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Melvinesque Thoughts

Having had 24 hours to chew over the Melvin extension, I find myself hovering somewhere between "Meh!" and "Poor!" on the SnakePit Poll scale of things. One thing I do like, is the timing of it. I think it benefits all concerned to have some long-term stability, and I think this should hopefully allow Melvin now to spend the rest of the season putting out the best lineup for the club's long-term success, rather than the one best suited to his continual employment - which may not be the same at all.

Another thing which is interesting, is to note that it was the Boston Globe which first broke the story. Given the city is where Josh Byrnes came from, is this an indication that the paper in question has some inside track on ? If so, that's worth bearing in mind if the same paper floats any rumours in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline.

As for the actual decision itself, I'm less impressed. I don't think that Melvin has demonstrated any great skills at the management and use of players. For example, the collapse of our closer, Valverde, seems to me to have disturbing parallels to the collapse of our closer, Lyon, last year. At May 24th, Valverde was on pace for 49 saves and a career high number of innings pitched, and that's when the troubles began. On May 12th, 2005, Lyon was on pace for 58 saves, and a career high number of innings pitched, and that's when his arm fell off. Coincidence? I sure hope so.

As regular readers are well aware, I also question Melvin's skills at lineup construction. While I can believe the theory that continuing to play Gonzo is at least partly the result of outside pressures, things like having Counsell batting leadoff are entirely his decision. And that's something which has been obviously A Bad Idea for about the past six weeks. We saw on one gameday thread, you'd have got a more efficient batting order by reversing the lineup completely.

Another area in which he seems lacking is inspiring the veterans. Exhibit A for that is, of course, our left fielder, who seems to be phoning in almost all of his performances these days. While I imagine it'd be a challenge to motivate someone who must see retirement looming painfully close, it's exactly this kind of thing that separates the good managers from the bad ones. Clark, Easley and Counsell also all seem to be slipping, and I'm not aware of what action Melvin is taking to correct this.

Of course, that's part of the problem of trying to assess Melvin: we are only seeing the fraction of the iceberg that's above the water, and it's almost impossible to judge what goes on behind the scenes. He does seem to be well-liked by most of the players - but I take that with a pinch of salt. After all, how many of you would go on the record, publicly, as saying your boss was anything other than a demi-god in human form? :-) We also shouldn't forget that it's a learning experience for him as well, and hopefully, he'll become a better manager over the course of this contract.

My main concern probably is, how will Melvin handle the upcoming rush of rookies? I've not been impressed by the way that he's handled the ones he's been given so far. Giving Tony Clark any starts at all ceased to be a good idea around the third week of April, but Jackson kept getting benched, though I've heard rumours that was not Melvin's decision. We'll see what happens over the remainder of the season: with luck August and September will be a great opportunity to blood the prospects in a low-pressure environment, and Melvin should take full advantage.

But it's probably true to say that all these things, good or bad though they may be, are probably not all that important as far as influencing outcomes over the course of a season is concerned. On the whole, I am inclined to think that managers don't make good teams bad, or bad teams good. They can take mediocre teams and shift them either way - but I hope the 2007 and 2008 Diamondbacks will be well ahead of the curve there, and will be able to withstand the slight negative impact that I tend to reckon Melvin will have on the team. Hey, at least this means it won't be Dusty Baker. :-)