Scouts and executives on why Bob Melvin would be obvious choice as Mets manager

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Bob Melvin treated image, A's hat and green A's hoodie with tri-color background
Bob Melvin treated image, A's hat and green A's hoodie with tri-color background

Let’s cut to the chase on this one. It’s practically impossible to find anybody in baseball who doesn’t think Bob Melvin would be a no-brainer for the Mets, such is his glowing reputation as a long-time big league manager, including the last 11 seasons with the Oakland Athletics.

The problem, of course, is that Melvin would only be available if the A’s let him out of his contract, for which they’d want compensation, likely in the form of top prospects.

But there is some thought within the industry that the low-budget A’s would do it even if Billy Beane is unlikely to come with him.

Melvin has only an option year for 2022 remaining on his current contract and it’s possible that A’s owner John Fisher would allow him to leave to save money and acquire assets.

If that’s true, the consensus among scouts and execs I spoke to is that Melvin would be an obvious choice, based on his track record and highly-regarded people skills, to give the Mets the proven manager they need after years of underperformance.

And then there’s Jerry Blevins, the former Mets reliever who played two and a half seasons under Melvin in Oakland and gives him the highest possible endorsement.

“He’s the best manager/coach I’ve ever had at any level of any sport,” Blevins said by phone recently. “And that’s the way all my former teammates feel about him. Remember when [Yoenis] Cespedes got all that flak for saying Bob was the best manager he’d ever had? Well, it wasn’t a knock on Terry Collins. I loved playing for TC too but there are levels, man. There are guys who just do it differently.

“That’s why I say if it’s a possibility the Mets can get him, they should do everything they can to make it happen.”

Armed with such high praise, I looked for someone who could offer something of a counterpoint regarding Melvin, but I didn’t find anything substantial.

Two rival execs made the point that Melvin may have been regarded as a puppet for Beane when he was hired 11 years ago, at a time before just about all organizations followed the Moneyball GM’s lead in getting involved in decision-making regarding lineups, bullpen usage, etc.

But both were quick to say that he has long since overcome any such stigma.

“He’s established himself and balanced his relationship with the front office,” one said. “Players love playing for him.”

Melvin has a strong resume of producing winning teams with the Seattle Mariners, Arizona Diamondbacks, and A’s, and while he’s never gotten a team to the World Series, evaluators don’t consider that any sort of serious flaw.

“When he’s had good teams he’s consistently gotten them to play at a high level, and sometimes to outperform their talent level,” one long-time scout said.

The Mets, you may remember, interviewed Melvin as a managerial candidate when Sandy Alderson came aboard as GM in the fall of 2010, but hired Collins instead.

“Bob wasn’t as established at that point (he’d been fired in 2009 by the Diamondbacks),” one person with knowledge of the hiring process told me. “The front office (Alderson, Paul DePodesta, and J.P. Ricciardi) was concerned about the perception they were too analytical, and they thought Collins’ reputation as a fiery old school guy provided some balance. Also, Melvin had a real bad cold when he interviewed, and it affected him to the point where everyone just kind of wanted to get the interview over with.”

Eleven years later, Melvin, at 59, figures to be high on the Mets’ list of potential managers-- if he can be had -- no matter who winds up doing the hiring.

So how has he grown into a manager who has drawn comparisons to Joe Torre for his calm demeanor and deft touch in dealing with players?

Sep 11, 2021; Oakland, California, USA; Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin (6) stands outside of the dugout during the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers at RingCentral Coliseum.
Sep 11, 2021; Oakland, California, USA; Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin (6) stands outside of the dugout during the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers at RingCentral Coliseum.

Blevins described Melvin with such intriguing detail that I think it’s best to essentially let him answer that question with his anecdotes and insight.

Here, then, is Blevins on:

1) MELVIN BEING A PLAYERS’ MANAGER (but not a buddy to the players, which seemed to be an issue with Luis Rojas, judging by end-of-season player quotes)

“He lets his coaching staff have personal relationships with the players so he has a feel for the clubhouse while he’s more like that CEO: You know he cares about you but he’s not going to be buddy-buddy with you all the time.

