Melvin, the pro and con

DMZ · September 26, 2004 at 5:10 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

As we approach Melvin’s inevitable canning, and because this seems to take over many other threads, here’s the catalog of Melvin’s purported strengths and weaknesses, with some commentary. Some I think are clearly fact, but most of these are subjective to some degree. I’ll probably think of more after I publish this, but that’s what editing’s for, right?


  • Can win given the right team, as with last year’s 93-win team (counter: given that team’s performance, they should have won more, and an accordian-playing monkey would have won 90 games managing the 2003 Mariners)
  • Relaxed leadership style makes veterans comfortable (counter: relaxed leadership style seems to be without accountability)
  • Player’s manager style. Everyone knows their roles, when they’ll be coming in, and there’s little discontent about it (counter: you shouldn’t make those kind of promises to players in the first place, as Weaver will tell you)
  • Willing to let players win jobs through performance, and to lose jobs (counter: even this is inconsistently applied, see “poor judge of talent” below)
  • Doesn’t slag his players in public, even when they clearly deserve it (counter: this sometimes makes him appear ignorant of the obvious, like “Winn’s not doing so well in center”)


  • Relaxed leadership style is boring (counter: style, in itself, is no reason to replace a manager)
  • Team appears poorly coached, making baserunning, fielding, and other in-game blunders that indicate they aren’t adequately prepared for the team they’re facing and don’t quite know what they should be doing.
  • Poor manager of pitchers. Ran Meche out there all year in 2003 as Meche wore down and fell apart, for instance, and has repeatedly left tired pitchers in one inning too long, left them work deep into meaningless games (counter: how much of this is Price or the organization?)
  • Has never had to deal with difficult personalities, like a Milton Bradley, and so his ability to help develop younger players or those with unconventional skill sets is unknown (counter: wasn’t Cirillo supposedly a huge problem)(counter-counter: and what did he do about it?)
  • Poor judge of talent, and prone to using his own impression of a player even when wrong, as with his belief that Clint Nageotte was the right-handed set-up man his team needed, when Nageotte clearly was not (counter: look at the talent he’s given)(counter-counter: look at the results he got from the players he told the team to go out and pick up, like Colbrunn, McCracken, etc)
  • Poor motivator of players (counter: veteran players are pretty tough to motivate)(counter-counter: other managers do it)
  • Inflexible adherence to ‘roles’ that make people comfortable mean some players are used badly. For instance, Soriano’s confinement to set-up duties because he was productive there (counter: we don’t know how much of this is player or organizational stubbornness)
  • Loyalty to veterans, combined with inflexibility means players are often run out in roles they’re not able to do well in, even when it’s obvious they’re no longer suited for that limited, inflexible role. Like Hasegawa setting up in close games, for instance.
  • Poor lineup construction. Other weaknesses put together result in a poor job doing the one thing managers can do well that most helps or hurts the team. Belief that Spiezio is an everyday player, and working to find ways to work him into a lineup, for instance, hurts the team far more than mechanically calling for the sac bunt with runners on 1-2 and no outs. (counter: how much of this, too, is organizational powers asking for the manager to showcase a Jarvis, or Spiezio?)
  • Rigid adherenece to certain counter-productive in-game strategies, and is outfoxed by opposing managers
  • Rigid adherenece to lefty/righty pitching matchups, resulting in poor bullpen usage strategies (also is extremely boring)


39 Responses to “Melvin, the pro and con”

  1. tede on September 26th, 2004 6:10 pm


    Great summary.

    If he stays, it looks like he’ll get his shot at managing difficult personalities since Jose Guillen just became available.

    Jose Guillen is Carl Everett if Carl Everett believed in dinosaurs.

  2. David J Corcoran on September 26th, 2004 6:51 pm

    Jose Guillen is available?

  3. Pete Livengood on September 26th, 2004 7:06 pm

    Jose Guillen was suspended for the rest of the season (and post-season) by the Angels for [mis]conduct related to his display of displeasure at being removed for a pinch runner in yesterday’s game.

    It is speculation, though perhaps pretty safe to say at this point (I haven’t seen any Angels representatives’ comments about this yet), that Guillen will be made available in the wake of this. He is under contract (reasonably) next season for $3M, with a club option for $4M with a $300K buyout for 2006.

  4. tede on September 26th, 2004 7:45 pm

    Randy Winn for Jose Guillen.

