Doug Melvin - A Case Study
Through various emails and general brainstorming, Condescendy and I have decided to put together a multi-installment profile of Brewers GM Doug Melvin. In the interest of full transparency, our ultimate goal is to present a case demonstrating that Melvin deserves to be fired, not necessarily because of his entire body of work, but because of the trajectory that work has taken in recent years. Much like a hulking slugger in his twilight, a GM should not be rewarded with continued employment based on his entire body of work; rather, his contract should reflect the value he is projected to add to the team. To be fair to Melvin, and that, his tenure has not been as lifeless as, say, the Bavasis, Moore's, or Bowdens of the world. However, when his job description required him to transition from constructing an efficient loser to constructing a competitive winner, his strategic plan began to falter. With that, I bring you Installment I.
Installment I, The Early Years
Born in Chattham, Ontario in 1952, Doug Melvin was the first fetus since biblical times to sport a mustache within three months of conception. Ok, that's not true, but he is Canadian and has been labeled the best athlete to come out of Chattham, Canada . . . ever. Melvin spent six years in the minors, first with the Pirates and later with the Yankees. Following his stint as a player for the Yankees, he transitioned into the club's baseball operations staff. He began as a baseball operations assistant from 1983-1984, and was promoted to Director of Scouting in 1985. His first draft was the 1985 draft, considered by many to be the most talent-rich draft class of all time. Hamstrung with few picks, Melvin wasn't able to turn in many top prospects during his two drafts with the Yankees.
Following the '86 season, Melvin was brought on to be Special Assistant to the GM in Baltimore. A year later, in 1988, he was promoted to Assistant GM. What do we know about the 1988 Baltimore Orioles? They finished 54-107 after starting the season with 21 consecutive losses. Ok, that's not fair cause it's really not Melvin's fault. He spent five more years with the Orioles, during which they finished above .500 three times, never reaching the playoffs.
The Texas Rangers
Following the 1993 season, Melvin was hired as the General Manager of the Texas Rangers. He inherited a team that had gone 86-76 in the season prior but featured some good young talent - Ivan Rodriguez (21) Juan Gonzalez (23) Dean Palmer (24), and veterans Rafael Palmiero (28), Kevin Brown (28), and Jose Canseco (28). To that core he added Veteran Kenny Rodgers and minor leaguer Rick Helling. Melvin also picked up closer Tom Henke to finish games for the Rangers. As a team in the strike-shortened 1994 season, the Rangers sported a 103 OPS+ and a 90 ERA+, somewhat of a hallmark of Melvin-run organizations. The '95 club bucked this trend some, going 74-70 in a strike shortened year, finishing third in the AL West with an OPS+ of 90 and an ERA+ of 105. Melvin's Rangers won the division 3 times, although he faced a different landscape than he does with the Brewers - A division 33% smaller, a larger checkbook, and a more desirable location for free agents.
Melvin's tenure with the Rangers had one defining move: signing Mariner's shortstop Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez signed for $252 million, which at the time was twice as much as the next largest American sports contract, Kevin Garnett's $126 million deal signed in 1999. Rodriguez was a once-in-a-generation talent entering the beginning of his peak years due to his early entrance into the league. However, Melvin, under the direction of owner Tom Hicks, made a fatal error in judgment by committing such a large portion of Texas' payroll to one player. Rodriguez's time in Texas was marred with last place finishes due largely to insufficient pitching. This would not be the last time Melvin would hamstring himself with a large individual contract at the reported request of his owner. More to come on that
Melvin had a few additional noteworthy transactions, noted below:
Juan Gonzalez and Gregg Zaun for Francisco Cordero, Frank Catalonotto, and Gabe Kapler (It should come as no surprise that four of these players have spent time on the Brewers)
Esteban Loiaza for Michael Young
Ryan Dempster and Rick Helling for John Burkett - A poor long-term investment, but Burkett anchored a few Ranger playoff pitching staffs
Doug Davis (5, 1996)
Travis Hafner (31, 1996)
Carlos Pena (1, 1998)
Hank Blalock (3, 1999)
Aaron Harang (6, 1999)
Mark Teixeira (1, 2001)
In all this initial segment was a bit shorter than I would have liked, but I think my apathy towards his early years was proving a hindrance toward me accomplishing my ultimate goal of analyzing Melvin's tenure as the Brewers GM. Stay tuned for the next installment, when I get around to it.