Four words I don’t think anyone thought were going to go together after the train wreck that was April are now a reality: Bob Melvin, contract extension. Technically, the M’s picked up the option for ’05 that was already in his contract, so this isn’t an extension. But, for all intents and purposes, they’ve made it clear that Melvin isn’t going to be fired this year. And for that, I say good for them.
We’ve given Melvin a lot of grief the past year. I coined the phrase Box o’ Rocks last year after his amazing ability to turn a Greg Colbrunn vs righty matchup into a John Mabry vs lefty matchup that predictably killed the M’s in a game against the Yankees. His decisions have ranged from questionable to downright undefendable, and he’s repeatedly shown that the finer points of in game tactics have escaped his grasp. His bullpen usage is maddening, and I wish someone would explain why we have to keep paying way too much money for players who were on the 2002 Diamondbacks so that they can sit on the end of the bench and watch. As a strategiest, Melvin costs the Mariners more wins than he helps them create, and I think the team would be better off polling the audience on most decisions Melvin makes between innings 1 through 9. Or, at the very least, let Melvin phone-a-friend, with Earl Weaver programmed into every speed dial button.
That, however, isn’t enough to earn Melvin a dismissal in my mind. Whether its because he’s been given a bunch of boy scouts who get along with everyone or not, this team respects Bob Melvin, and believe it or not, that matters. Look at the train wreck Larry Bowa has been in Philadelphia to see just how much damage a manager can do to a franchise if he can’t communicate with his players. For all the things we’ve blamed Melvin for that have happened, he needs to get credit for the things that haven’t happened either; free agents fleeing the team at first opportunity, players openly demanding trades or complaining about their usage, or holding back young players who need opportunity. These things have not occurred in Seattle since Bob Melvin took over. We can complain all we want about guys like Kevin Jarvis and Giovanni Carrara, but the fact is, once they showed they were inferior talents, they were jettisoned in favor of Julio Mateo, Rafael Soriano, and now J.J. Putz. Melvin showed faith in Gil Meche, despite some long loud cries for yours truly that Meche had no business in a big league rotation to start 2003, and got 200 decent innings out of him (whether that was wise or not is still up for discussion). Mateo and Soriano were given opportunities to show they belonged, and once they earned the managers trust, were counted on to pitch high leverage innings in ’04, replacing departed veteran relievers.
Granted, he hasn’t handled these things perfectly. The Willie Bloomquist facination is stupid, but really, Melvin’s only one of about 250,000 people in Seattle who have fooled themselves into thinking Wee Willie is any good. Mateo and Soriano should have been promoted to the “A” bullpen long before they were last year. His continued refusals to use his ace relievers when down one or two runs, instead saving them to protect leads of five or more, are just baffling. But he’s done some things well that matter, and the things he screws up aren’t that huge.
Is Bob Melvin a great manager? No. Is he a good one? Not really. Would I have thrown a fit if they fired him? No, but I’d have been pretty ambivalent about the whole thing. Melvin does what he does; for the most part, he doesn’t interfere with the team and make it worse than it could be. He’s not a manager who will get more out of less, but he’s not going to get less out of more either. For all the talk about the great years under Lou Piniella, he’s not exactly winning pennants in Tampa Bay. Teams win and lose ballgames, and the best thing most managers can do is not screw it up too badly. Melvin didn’t screw up ’03 and he’s not screwing up ’04. That responsibility lies at the hands of one Bill Bavasi, whose exit from town will be met with a parade and celebration.
More on this later, but that was the craziest game I’ve seen in years. I didn’t have a good view of home, but it looked like those close plays at home… well, they could have gone the other way. I’m hoping I’ll get to see replays tomorrow morning on ESPN, or… jeez, I don’t know.
From my seat, it looked like Coskie missed home and Wilson missed the tag.
I will say that I believe I am somehow important to Ibanez’s power, as I’ve attended (I think) 100% of all home games he’s hit homers in. I don’t know, though, I’d have to go look at ticket stubs.