What About Bob?

Two years ago after the debacle of a 51-111 record, the Diamondbacks decided they needed to go a different direction with their coaching staff. Al Pedrique filled in as best he could after Bob Brenly was fired on July 2. Pedrique managed to win 22 games while losing 61 for the rest of the season. Once the last game was finished on the 2004 campaign the Diamondbacks management expressed their desire to find a different manager.

While the Diamondbacks struggled on route to losing a franchise high number of games, their Class A minor league affiliate in Lancaster California was having great success. That team went 86-54 and finished in first place. They contended for the California League Championship Series before ultimately losing to Modesto in the final game of the series. The Sporting News named manager Wally Backman as manager of the year. Backman also was named Best Managerial Prospect in the California League by Baseball America. It came as little surprise that the Diamondbacks named Wally Backman as their manager during a press conference on November 1. What was a surprise was that five days later the Diamondbacks fired Wally Backman due to reports of questionable character surrounding a DUI and also a harassment suit. They quickly named a successor, the person Backman beat for the job less than the week prior, Bob Melvin. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for a coach.

Flash ahead to 2006 and we find Melvin in the final year of his contract. During spring training little was said about an extension. Management stressed there was plenty of time and they would take a wait and see attitude. This is just another ringing endorsement of Melvin’s importance to the team. The Diamondbacks began the season very well and the national-press was touting the virtues of the Arizona Diamondbacks and how they may be play-off contenders. Then came the June swoon where the team won only 8 games all month. Stories began to appear claiming Melvin’s job may be on the line.

After a 3 game sweep in Colorado going into the all-star break, work leaked out from the Boston Globe that the Diamondbacks had signed Melvin to a 2 year extension with a club option for a third year. The team did not make a formal comment on the story as details emerged that the contract had been done nearly 2 weeks ago. Again, not necessarily a ringing endorsement when your employer keeps quiet that they have retained your services.

Melvin has done a decent job. Last season he brought the team win total up 26 games from 2004 and this season started off very well. But listening to his post game news conferences makes you wonder how much of a motivator he is. The players have all publicly commented that they applaud this move and that Melvin is great at keeping communications open with all the players. There is a difference though between communication and motivation. Backman was chosen over Melvin in 2004 because Wally had that battlefield mentality and aggressive drive necessary to make winning a necessity. The question remains whether Bob Melvin can instill the same attitude. I guess the next two years will tell us that.

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