    As far as Melvin goes, one problem with his easy going personality is that the umpires do not fear or respect him. Especially when he apologizes the next day (for being right) like he did in Tampa Bay.

    A feather in his cap if he keeps them below 100 losses and all this is worthy of discussion. If not, they’re really going to have to spin this since I don’t think it is feasible (or wise) getting some of the big names in this years FA crop. It’ll make Howard’s promises of post season activity in the letter to the season ticket holders seem empty (which they are).

    On second thought, if Melvin can’t stop Brett Boone from walking all over him, what is he going to do with Jose Guillen?

  5. Jeremy on September 26th, 2004 8:23 pm

    Re: Melvin being boring

    It’s tough to evaluate managers very well, but one thing for sure is that nobody’s watching games or listening to postgame shows or becoming 1% more excited about the Mariners because of Bob Melvin. His dealings with the media range from “looks like somebody just dragged him out of bed at 4am” to “looks like somebody just dragged him out of bed at 4am and told him his cat died.”

    That said, I don’t really care that much if Melvin is fired as long as his replacement isn’t worse (which is probably a strong possibility). Maybe we should hire Jose Guillen to manage, that would be fun

  6. JJ on September 26th, 2004 8:35 pm

    On Jose Guillen, they were vague about what actually happened, but I give the Angels’s thumbs up. That takes some serious gutts to suspend an important player to you when you are in pennant race. I don’t know what Guillen did inside to cause such an action, but I am not sure he would be a good fit for Mariners next year.

    On Melvin, what bothered me the most are the two things DMZ pointed out. The over work of pitchers and misuse of bullpen. Kruger if I remembered it correctly also commented on how he thought Melvin gave Moyer too heavy a work load. Moyer is a six inning guy under Lou and suddenly he has to pitch deep into the ball game. I am not that optimistic about Moyer back to form next year, but I am willing to think that overwork is a possibility of his fall out this year.

  7. Digger on September 26th, 2004 8:38 pm

    Am I the only one that thinks Melvin’s staff (for which he is responsible) is largely second rate? That the players actively dislike Aldrete and Myers? Who is providing the leadership in the dugout?

  8. IgnatiusReilly on September 26th, 2004 8:56 pm

    “Doesn’t slag his players in public”
    Tell that to Ben Davis.

  9. DMZ on September 26th, 2004 9:06 pm

    I’d have to go dig up quotes, but if I remember correctly, Melvin never said “Davis sucks” or anything like that. He would say things like “Davis hasn’t been playing as well as he could, and he knows that”. Or (acutal quote):
    “Maybe the pitch selection wasn’t good, with back-to-back changes when the guys were behind (on his fastball) the whole time. We have a guy behind the plate (Davis) who’s got to know that.”

    Even that’s pretty muted criticism. I meant more like the Piniella-style “this kid is crap and is never going to win in the major leagues” eruption-style-slagging.

  10. Paul Molitor Cocktail on September 26th, 2004 9:39 pm

    I believe Melvin did openly discuss the incident in spring training when Davis was not allowed to call pitches. Ouch.

    When has Bret Boone walked all over Melvin? Not that it would be hard.

  11. Paul Covert on September 26th, 2004 10:07 pm

    There was one interesting bit about Brundage on the broadcast a few days ago when Madritsch was pitching: That in Madritsch’s AA season last year, he’d been getting upset a lot over umpiring calls that didn’t go his way; and so Brundage arranged for one of the Texas league crew chiefs to meet with himself and Madritsch, the idea apparently being to help Bobby understand things from the umpires’ point of view, and that they aren’t just out to get him or anything. And from that point forward, Madritsch reportedly showed a marked improvement in his handling of close calls against him, which in turn was a big step forward for his game in general.

    Assuming that the story is more or less accurate as I’m remembering it: I really like that kind of creativity in thinking of ways to help guys understand what they need to do to move forward. And whoever manages the M’s in 2005 will probably need to come up with a few ideas like that. (To ignore problems is of course not helpful; to just say “do it right, you idiot” isn’t always helpful either; to actually help guys get beyond their problems is a valuable skill, and one that not every manager has.)

    This is not, of course, an unqualified endorsement of Brundage over Melvin (although if Melvin’s ever done anything significant to help a guy improve his game, I haven’t heard about it). But it at least has me intrigued by the possibility.

