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Thursday, September 02, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Melvin's status in question

By Bob Finnigan
Seattle Times staff reporter

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TORONTO — If Bob Melvin's fate as Mariners manager has not already been decided — and with a win-loss mark at minus-30 after yesterday's loss, it may have been — it will be soon.

Sources indicate that Melvin's job will be a primary topic at Seattle's annual organizational meetings, which usually are held during the last homestand of the season.

General manager Bill Bavasi has refused to be drawn into speculation on the manager's status.

"I refuse to entertain the question," is Bavasi's standard response. "I'm not about to discuss anyone's job status in public — Bob's, mine or yours."

While Bavasi presents a blank face on the issue, it could be construed as a way of saying, "No comment." Yet a specific refusal to comment would be regarded as refusing to give the dreaded vote of confidence, and Bavasi did not go near that.

When Melvin was hired to replace Lou Piniella before the 2003 season, he was given a two-year contract with an option. The Mariners picked up the option on May 4, through the 2005 season.

"I don't know what's going to happen. I just take it day to day," Melvin said. "I go out with the same attitude and work ethic.

"Nothing's been conveyed to me, so I'll just do my job and see where it stands at the end of the year."

Melvin's situation is jeopardized by the twin forces of the team's terrible record this season and the fans' extreme disappointment.

As always in these situations, events beyond the manager's control can determine the direction a club takes.
The Mariners were widely picked as contenders this season, but the offense has been undercut by off years by each of the five regulars who were to comprise the heart of the lineup.

The pitching, both in the rotation and the bullpen, has been poor. Only Ron Villone and Eddie Guardado (before he was injured) were performing near expectations.

Melvin's patient approach would seem to be a good fit with the team's likely direction for the next season or two: rebuilding with young players.

Despite his patience and penchant to keep most team matters private, Melvin is said to chafe at the perception he was hired as the "anti-Piniella."

"Anyone who followed Lou in here and did not make the postseason would be in trouble," a National League scout said earlier this year. "Not only hasn't the club done that, but this year has been a disaster."

Melvin's temperament and approach are different than those of Piniella, whose lasting popularity was evident last week when he came to Seattle with his Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

While Melvin does not speak publicly about his feelings on personnel matters, as Piniella did, there have been several hints that Melvin has stood his ground in internal meetings.

For instance, he may not have made many friends by being one of few who insisted on bringing back pitcher Freddy Garcia. The right-hander is gone to the Chicago White Sox, but if Melvin also goes, his legacy to the Mariners could be Miguel Olivo, Jeremy Reed and Mike Morse — the three quality players who came from Chicago in that trade.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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