in 2000 but missed all of the 2001 season with a frayed rotator cuff -- yes, the 2001 club could have been even better. While Meche eventually returned, he was never the star his rookie season indicated he had a chance to become.

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John Williamson/Getty ImagesIn 2005, the Mariners could have drafted Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Braun or Ryan Zimmerman. Instead they took Jeff Clement.
To make matters worse, when the Mariners hit bottom and started earning high draft picks, they botched them. In 2005, they had the third pick and most experts had them taking Long Beach State shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Instead, in one of the deepest drafts in recent years, they took USC catcher Jeff Clement, passing not only on Tulowitzki, but Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun and Ricky Romero. Those guys went with the next four picks. (Andrew McCutchen, Jay Bruce, Jacoby Ellsbury and Matt Garza also went later in the first round). In 2006, drafting fifth, the team passed on local product Tim Lincecum and Clayton Kershaw to draft Brandon Morrow. In 2007, the team took hard-throwing but inexperienced Canadian high school pitcher Phillippe Aumont; Jason Heyward went three picks later. 2008 first-rounder Josh Fields was a college reliever expected to reach the majors quickly; Mariners fans are still waiting.

Current rookie Dustin Ackley looks like the first good hitting prospect the Mariners have developed since A-Rod. Actually, that’s not completely accurate; they developed Shin-Soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera, but Bavasi gave them away to Cleveland in ill-advised trades for Ben Broussard and Eduardo Perez in 2006. Those two combined for nine home runs that year and the Mariners finished 78-84. Bavasi brought in past-their-prime veterans like Scott Spiezio (.198 average over two seasons) and Rich Aurilia (.241 average before being sent back to the National League). Later, Bavasi would do unmentionable things like signing Carlos Silva and trading Rafael Soriano for Horacio Ramirez.

In recent years, nearly every hitter the Mariners have produced has reached the majors with no concept of the strike zone -- guys like Jose Lopez, Yuniesky Betancourt, Wladimir Balentien and 2011 graduates Greg Halman and Carlos Peguero. You’re not going to win with guys like that.

So now the Mariners are headed for another season of 90-plus losses. They suffered through a 17-game losing streak in July. They’ve had some bright spots like Ackley and fellow rookie Michael Pineda. They still have Felix Hernandez. At one point recently, 12 of the 25 players on the roster were rookies, a sign that a complete rebuild was in order. But Ichiro is getting old, Franklin Gutierrez has regressed, Justin Smoak remains a question mark and third base and left field remain problem areas. The rookies strike out too much, the bullpen is thin and Felix's body language often suggests that he'd like to pitch with more than two runs of support.

I’ll be honest: It makes a Mariners fan want to re-watch that "Sweet 116" videotape again.

Follow David Schoenfield on Twitter @dschoenfield.

Pat Gillick's 10 best moves

July, 22, 2011
7/22/11
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Pat GillickAP Photo/Mike GrollHall of Fame baseball executive Pat Gillick helped build playoff teams in several cities.
You can debate the merits of an executive getting elected to the Hall of Fame; personally, I find it a bit ridiculous that Pat Gillick got elected and will be enshrined this year while deserving players like Barry Larkin, Tim Raines, Alan Trammell and others were snubbed yet again by the voters (yes, Gillick was elected via a special expansion era committee).

Gillick was the general manager of the Blue Jays from 1978 through 1994, building them from an expansion franchise into a two-time World Series champion. He ran the Orioles from 1996 to 1998, making the playoffs his first two seasons. He took over the Mariners for the 2000 season, and his first big move was to trade a disgruntled Ken Griffey Jr. The Mariners made the playoffs anyway and then won a record 116 games the following season. He took over the Phillies in 2006 and retired after they won the World Series in 2008 (he remains an advisor).

His ability to build winners is undeniable, although Gillick also had good timing with his various retirements. After winning two World Series, the 1994 Blue Jays had become an aging, past-its-prime ballclub, finishing 55-60. Gillick wasn't around when the Jays stumbled to the worst record in the AL in 1995. He took over a solid Orioles club in 1996, added a few veterans to get them over the playoff hump, but left after the team fell under .500 in 1998. The Orioles haven't seen a winning record since. The Mariners won 93 games in 2003, but were an old club with a bad farm system, depleted in part because Gillick had forfeited draft picks to sign veteran free agents. He stepped down before the team lost 99 games in 2004. Only the Phillies have maintained success after Gillick left, either a testament to his genius or a testament to knowing when to quit.

Here are 10 moves that got him into the Hall of Fame, in chronological order.

