MATT STAIRS CAME from Toronto. Jayson Werth broke into the majors with the Blue Jays. Greg Dobbs was a Mariner before he came here. Raul Ibanez became a star in Seattle. Jamie Moyer was an institution there before he came here.

Now Roy Halladay is coming from Toronto.

And Cliff Lee is headed to Seattle.

Call me Sherlock Holmes or even Monk, but I see a pattern here.

Pat Gillick, come out, come out, wherever you are.

Once again, a major deal involving the Philadelphia Phillies has their former general manager's scent all over it. Yes, Halladay was drafted 7 months after he left as Toronto's general manager and no, Gillick didn't draft any of the three prospects the Mariners will give up to acquire Cliff Lee. But there are just too many coincidences here to not believe that if Gillick was stumped on "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire," the first three numbers dialed would be either 206 (Seattle) or 416 (Toronto).

It's not about Gillick's connections to either place. Paul Beeston, his old buddy from those two world championships, is back with the Jays, and home is Seattle. But the hierarchy in both places is thin, even void, of obvious connections.

It's simply about familiarity. He knows the economics of both places. He follows both teams closely because, well, he's a sentimental guy. Seriously, he is.

To be clear: I am not suggesting that Ruben Amaro Jr. is a puppet dictator.

Just a really, really good one.

When the dust cleared after last summer's frantic trade deadline, Amaro told me that the deal that brought Lee to the Phillies was not as last-second as it may have seemed. It traced all the way back to the previous summer's trade deadline, when the Phillies were in the hunt for CC Sabathia. Back then, Indians scouts spent a lot of time scouting Phillies prospects like Lou Marson, Jason Donald and Jason Knapp. Back then, Phillies scouts watched Lee pitch and interact with his teammates.

And yes, Pat Gillick was the GM.

But Gillick is truly a scout at heart. He loves this part of the game, evaluating your guys and his guys, coming up with the combinations that seem to benefit both teams, at least at the time, but make sense in the rear-view mirror. The most famous example of this when he was GM of the Blue Jays was his trade of Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez after the 1990 season to San Diego for Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar.

Statistically it seemed a push. McGriff was slightly more prolific than Carter, Alomar a slightly better offensive player than Fernandez, at least at the time. But Carter and Alomar became key pieces to the Blue Jays' consecutive world championship drives.

This is not to suggest Cliff Lee was not a key piece or would not have continued to be. If the Phillies had the free-spending ways of those Blue Jays - they were owned by Labatt and could outspend Ted Turner and the Yankees - we would have Halladay, Lee and Cole Hamels next season.

And it's not a diss of Amaro. Quite the contrary. From the moment his name was pushed to the front, he understood that the best way to be the smartest guy in the room is to not be the smartest guy in the room.

Until you have to be . . .

That was the inside rap on Gillick's predecessor. Ed Wade is better in his second go-round in Houston, but it was a recurring criticism of his days here, that people learned to "yes'' a lot in those all-important meetings. Ruben was part of those meetings and I can attest he also could author a nasty e-mail in those days, too.

He learned from it. He learned from Gillick, too. A lot. So often we hear the departing guy is going to stay involved, and so often he doesn't. But Gillick was in and out all of last season, and he's been a part of this, too. Amaro has been wonderfully deferential from the moment he ascended to the job, which is just one of the reasons I put him at the top of my Philadelphia sports person of the year list.

He isn't the smartest guy in the room.

Until he has to be.

He made the Lee deal that got the Phillies within two wins of another world championship. In late July, it was not unreasonable to think Hamels would straighten out in time, just as it is not unreasonable to think a 26-year-old former World Series MVP will bounce back from an off season the way Josh Beckett once did. It's not unreasonable, either, to think that Halladay, who will be around for at least 4 more years, will give the Phillies a better chance at a third championship than 1 year of Lee would.

It may not work out. Lord knows Adam Eaton didn't, and wouldn't you love to have that $8 million guaranteed to Moyer for next season? But Werth, Stairs, Dobbs, Ibanez . . .

Well, when I hear Toronto or Seattle and the Phillies, I like the odds.

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