Saturday, November 16, 2002

Seattle picks former catcher to manage

By Tim Korte
The Associated Press

SEATTLE - The last two World Series champions hired former catchers as managers, and each delivered the title pretty quickly.

Bob Melvin hopes to continue the trend with the Seattle Mariners.

"It works for me," Melvin said. "Three in a row would be great."

Melvin was introduced Friday as the 12th manager of the Mariners, inheriting a club that developed into one of the most successful teams in baseball in 10 seasons under Lou Piniella.

Melvin has spent the past two seasons as bench coach of the Arizona Diamondbacks, winning a World Series ring in 2001. The expectation is that he will get another in Seattle.

"We think we've got a real gem in Bob, as you'll all learn when you get to know and respect him," general manager Pat Gillick said. "I think he's going to bring us a winning team and a championship."

Melvin, who signed a two-year contract, isn't exactly a household name.

He was a journeyman player, breaking into the major leagues with Detroit in 1985 before playing for San Francisco, Baltimore, Kansas City, Boston, the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox.

Melvin is the latest former catcher to become a manager, joining Arizona's Bob Brenly and Anaheim's Mike Scioscia. Melvin said catchers make good managers because they must think about the game as a manager would.

"You have to go down the same checklist that the manager does: Who's at the plate, how to pitch the guy, know your defense, know your pitcher on the mound," Melvin said. "You have to know how to get guys out."

At 41, Melvin is only a few years older than some of the Mariners players he'll be coaching, such as two-time AL batting champion Edgar Martinez, who turns 40 in January. Melvin sees that as an asset.

"It's easier to communicate," he said. "They're not too far away from playing against me, not that I was a huge challenge for them."

Melvin was loose and self-deprecating at his news conference. He might not be the best known of Seattle's managerial candidates, but the team feels great about the hire.

"He brings to this position not only baseball expertise but high energy, good judgment, intelligence, leadership and communication skills," Mariners chairman Howard Lincoln said.

The other finalists were former Colorado and Detroit manager Buddy Bell, former Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres manager Jim Riggleman and Baltimore bench coach Sam Perlozzo.

Melvin was a late addition to a list of 10 initial candidates selected for interviews in Seattle. He already had interviewed for vacancies in Milwaukee and with the Chicago Cubs.

"Everybody has to get a start," Melvin said. "I might not be as big a name as Dusty Baker, but he had his first day as well."

Most managers take over losing teams, and Melvin recognizes his good fortune to get the Mariners job.

"I would much rather be in a situation like this, rather than with a team that lost 105 games and you've got to turn it around," Melvin said. "That would be no fun. It's all about winning."

Melvin likes his chances at Safeco Field and with a team that relies on players like Ichiro Suzuki to reach base and hitters like Bret Boone to move runners.

"This is a National League-type team," Melvin said. "You hit and run with this team. There are several guys who steal bases. You don't have 50-home run guys, but I think that works well in this ball park."

Melvin's only managerial experience came in the Arizona Fall League in 1999, but he joked that he received plenty of on-the-job training as Phil Garner's bench coach in Milwaukee and Detroit.

"I was lucky to work with a fiery manager like Phil Garner, who got suspended from time to time," Melvin said. "I did five or six games here and there. We had one situation in Detroit where he got suspended for 10 games.

"I said, 'Hey, this is great."'

Kidding aside, Melvin organized Arizona's spring training over the past two seasons, and he is credited as a major contributor to Brenly's success with the Diamondbacks.

"There's no doubt Bob Melvin has been a huge part of what's happened around here the past two years," Brenly said.

During his 10 seasons as a player, Melvin often posed questions to his managers as situations came up during games. It groomed him, if unwittingly, to be a manager himself.

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