“He shows you respect but he’ll also say, ‘hey, you need to get your (stuff) together.’ If you’re not doing whatever it takes to prepare, if you’re lagging in some way, he’s not afraid to let you know he sees it. That’s a fine line. That’s the part you can’t put down on paper, those leadership intangibles that are hard to explain but you know it when you see it. He’s got that in spades.”

2) GETTING PLAYERS TO BE ACCOUNTABLE TO EACH OTHER

“I think that’s kind of a lost art. I saw it change from the time I came in to when I left. Guys don’t hold each other accountable anymore. It’s very important to have somebody in charge that is willing to say things, to hold guys accountable and get them to play for each other.

“Bob has the skills to do it. He has a way of making you feel like you don’t want to let him down. I’ve heard it was like that with Joe Torre. He has a way of making guys understand that if the team succeeds, as an individual you’ll succeed.

“Also, Bob has that ability to push the right buttons because he sees the big picture at all times. I compare it to a general at war: He’ll get down in the trenches to fire the guys up if need be, but then he’ll sit at the top of the hill to see how it all plays out. The moment is never going to be too big for him because he’s always got his eye on the big picture at the same time.”

3) HOW QUICKLY HE KNEW MELVIN WAS UNIQUE

“In 2011, I still had minor league options and I was up and down a lot, but I was pitching really well, with a sub-3.00 ERA, so one day when I got sent down I went in to Bob’s office to vent a little bit.

“He let me speak my mind, then he laid it out for me. He said, ‘this is your job right now. You’re doing a good job but you have options so this is the way you’re going to be used. I appreciate your fire but this is how it’s going to be.’

“It was the first time I had a manager tell me the truth and I appreciated it. Right then I remember thinking, ‘that was different.’ He didn’t give me any BS about needing to work on my command or throw more first-pitch strikes or anything. He gave me the respect of telling me the truth.”

4) HOW MELVIN WAS CANDID ABOUT FRONT OFFICE INFLUENCE

“This was in the playoffs in 2013. There was a game when I didn’t pitch in a big moment that normally would have been my job. Brett Anderson (a lefty starter) had just come back from injury so he was being used in the bullpen.

“I went to Bob and I said, ‘Why am I not pitching?’ He told me straight out, ‘This is the way it’s being played out.’ He said, ‘If you have a problem with it, you should go see Billy (Beane).’

“So I did. I went to Billy’s office and he told me to my face, ‘We think Brett is a better pitcher than you right now.’ It’s hard to argue with that if that’s their opinion. But the point is that Bob was straight with me. He’ll fight for his guys behind the scenes but if he loses, he loses. He understands the evolution of the front office. There are certain things that are out of his control and he does the best with what’s given to him.”

5) WHY MELVIN WOULD SUCCEED IN NEW YORK

“Because the guy is just really good at managing. It’s an incredible talent that gets forgotten along the way because baseball has become a this-is-what-the-numbers-say kind of job. People lose sight of the fact that there are some things you can’t quantify. For me, Bob is at the top of the list of the managers who get the most out of their players.

“He’s very smart and he’s as professional as it gets so I would be more than shocked if New York was an issue for him. I think he’s one of those guys who would shine the most where the lights are the brightest. To me, he’s a difference-maker.”

6) ON RUNNING A BULLPEN AND BUILDING TRUST

“During my two and a half years there he was the best at it of any manager I played for. He was able to keep guys mentally prepared for ever-changing roles and he was always hyper-aware of how guys were feeling. If you weren’t feeling 100 percent and he still needed you, he’d give you a heads-up and say, ‘Hey I understand you’re not feeling well but I may need you for a hitter,’ or whatever the case may be.

“In general he’s very good at putting guys in position to be successful. But that’s the easy part to explain. He just has a great feel. He has his finger on the pulse of the clubhouse. He doesn’t have many team meetings, and when he did they were quick and simple, just to get everyone to refocus. As a player you always felt there was a reason for what he did. He’s just a fantastic leader of men.”

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