Bavasi replacing Gillick as Seattle GM

Updated: November 7, 2003, 8:53 PM ET
Associated Press

SEATTLE -- Bill Bavasi showed off his sense of humor in explaining how he landed one of the most coveted jobs in baseball.

"It was a Jay Buhner lookalike contest," he said.

The Seattle Mariners hired Bavasi as general manager Friday. The former Anaheim Angels GM succeeds Pat Gillick, who announced Sept. 30 he was stepping down after four seasons.

Indeed, with his balding head the 45-year-old Bavasi bears a resemblance to former Mariners slugger Jay Buhner. But it was the stuff inside his skull that counted more.

As Mariners chairman Howard Lincoln listed the traits that made Bavasi the best candidate, it sounded like he was reading the Boy Scout law.

Lincoln praised Bavasi for his intelligence, confidence, enthusiasm, decisiveness, experience, knowledge, leadership, as well as his skills in judging talent, negotiating and communication.

"He has a reputation throughout baseball for honesty, integrity and fair dealing," Lincoln said. "I believe he will be well received by our players, our field manager, our coaches, our front office, the media and most importantly, our fans."

Bavasi spent 19 years with the Angels, working his way up from his first post as a minor-league administrator. As general manager from 1994-99, he helped shape the team that won the 2002 World Series.

His father, E.J. "Buzzie" Bavasi, was the former longtime general manager of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers and later was GM of the Angles and president of the San Diego Padres.

Bill Bavasi spent the past two years overseeing the Dodgers' farm system as director of player development.

That's the same position held in the Seattle organization by Benny Looper, one of two internal candidates for the GM job. The other, assistant GM Lee Pelekoudas, also was considered a strong candidate.

Among others, the Mariners interviewed Montreal Expos GM Omar Minaya, former Angels and Red Sox GM Mike Port, and Detroit assistant GM Al Avila.

"A lot of people feel they earn these jobs," Bavasi said. "I don't know that's true. I think I'm lucky. Of the final people they talked to, and even before then, they were talking to some fine people.

"`If it was an easy decision, it would have been made a while ago," he said.

Gillick will stay on as a consultant, and Bavasi plans to utilize him.

"I'd like to steal some of Pat's roster manipulation mojo," he said.

Bavasi plans to rely heavily on Looper, Pelekoudas and other front office officials, and he plans to stay in touch daily with field manager Bob Melvin, who also will contribute on personnel decisions.

"We're filling pretty large shoes -- or boots," Bavasi said, alluding to Gillick's familiar cowboy boots. "We're going to do that as a group, as a team."

Make no mistake. Lincoln and other team officials want to reach the World Series after building the Mariners into one of the best organizations in baseball but missing the playoffs the past two years.

Seattle won 393 games -- more than any other team in the majors -- over the past four seasons, tying an AL record with 116 wins in 2001. They missed the playoffs the past two years, despite winning 93 games each season.

Bavasi knows the situation.

"There are higher expectations," he said. "There is a little bit more pressure. I would expect that. They've done a great job. You win almost 400 games in four years, you're pretty good."

He was asked how he would characterize a successful season.

"Playing the last game," he said.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press