  12. eponymous coward on September 26th, 2004 11:21 pm

    Replacing Melvin is all fine and dandy, but with whom is he to be replaced? You’ve got Art Howe, probably, (who’s basically Melvin with some postseason games- he showed no sign of being able to do anything for the Mets), and a lot of unknowns for the Eric Wedge-style promotion from within.

    Not sure it makes a difference- a lot of next year is dependent on the front office.

  13. Evan on September 27th, 2004 10:45 am

    Rather than hiring someone like Art Howe, I’d like the M’s to follow Ricciardi’s lead and promote someone from the minors who shows promise.

    Does anyone in the minors show promise?

  14. Dave on September 27th, 2004 10:50 am

    Because Carlos Tosca worked out so well in Toronto?

    Hiring managers is a crapshoot. Dan Rohn might be good, he might suck. Dave Brundage might be good, he might also suck. Just don’t spend a lot of money on one and don’t guarantee more than two years.

    Oh, and Jose Guillen isn’t an improvement over Randy Winn. He’s just a different kind of slightly above average player.

  15. Eric on September 27th, 2004 10:57 am

    I’ll trumpet this everytime there is a manager thread:

    Tom Kelly or Larry Dierker

    Teh Ms are a big market/high payroll team, they should go after high profile managers with track records of success. Let the KC’s and Detroit’s break in new managers,

  16. lyle on September 27th, 2004 10:58 am

    about jose guillen–

    the espn article that’s up this morning makes it seem like the suspension was more of a cumulative thing as a result of his behavior throughout the season (reported or not?), not just a reaction to this one incident recently.

    i don’t know if the mariners should actively chase someone like that right now, especially when we’re definitely in the hunt for some big names, free-agent wise.

  17. Paul Weaver on September 27th, 2004 11:00 am

    I liked Dan Rohn in Tacoma. (that was his name right? my memory is baaaad lately.) He seemed like an old school guy (in terms of persona) who managed what he had well (which was especially thin toward the end of the season).
    Maybe we should send Melvin down to AAA to hone his skills. :p

  18. Aaron on September 27th, 2004 11:45 am

    1) Jose Guillen’s running out of time on the “turns back into a pumpkin” clock.

    2) I want another firey manager. Is Lloyd McClendon available? Trade Winn to Pittsburgh for him.

  19. eponymous coward on September 27th, 2004 12:15 pm

    No, I’d say Guillen’s a better player in terms of ability ONLY- if Winn’s a C+ (slightly above average), Guillen’s a B- (a little bit more above average. EqA-wise, Guillen’s better, and while VORP has them closer, that’s ONLY because Winn’s listed as a CF, and we all know he’s really a LF, whereas Guillen has the arm to play RF and is playing LF because the RF is GA.

    Let’s also toss in Guillen’s 29 next year to Winn’s 31, and it’s pretty clear who the better player is. That being said…I guess he might be a clubhouse problem you wouldn’t want, but the Mariners don’t have the luxury of being super-choosy. If they can pull even a mild upgrade at a position without taking a big cost, they should.

  20. DMZ on September 27th, 2004 12:24 pm

    I believe VORP accounts for position played proportionally, so the CF/LF issue doesn’t affect it. You couldn’t, for instance, split your time between DH and SS and get credit for being a great-hitting SS because 51% of your time was spent there.

  21. Alan on September 27th, 2004 12:47 pm

    I think Melvin has potential as a manager, but wasn’t ready to take over quite yet. If he managed at the triple A level for a few seasons he might be a decent manager.

    I think too much of this season gets put on Melvin. Honestly, who didn’t see this season coming eventually? Since 2002 the M’s do well at the start of the season and fade at the end, miss the playoffs, and Peter Gammons says its because the Mariners are old and get worn out by the end of the season. So, wouldn’t it make sense that one year, eventually its just going to hit the fan in April? This was the year. Bavasi should’ve gone out and gotten younger guys, and he will have to do that this winter.

    Joe Torre couldn’t have managed this team to a .500 record. The talent just isn’t there anymore, sorry.

  22. Evan on September 27th, 2004 12:51 pm

    Tosca didn’t end up working out, but he was worth a shot. He followed JP’s instructions reasonably well, aside from his dreadful bullpen management.

    It just strikes me as silly to hire someone we know isn’t a very good major-league manager. Either hire a good major-league manager, or try someone new.