1. Selecting George Bell in the Rule 5 draft.

Bell had missed most of the 1980 season while in the Phillies' system, but the Blue Jays were astute enough to select the outfielder. He didn't become a regular until 1984, but over seven full seasons with the Jays hit .288 while averaging 24 home runs and 102 RBIs, winning the 1987 AL MVP when he hit 47 home runs and led the league with 134 RBIs.

2. Acquired Fred McGriff for Dale Murray.

McGriff had hit .272 AVG/.413 OBP/.456 SLG as an 18-year-old in rookie ball with the Yankees when Gillick got him as a throw-in for a deal that brought Dave Collins and Mike Morgan to the Blue Jays. Collins had been a high-priced free-agent bust for the Yankees in 1982, and George Steinbrenner eagerly dumped him for Murray, a middling middle reliever who was nearly done. McGriff would hit 125 home runs for the Blue Jays, helping them win the '89 AL East crown.

3. Drafted Tom Henke from the Rangers.

Teams that lost a free agent used to be able to draft an unprotected player off another team. In 1985, Gillick selected Henke, a hard-throwing but wild right-hander who had posted a 6.35 ERA for the Rangers in 1984. Henke turned into one of the best closers in the league, had a 2.48 ERA and 217 saves over eight seasons in Toronto, and was the closer on the 1992 World Series champion.

4. Drafting John Olerud ... and then signing him as a free agent.

Olerud had been one of the best college players in the nation as a sophomore at Washington State, hitting .464 while going 15-0 as a pitcher. But he suffered a brain aneurysm before his junior season and played sparingly. Most teams were scared off, but the Jays drafted him in the third round in 1989 and he went straight to the majors. Later, in Seattle, Gillick signed Olerud as a free agent and he posted a .392 OBP from 2000 to 2003.

5. Acquired Devon White from the Angels for Junior Felix and Luis Sojo.

Felix had played well for the Blue Jays in 1990 as a 22-year-old while White had hit .217 for the Angels. But the Jays needed better defense in center (34-year-old Mookie Wilson had been the team's primary center fielder in '90) and White was one of the game's supreme fly chasers. White not only won three Gold Gloves as the Jays won three straight AL East titles from '91-93, but he hit well and averaged 108 runs per season over those three years.

6. Trading McGriff and Tony Fernandez to the Padres for Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter.

A few days later, Gillick made a good old-fashioned challenge trade, the likes of which you don't see much anymore. Fernandez had been a three-time All-Star with the Jays, but Alomar was younger and on the rise. McGriff was a better player than Carter, but the Jays had Olerud ready to play first base. In five seasons with the Jays, Alomar became one of the best all-around players in baseball, making the All-Star team all five seasons. He also hit .373 in five postseason series while with Toronto, driving in 18 runs and stealing 18 bases in 29 games. When Gillick went to the Orioles, one of his first moves was to sign Alomar as a free agent.

7. Signing Jack Morris, Dave Winfield and Paul Molitor as free agents.

By 1992, the Jays were drawing 4 million fans per season and had become one of baseball's richest franchises. Gillick had money to work with; the Jays had the third-highest payroll in 1992 and the highest in 1993. In '92, he signed veterans Morris and Winfield. Morris went 21-6 while Winfield hit .290 with 108 RBIs as the team's DH. The next season, Molitor replaced Winfield and was even better, hitting .332, driving in 111 runs, scoring 121 and finishing second in the AL MVP vote.

8. Signing Ichiro Suzuki.

Many American scouts and executives believed Ichiro was too thin and frail to succeed in the U.S. The Mariners won negotiating rights with a $13 million bid and soon signed Ichiro to a three-year, $14 million contract entering the 2001 season. All he did as a rookie was hit .350, score 127 runs, steal 56 bases, win AL MVP honors and lead the Mariners to 116 wins.

9. Signing Bret Boone as a free agent.

As good as Ichiro was in 2001, Boone might have been even better. He had one of the greatest seasons ever for a second baseman, hitting .331 with 37 home runs, leading the AL with 141 RBIs and winning a Gold Glove. All for $3.25 million.

10. Trading for Jamie Moyer.

Notice a trend? Gillick has a history of bringing back his former players. He had Moyer in Seattle and picked him up for nothing in 2006. In truth, all the key parts of the Phillies' 2008 World Series were already in place when Gillick arrived -- Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Cole Hamels had been drafted by the previous regime, and Shane Victorino had been acquired in the Rule 5 draft. Gillick's big moves were trading for Moyer, who would go 56-40 for the Phillies and was the team's No. 2 starter in 2008, and signing Jayson Werth before the 2008 season, after he had missed all of 2007 with a wrist injury.

Follow David Schoenfield on Twitter @dschoenfield.

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