|Your account||Today's news index||Weather||Traffic||Movies||Restaurants||Today's events|
Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - Page updated at 12:14 A.M.
Steve Kelley / Times staff columnist
In May, the Mariners' front office gave manager Bob Melvin a one-year contract extension.
And the players applauded.
Then they quit on him.
In May, the players said Melvin was the right man for the job, a caring, players' manager.
And then, with all the ennui they could muster, they made sure he won't return next season.
These next 25 games appear to be Melvin's last with Seattle.
Exactly the kind of manager the M's management said it wanted after fiery Lou Piniella left for Tampa Bay, Melvin became exactly the wrong manager for the job.
After Piniella, the Mariners looked for a company man.
After Piniella, they could have made a serious run at Dusty Baker, who had just taken the San Francisco Giants to the World Series. He never got an interview.
Baker was too much like Piniella. They were looking for the anti-Lou.
He wouldn't, and didn't, challenge management. At the trade deadline in 2003, he accepted the team's inaction and watched as the Mariners faded from the race for the second year in a row.
Last winter, he was quiet after Baltimore not the Mariners got shortstop Miguel Tejada and Anaheim not the Mariners signed Vladimir Guerrero and Jose Guillen.
Melvin was the buttoned-down corporate boss the Mariners' brass wanted.
Be careful what you wish for.
I like Melvin. I think he's a good man and a good baseball man. He's the kind of guy you find yourself rooting for.
He may not fill up a reporter's notebook with glib one-liners. And often he may pull his punches, never fully allowing you to know what he's thinking.
But he is honest and friendly and, in this kind of season that would have tested a flagpole sitter's patience, he has always maintained a cordial and professional relationship with his inquisitors.
There was, however, something missing. Something the players needed that he couldn't provide.
Look at the best bosses in the game Atlanta's Bobby Cox, St. Louis' Tony La Russa, New York's Joe Torre. All of them have a smoldering intensity that is translated to their players.
You make a baserunning error, you get sloppy in the field, you dog it on a ground ball to second, and you will hear about it. Their teams always are among the best disciplined.
Melvin isn't enough of a leader.
He is too calm, too uninspiring, too undemonstrative.
Leadership doesn't mean throwing tantrums or bases. Managers don't have to kick over post-game buffet tables after losses to prove how badly they want to win.
You can manage without histrionics, as Terry Francona in Boston and Ken Macha in Oakland have done. But you must have a passion that is easily translated to the players.
In two years, Melvin hasn't shown it.
Anybody can nitpick his in-game strategies, but Melvin is a good game manager. His explanations for what he did after he did it have always made sense.
He tried to put the game in motion. By June, he began shaking up the lineup, looking for any combination that might win. Nothing ever worked.
It can be argued this team was doomed from the day it didn't sign Tejada. That it was doomed when shortstop Rich Aurilia booted Guerrero's double-play ball in the first inning of the first game.
John McGraw couldn't have made these Mariners winners.
This is a team that got old all together. Its everyday infield John Olerud, Bret Boone, Aurilia and Scott Spiezio was ill-conceived. Its designated hitter, Edgar Martinez, lost the last step he had.
Its bullpen with the unexplained collapse of Shigetoshi Hasegawa and the injuries to Rafael Soriano, Julio Mateo and Eddie Guardado was an April-to-September disaster. And its ace starter, Jamie Moyer, threw too many batting-practice fastballs.
Still, Melvin let this team slip from his grasp. The Mariners have been sloppy all season. Too many veterans have had too many undisciplined at-bats. Too many players looked too comfortable after the team slipped 10 games out of the race.
While Oakland and Anaheim fought through their injury epidemics, the Mariners used their aches as excuses.
There has been a ho-hum quality to this Mariners season. Many of the players have been playing out the string since the All-Star break.
As always, the manager must take the blame.
Next year, the team will be younger and full of questions that weren't answered this year. It will need a more forceful presence in the manager's office.
Maybe general manager Bill Bavasi will go after high-strung Terry Collins or Anaheim's long-time bench coach Joe Maddon, two baseball people he knows well.
But Bob Melvin won't return. This bad team will cost this good guy his job.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company
Home delivery | Contact us | Search archive | Site map | Low-graphic
NWclassifieds | NWsource | Advertising info | The Seattle Times Company
Back to top