  23. IgnatiusReilly on September 27th, 2004 1:31 pm

    DMZ – now that you mention it, you may be right. I just remember a lot of unnecessary trash-talk of Guillen and Davis in the off-season / spring training, but that may have been more of Lincoln and co.

  24. eponymous coward on September 27th, 2004 3:10 pm

    Well, Guillen still has slightlky better VORP numbers anyway- and with the age and the fact he has an arm better than a girls, I’d take him.

    I tend to think “clubhouse issues” are WAY overemphasized. See the early 70’s A’s, late 70’s Yankees and the 2004 M’s for examples. Being a good clubhouse guy doesn’t mean you don’t suck, and there an awful lot of assholes in the Hall of Fame wearing rings.

  25. IgnatiusReilly on September 27th, 2004 3:34 pm


    All of which are good arguments to go ahead and get future hall of famers on your team, regardless of their attitude. The Milton Bradleys and Guillens can be had in friendly versions, so why bother with the misfits?

  26. msb on September 27th, 2004 4:03 pm

    “2) I want another firey manager. Is Lloyd McClendon available? Trade Winn to Pittsburgh for him.” — Comment by Aaron

    No– he’s signed through 2005 with an option for 2006. FWIW, I had to laugh last night as the Angels pulled off their 8th inning heroics, and ESPN cut to Scioscia in the dugout looking (if possible) even less animated than Bob Melvin….

  27. eponymous coward on September 27th, 2004 5:02 pm

    The Milton Bradleys and Guillens can be had in friendly versions, so why bother with the misfits?

    Really? Name a comp for Bradley who was available last spring. Guillen was also clearly the class of the low end OF market last year, over Ibanez, Sanders, Cruz, etc.

    The fact is Mariners had a choice to sign Guillen in the offseason, or trade for Bradley (in fact, our hosts here at USSM pumped for that). They thought cute’n’cuddly Raooooooul and “clubhouse leaders” Spiezio and Aurilia were the way to go. Witness the result.

    In my opinion, winning ballgames makes for good clubhouses. Good ballplayers win ballgames. Unless there’s a VERY even match in statistical analysis, going for perceived “intangibles” such as clubhouse leadership, etc. over actual talent is nutty. It gets you nice guys who finish third.

    To tie this in with the original post, Melvin, as DMZ said, han’t shown the ability to work with these types of players where talent > “intangibles”. Not that it matters in this organization, where the motto is “overpay mediocre nice guys and we can draw 2.5 million with a bad team anyway because they are lovable”, but it’s helped pilot the M’s into the iceberg.

  28. IgnatiusReilly on September 27th, 2004 5:24 pm

    Milton Bradley: .267 avg, .362 OBP, .788 OPS
    Randy Winn: .287 avg, .348 OBP, .782 OPS

    Raul Ibanez: .296 avg, .349 OBP, .811 OPS
    Jose Guillen: .294 avg, .352 OBP, .849 OPS

    Trading out those ‘nice guys’ for their malcontent dopplegangers is just spinning your wheels…Guillen may have netted a few more wins over Ibanez, but certainly not enough to make any difference this year.

    All I’m saying is: Deal with Barry Bond’s “attitude”. Yes, definitely. Deal with a John Rocker, Carl Everett, Jose Guillen, Milton Bradley attitude? Why bother, especially if you know that is a weakness of your manager?

  29. Rumpus on September 27th, 2004 5:49 pm

    Bradley is noted for causing problems for people not on his team, an important distinction relative to Guillen.

  30. eponymous coward on September 27th, 2004 6:02 pm

    I noticed you didn’t compare 2003 stats, which would have given a nod to Bradley- we didn’t HAVE 2004 stats to work with when Bradley was available, so that’s a bit of windshield-wiper effect. And BTW, does Milton Bradley have no throwing arm and lousy routes too, and did he pick up 5 years baseball age while I didn’t notice? A 26 year old and a 30 year old with comparable stats are SIGNIFICANTLY different.

    The reason why you “bother” is because if you don’t, it means you end up with Ibanez, Wilson, Bloomquist and Aurilia and 60 wins, because you’re never willing to deal with anyone who isn’t a model citizen. You simply don’t always get the chance to have 25 Frank Merriwells on your roster. There are plenty of bad teams with nice guys on them. Concentrate on talent. Does that mean you go out of your way to get assholes? Not unless there’s some reward to it- but Bradley and Guillen are both better players than Winn or Ibanez, and our unwillingness to consider talent, if there’s a HINT that the player attached might not be a Boy Scout who has milk and cookies every night, has hurt the team (see: Guillen, Carlos).

