Buck Showalter and Bob Melvin’s Face Off in the Meets Padres series

San Diego – They’ve been hired with much fanfare over the course of the off-season and received rave reviews about Major League Baseball for their early work with their new teams. They both won three Director of the Year awards, and if things continue, they will be strong contenders in this year’s vote as well.

But before they became fellow detectives and fast friends, Mets manager Buck Showalter and his San Diego Padres counterpart, Bob Melvin, shared a moment together under different circumstances. It came at Yankee Stadium in 1994, when Showalter, then 37, was a third-year manager leading the Yankees under owner George Steinbrenner. Melvin, who was 32 at the time, was an elderly fisherman in his final season.

“Bobby saved my job,” Showalter said, explaining that he had three catchers on the roster at the time and was looking for an extra right-hand racket to face a tough left-handed for a game in May. He came up with the unorthodox idea of ​​using a light-hittering Melvin as his designated hitter. “Mr. Steinbrenner was ready to kill me.”

Melvin responded to the unusual task by hitting a three-round home run against Baltimore’s Arthur Rhodes in the first half of his first game on the field that year, and set the tone in a 5-4 win.

“When he got this hit, I said, ‘Oh, thank you, Bobby,'” Showalter said.

Standing on Petco Park here on the Monday before the opening of the Mets-Padres Series — the teams meet the first and third best National League records, which the Mets won, 11-5 — Melvin laughed at the exaggeration and said he didn’t think what turned out to be the last 35 A home game in the big league saved no jobs. He remembers it, though, for a different reason.

Melvin, Showalter, said, “You used to explain to me why I was playing against some guys; it’s the first time I’ve had a manager do that.”

Furthermore, Melvin added, Showalter initially approached him that day with the idea of ​​playing him at first base. But Melvin’s eyes told the manager that his spare catch wasn’t comfortable with it – Showalter still uses what he calls “eye-talk” today – and so Showalter used him as a designated hitter instead.

“Maybe it was hard to sell, to DH someone like me, to the front office or whoever had to answer it,” Melvin said.

But their conversation boosted Melvin’s confidence, and allowed him to get fully prepared, and Homer partly became a bonus for Showalter, too.

Moments like these have always been part of Showalter’s methodology. And over 19 seasons running Seattle, Arizona, Oakland, and now San Diego, Melvin has never forgotten that lesson. These days he applies it regularly too.

“Although he’s the manager and there’s a clear distinction, I felt he was with us,” said Mets player Mark Kanha, who played for Melvin for seven years in Auckland before signing a two-year free agent contract. With the Mets this winter. “It feels great that way with Buck too. We’re in it together, we’re all the same. There doesn’t seem to be any motivation for him other than how we win today.”

Showalter’s attention to detail is unprecedented, and with Billy Ebler, the Met’s first-year general manager, some of that old Yankee lineage is evident. Although Showalter, 66, is 20 years older than Ebler, their foundation in baseball was in many ways of the same curriculum. Gene Michael was the general manager and Bill Livesey was the scouting manager during Showalter’s years at the Yankees. Brian Cashman was Assistant General Manager. Ebler later worked in the Boy Scouts division of the Yankees, eventually rising to assistant general manager under Cashman.

Because of that, Eppler said, Showalter’s fixation to the smallest detail was familiar.

“I’m aware, ‘How long is the bus ride to the stadium?'” What kind of water is on the plane? “So it is. It’s like, whoa. I get a kick out of it. Someone else is thinking along that line too! “

Showalter said he knew he was going to work with Eppler because he was Michael’s pupil and “picked up the phone from the guy’s first ring type.

“We share the same passion,” Showalter said.

Part of that passion prompted Showalter to make a phone call this spring on his way home from the Mets compound in Florida. In the parking lot outside a Subway sandwich shop, he said he sat in his car in the dark for about an hour, using the time zone difference to catch up with Melvin, who was in Arizona. Three Mets players—Kanha, bowler Chris Bassett and defensive back Starling Mart—played for Melvin in Oakland, and Showalter had questions.

“The timing was perfect, because I was going to call him and ask him about Mane as well,” Melvin, 60, said of batsman Manny Machado, who played for Showalter in Baltimore. It was a long conversation. And I think we probably talked a few times this spring as well.”

Information is the key to building relationships. With spring training abridged, Showalter and Melvin were looking to get the information as quickly as possible and from as many different sources as possible.

“Mark’s like she’s on the hippie’s left hand,” Showalter said. “Chris Bassett is right. Not right right, but right. And yet they are best friends. It’s a great story. Bob said they just sit on the plane talking about politics and stuff. I told Bob I hope this is the way our country is going – you think That, I think this, let’s talk about, civilly. Paints a picture. You’re trying to get you to outdo men.”

Showalter, Melvin, said, “He looks at the players and things are very similar to the way I do.

“We don’t have all the answers,” he said. “We always have to keep the end of the match in mind. You cannot give your best tonight until you can win the next three matches.”

Padres’ ability to snuff out the Oakland captain’s career in managerial victories was a thunderbolt of the moment last October, and was the first sign that the champions were about to embark on another rebuilding project. Melvin is a Bay Area native, a Cal graduate, and wore the No. 6 in Auckland as a tribute to Sal Bandeau. His passing was far more emotional than most people realize. But with his coaches Ryan Christenson, Matt Williams and Brian Price, he quickly became comfortable in San Diego. The only bump was missing six matches for prostate surgery last month, but Melvin is back and doing well now.

“His calls are some of the best I’ve ever had to let us know where we are and what the expectations are, even things like coming over to us and explaining why he made some of the moves he did,” said Joe, Musgrove, ace Duran Padres.

In other words, it’s a lot like what old Melvin’s skipper once did for him – and he still does today with the Mets.

“I consider him a true friend,” Melvin said of Showalter. “There are baseball acquaintances, and there are baseball friends. But he’s a guy, off the field, we talk during the slump, we call each other, even when he’s doing things ESPN calls me. We never had dinner together, but I consider him a friend. In baseball, This is beyond just someone you love on the court.”

It does not mean that there are no differences. Showalter said his little sister Melanie recently scolded him by saying, “The organization and the details are great, but you know what, every time I really like spontaneity. Every now and then, it’s good to be spontaneous.”

Showalter told this story with a conscientious smile and shrugged his shoulders during a weekend conversation in the visiting manager’s office at Dodger Stadium. What will you do? It seems he says. A tiger cannot change its stripes.

Meanwhile, Melvin managed to change his style. He’s always been a hard candy connoisseur during games, but only in the first, third, fifth, seventh and ninth rounds. And for 11 years in Auckland, candy at nine had to be green.

Currently? It’s only root beer kegs in brown Padres in the ninth round.

“We’ve had two or three meetings,” he said. “you passed.”

The Padres have already had four, but like the old General Manager awards once the season starts, who counts?

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