Three years ago, as Doug Melvin transitioned from Brewers general manager to senior adviser, ending two decades as the baseball boss in Milwaukee and Texas, he made it clear that the time was right for pseudo-retirement.
“The job has grown to the point that it’s probably suited to somebody younger than me,” Melvin said then. “You can see this with a lot of clubs. The general manager’s role is changing.”
That was true for the Brewers, who hired onetime Mets intern David Stearns as GM to lead what turned into a quick rebuild. And it has been true for most teams that replaced the head of baseball operations in recent years, with young, highly educated, analytically inclined executives becoming the new preferred choices.
The Mets are not convinced. Melvin, 66, is one of three finalists for their GM opening — along with Rays exec Chaim Bloom, 35, and prominent agent Brodie Van Wagenen, 44 — and insisted Tuesday that his 2015 feelings about the GM role no longer hold up.
“At that time, I did say that. But that is how I felt at that time,” Melvin said during a conference call. “I feel a whole lot different now. I’ve been away from it, I’ve had some time away from it and I feel a whole lot different now.
“I went fishing for a couple years and caught one fish. So I'm ready to get back into the baseball grind.”
Melvin interviewed with principal owner Fred Wilpon, chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon plus business-side Mets executives Tuesday as the Mets approach making a hire before their self-imposed deadline of the GM meetings (Nov. 5). Van Wagenen had a second interview Monday, and Bloom is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.
Of the three finalists, Melvin has the most traditional baseball background, though he pushed back against his old-school reputation, saying he is “open-minded” to analytics. He said the Mets’ department — among the smallest in baseball with three full-timers — could “maybe be staffed up a little bit.”
As evidence of that open-mindedness, Melvin mentioned a pecan farmer named David Lawson — who was also an adjunct professor at the University of North Texas — as his first “analytics guy” in 1995 with the Rangers. Melvin also referenced how, years ago, he talked about the possibility of using relievers to begin games before bringing in traditional starting pitchers. That strategy bloomed this year, notably with the Rays, under the term “opener.”
“With the technology and information that’s out there today, I’m very familiar with launch angle and spin rate and exit velocity and all that. Everybody’s got the same information,” Melvin said. “What’s most important is, do you have the right people to read that information and then implement it into your major-league club or through your minor-league system? But currently, most people have the same information. We all see it. It’s a good study and a good read and I’m very open to analytics.”
Reputed for his vast network developed over nearly 40 years of front-office experience, Melvin also said the Wilpons promised him autonomy in baseball decision-making, which would run counter to the owners’ reputations.
“They gave me the authority — if I was the chosen one — to make the decision I thought was in the best interest of the organization,” Melvin said. “I wouldn't be here on this phone call if I didn't have that kind of authority.”
As for the current Mets? Melvin is a fan. He said he doesn’t see a rebuild as necessary. He praised the rotation, Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto and Amed Rosario, suggested manager Mickey Callaway deserves another chance after a rough first season, and acknowledged that the bullpen is a question mark.
And it was the Mets’ lore that lured him to the opening to begin with.
“I gauged there was some interest from the New York Mets. And when I said, ‘The New York Mets,’ my ears sort of opened up a bit, or a lot, and here I am today,” Melvin said. “I'm not talking to anybody else, but if there were other opportunities, I probably would not have been as interested.”