SAN FRANCISCO -- After the San Diego Padres got knocked out of the National League Division Series in 2006, Bruce Bochy flew home and was informed that management had no interest in extending his contract past the upcoming 2007 MLB season. Sandy Alderson, the Padres' CEO at the time, told Bochy he could talk to other clubs if they expressed interest, and within days, the then-Padres manager was in San Francisco, getting a tour of the city from then-Giants general manager Brian Sabean.
The two spent hours talking about life and their view of the game, and a few days later, Sabean called Bochy. "We'd love to have you up here," he said.
Seventeen years later, the Giants are hoping to duplicate some of the success that followed that phone call.
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The Giants on Wednesday will introduce Bob Melvin as their next manager, ending a whirlwind stretch that started with the Padres granting the sides permission to talk, even though Melvin had a year left on his contract. The 61-year-old will replace Gabe Kapler, taking the organization in a new — but also more familiar — direction.
The decision came after weeks of vetting candidates both internally and externally, but all along, Melvin was the guy.
In the days before Kapler was fired, it was Melvin who found himself being widely discussed within the industry. With a disappointing Padres season nearing an end, reports came out in late September that Melvin and Padres president of baseball operations A.J. Preller had issues that were beyond repair. It was widely speculated that one would be moving on, but at his end-of-season recap with reporters, Preller tried to quiet some of the noise, saying the rumors weren’t true.
"Bob is our manager," Preller said earlier this month. "And he's going to be our manager going forward."
San Francisco Giants
The Giants never believed that was set in stone, and Melvin's name hung over a search that began with interviews with internal candidates Kai Correa, Mark Hallberg and Alyssa Nakken. They scoured the league, talking to recently-retired players like Stephen Vogt and Nick Hundley, and putting out feelers to others. But the front office never moved on from Melvin.
For the three-time Manager of the Year, this is a homecoming, and for the Giants it's a move that makes plenty of sense for the immediate future.
Melvin will make the trip back up the coast, just as another former A's employee, Farhan Zaidi, did five years ago. When Zaidi arrived, the Giants gave him free reign, allowing him to build a team that played with a specific style. Most importantly, they allowed him to pick a manager who from the start was unpopular with large segments of the fan base and even some within the organization.
Much of what Zaidi and Kapler did was nontraditional. They built their rosters around players who had been overlooked elsewhere, and their game plans around platoons and bulk innings pitchers. Phrases like "line change" and "featured guy" were introduced, but in the end, the Giants realized they might have tried to do too much, too fast.
The organization still plans to be on the cutting edge when it comes to analytics, preparation and advances in training. But they have acknowledged that they need to start prioritizing stars and everyday players again. And in hiring Melvin, they're acknowledging that they need a bit more autonomy in the manager's office.
Under different circumstances, perhaps Zaidi could have taken a big swing on a promising young coach like Correa, Hallberg or Vogt. Perhaps the Giants could have tried to make history with Nakken. But right now, this is an organization that desires stability for 2024, when just about everyone's job will be on the line, and Melvin will bring that the moment he walks into Oracle Park.
The Giants will be Melvin's fifth stop as a manager and third in the NL West and he'll arrive with more than 1,500 wins. He is a Bay Area native who was born in Palo Alto, grew up on the peninsula, and attended Cal and Cañada College in Redwood City. Melvin played 10 MLB seasons, including three in San Francisco, when he was teammates with Mike Krukow and Will Clark, among others.
In every way, Melvin -- with his local ties, his experience, and his stature in the game -- is a safe choice, and right now that's what the Giants feel they need. This is one of the most important winters in the franchise's long history, and the Giants now will go into it with stability in a key spot.
The battles for Shohei Ohtani, Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Jung Hoo Lee will be won with the checkbook, but Melvin's presence should certainly help. He is widely respected within the game, and he has as much experience with Japanese superstars as anybody, having managed Ichiro Suzuki in Seattle and Yu Darvish in San Diego.
The Giants feel comfortable pushing so hard for Lee in part because of the success his former Kiwoom Heroes teammate, Ha-Seong Kim, has had in San Diego. It was Melvin who turned Kim into an everyday player the last two seasons, watching him flourish.
Kim ended up as the surprising Wins Above Replacement leader for a star-studded group of position players in San Diego that had one of the most disappointing seasons in MLB history, and when Melvin is introduced, he'll have to answer for that. If Melvin couldn't lead that Padres team to the postseason, how will he do it with an inferior Giants roster? If there were chemistry issues in San Diego, why is he the right fit for an organization that just fired its manager in part because of clubhouse concerns?
Those are fair questions, but the Giants aren't too concerned about the 2023 San Diego Padres. Zaidi doesn't deal in small sample sizes, and Melvin's resume includes 20 seasons and a lot of exceeded expectations. The 2023 Padres might have been a mess, but a year earlier, it was Melvin who got the perennial underachievers to the NLCS.
By all accounts, the Padres also had different clubhouse issues than the Giants, and they existed long before Melvin arrived at Petco Park. As Preller embarks on yet another search for a manager, the Giants will provide Melvin with a much softer landing.
There are no oversized egos to massage in Melvin’s new job. He’ll enter a clubhouse that was simply starving for leadership and a firm hand, which is exactly what you would expect from a former big league catcher who has spent two decades honing his managerial skills.
Melvin will arrive with the approval of Buster Posey, who took part in interviews. The team’s current clubhouse leaders are also said to be happy with the choice.
Once they got permission to interview Melvin, the Giants moved quickly, which was no surprise. Teams aren’t supposed to announce big decisions during the playoffs, but the Giants will introduce Melvin during the break before the World Series. With Ohtani, Yamamoto and others waiting, the Giants wanted to end their search well ahead of the start of the offseason. They accomplished that, and ended up with the manager they wanted from the start.