Melvin can be Mets' drama-free man
Bob Melvin should be the Mets' next manager. Frankly, the decision is easy.
The last thing the Mets need right now is drama. Melvin, the anti-drama candidate, would be a calming influence in the New York storm.
Terry Collins, the other perceived front-runner, is intense, combustible and 11 years removed from his last major-league managing job.
Wally Backman, a fan favorite and ownership darling, is intense and combustible with past legal troubles.
Bobby Valentine, who is not even a finalist, creates drama as easily as he breathes. Chip Hale deserves a chance and might prove even better than Melvin one day. But he lacks major-league managing experience, making him too risky a choice for the Mets at this time.
Melvin, 49, is not going to electrify the Mets' fan base. The criticism of him from some within the industry is that he lacks charisma, fails to inspire and better serves a club as a bench coach than as a manager. No one, though, ever describes him as incompetent.
He would not be Valentine. He would not be Davey Johnson. He might not have been better for the Cubs than Mike Quade, better for the Brewers than Ron Roenicke, better for the Blue Jays than John Farrell. Melvin received consideration for each of those jobs.
Well, each situation is different. Each is unique.
What the Mets need now, as much as anything, is to restore their organizational dignity. Keep the off-field shenanigans to a minimum. Stop providing fodder for the back pages of the New York tabloids.
The hiring of Sandy Alderson as general manager was the first step toward such a restoration. Hiring Melvin would be a second. Cleaning out players such as Oliver Perez and Francisco Rodriguez — something that might not happen until the end of the season — would be a third.
Fans talk about fire, as if an in-your-face manager is the only way to invigorate a lifeless team. But think about the recently retired managers, some of the biggest names in the profession. Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Cito Gaston were not in-your-face types. Lou Piniella was, and Sweet Lou could wear on a club.
Players might respond short-term to a no-nonsense disciplinarian such as Collins or Backman, but that's it. The idea that Collins can motivate, say, Carlos Beltran, is preposterous. Players today are more sensitive than in the past. Don't confront them. Don't criticize them. Just let them play.
I'm not saying that's right; it's actually a bit maddening. I'm not saying Melvin is the next Torre; that would be a stretch. But Torre was fired three times before leading the Yankees to four World Series titles.
Melvin has been fired twice — by the Mariners after Bill Bavasi's first season as GM, and by the Diamondbacks after their ill-fated decision to hire A.J. Hinch, a decision that ultimately got GM Josh Byrnes fired. Melvin was not above blame in either situation. But the circumstances were extenuating, to say the least.
Collins, fired by the Astros and Angels, could mount a similar argument. But even if you give him the benefit of the doubt, the simple fact is that he hasn't managed since 1999. Melvin was managing in the National League as recently as last season.
Then there is the New York question. No manager can ever be prepared for the rigors of dealing with the city's fans and media. But Melvin should be better equipped than most — he has lived recently in the city and experienced the public humiliation of losing two jobs.
The most underrated thing about Melvin is that, as a former catcher, his expertise is pitching. In fact, he led the Diamondbacks to the 2007 National League Championship Series with the third-worst offense in the NL.
Melvin's former pitching coach, Bryan Price, is now with the Reds. The Mets' staff is full of issues, starting with Johan Santana coming off shoulder surgery. But give Melvin some material — and we're not talking about the D-Backs' horrid 2010 bullpen — and he will make it work.
The Mets never will admit publicly that 2011 is merely a bridge to a better future. Melvin himself refuses to concede as much, talking about changing the mind-set and saying, "it's not a talent problem." But the reality is, nearly $50 million could come off the Mets' payroll after next season. After that, the renaissance can truly begin.
We're talking, then, about a patient approach — not the kind you would expect from Collins or Backman. In a different time, with a different club, the Mets might need their manager to provide a spark. Right now, at this moment, they need someone like Melvin. Someone to settle things down.