Melvin goes from second choice to NL manager of the year
PHOENIX -- Bob Melvin wasn't even the Arizona Diamondbacks' first choice as manager. Three seasons later, he's considered the best in the business.
Arizona's even-keeled skipper was voted National League manager of the year by the Baseball Writers of America, an award he said should be shared by the entire Diamondbacks franchise.
"In a team sport, sometimes it can be a little uncomfortable accepting an individual award," Melvin said at a news conference Wednesday at Chase Field, "but I think this award filters up and down through the organization. For the players, the coaching staff and front office, this is an award for the organization."
Under Melvin, the young Diamondbacks won league-best 90 games en route to the NL West championship, then swept the Chicago Cubs in three games in the division playoffs. The remarkable run ended when Arizona was swept by Colorado in the NL championship series.
With a starting lineup that included at least three rookies and two second-year players, Arizona won despite being outscored by 20 runs in the regular season. The Diamondbacks became the first team since the 1906 Chicago White Sox to have a league's best record and worst batting average.
They did it with a mix of solid starting pitching, timely hitting and a strong bullpen. The team won a major league best 32 one-run games. Along the way, the team weathered the loss of Randy Johnson, their best hitter Chad Tracy and three-time Gold Glove second baseman Orlando Hudson because of injuries.
"This was a teaching year for us," Melvin said. "From the start of spring training it was going out there and teaching, and I think as a staff, you couldn't ask for any more than that. Our coaching staff was very influential with this team, and I think it's the hardest working staff that I've ever been around."
Melvin's entire coaching staff has been rehired.
General manager Josh Byrnes said Melvin's demeanor was an asset in piloting the inexperienced team through the long season.
"Bob is a steady guy. I think it's a great complement to him," general manager Josh Byrnes said. "In a long season, a lot goes right and a lot goes wrong. I think he keeps focused on running a long race and doesn't have big highs or big lows over the course of a long season."
Not that he's incapable of letting his team have it. One memorable blowup came after the team was swept in four games in Milwaukee shortly after the All-Star break. The Diamondbacks took off from there, going 21-5 in one stretch.
Melvin mused that his even temperament is viewed as a liability or an asset, depending on the team's fortunes.
"If you win, you're style's the right style. If you lose, they'll find something wrong with it," Melvin said. "A couple of years ago I wasn't demonstrative enough, I wasn't as combative, I didn't make the players accountable or whatever. Now all of a sudden for some reason, it's the way to manage. So it's all about winning or losing."
He was a journeyman, mostly backup, catcher for seven teams in 10 big league seasons. He was bench coach for manager Phil Garner in Milwaukee in 1999 and Detroit in 2000.
Melvin, who was Bob Brenly's bench coach on Arizona's 2001 World Series championship team, managed the Seattle Mariners for two seasons, including a 93-win campaign in 2003, but was fired after going 63-99 in 2004.
He applied for the vacant Diamondbacks' job, but it went to Wally Backman instead. Just a few days later, though, the team turned to Melvin after revelations of Backman's financial and off-field difficulties. Melvin gladly accepted.
Two years ago, Melvin's contract was extended through 2008 with a club option for 2009. Negotiations are under way for another extension, with a deal expected in the next few months.
"I would love to remain here," Melvin said, "and the discussions that we've had would suggest I will."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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