  31. IgnatiusReilly on September 27th, 2004 6:15 pm

    How about you just sign Vlad, Tejada, and Ivan Rodriguez?

  32. Arthur Fortune on September 27th, 2004 6:39 pm

    “Bradley is noted for causing problems for people not on his team, an important distinction relative to Guillen. ”

    The fit he threw at Eric Wedge was the final reason he got dumped and I think Wedge qualifies as “on his team”.
    Plus, the way it is portrayed, is that he was an jerk to EVERYONE.

  33. Jim Thomsen on September 27th, 2004 6:42 pm

    Ignatius … you might want to unseal your pyloric valve and move out of your mother’s house.

    Actually, I don’t disagree with you … I just like any “Confederacy of Dunces” reference. Which is as good a title as any for a future book at the 2004 Mariners.

  34. eponymous coward on September 27th, 2004 6:44 pm

    How about you just sign Vlad, Tejada, and Ivan Rodriguez?

    You don’t always get those choices. It’s an imperfect world. If we had done that last offseason, that would have been, what, 40 million? We would have had to have dropkicked Edgar, non-tendered Garcia and Winn, not bothered with Eddie, and our pen and rotation would have been a shambles all year long- though we would have scored some runs. We’d be Baltimore and limping along with 70 wins instead of 60.

    And the fact is we HAD the choice to keep Carlos on the team, at 2.5 million…and punted it because we wanted more “character”.

  35. Ralph Malph on September 27th, 2004 6:55 pm

    There’s a difference between signing talented guys who aren’t “media savvy”, or who are bad tempered (Milton Bradley), vs. signing guys who are going to throw a tantrum and get suspended in the middle of a pennant race, or launch into a vile racist tirade that essentially ends their career.

    In other words, I’d happily sign a Manny Ramirez, or Barry Bonds, or Roger Clemens, or even a Milton Bradley, but I wouldn’t want a Carl Everett or John Rocker or (going way back) Jimmy Piersall.

    And of course I’m just using them as examples, not suggesting that any of them are actually candidates. Except maybe Piersall.

  36. Dave on September 27th, 2004 8:11 pm

    To clarify, we talked up Milton Bradley quite a bit when Cleveland made him available, but LA paid a steep price (Franklin Gutierrez and Andrew Brown) to get him. While Brown and Gutierrez didn’t have great years, their stock was very high before the season, and it was basically the equivalent of giving up Clint Nageotte and Shin-Soo Choo for Bradley. I’m glad we didn’t make that deal.

    I’m basically split on this issue. I think clubhouse chemistry is overrated and agree that the M’s need to look more at on-field talent and less at general niceness, but I also agree that some people just aren’t worth the trouble. Carl Everett is certainly one of those. Is Jose Guillen? I’m not sure, but it seems like a real possibility. He’s now been dumped by Pittsburgh, Cincinatti, Tampa Bay, Arizona, Oakland, and Anaheim in the last 5 seasons. Six clubs in five years have decided he’s not worth keeping around. I think the smoke/fire analogy just may apply with Guillen.

    Also, as much as we have bagged on Randy Winn’s defense this year, I think we may need to writeup a post on his improvement throughout the year. Derek and I have commented to each other several times that Winn has gotten quite a bit better defensively as the year has gone on. Yes, he’s still a left fielder playing out of position with a noodle for an arm, but he has more defensive value than Guillen, and most every other corner outfielder, for that matter.

  37. Larry Bowa on October 2nd, 2004 10:47 pm

    Hey, I hear you guys might be looking for a motivational type as manager…

  38. G-Man on October 3rd, 2004 6:33 pm

    Larry, I think we’ll have a vacancy within 48 hours.

    I watched the Sunday pregame show, and Melvin didn’t us “we” when he spoke of the Mariners future. He called it “the organization”. So maybe he doesn’t have any better hunch than we do, but it was interesting.

    A couple weeks ago, I was sure he’d get canned, but now I’m wavering a little. That’s probably because I’m afraid of who they’ll bring in next.

  39. Whitey Herzog on October 5th, 2004 10:37 am

    Sure, I’d listen if the Mariners called.