Melvin bids farewell with class
Former D-backs manager exits without ill will
PHOENIX -- Bob Melvin took the high road on Friday, one day after being officially dismissed as manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks.Appearing at a news conference at Chase Field, Melvin had nothing but positive things to say about an organization and general manager that, as it turns out, informed him of his dismissal on Wednesday by phone and asked him to manage two more games. "Well, my keycard still worked, so that's a good thing," Melvin joked at the beginning of the conference. Melvin then went on to thank the Phoenix-area media, fans and the entire front office as well as the current and former D-backs players he managed. "It's been a great run here; it really has," said Melvin, who also served as the team's bench coach from 2001-02. "The best days I've had on a baseball field have been here in this ballpark with this team. It's been a joyous run for me, to be able to wear Arizona across my chest. I live here in Arizona, I'm a Phoenix sports fan through and through, so it's been an honor to wear that Arizona across my chest." Throughout his time at the podium, Melvin made clear his support for his coaching staff. Hitting coach Rick Schu was dismissed along with Melvin, and pitching coach Bryan Price, a longtime confidant of Melvin, resigned. Bullpen coach Glenn Sherlock, first-base coach Lorenzo Bundy, third-base coach Chip Hale and bench coach Kirk Gibson were retained. "I really don't know what I would have done without the coaching staff here," Melvin said. "There is a plan every day. There is a plan every day, an approach every day when we take the field. If we don't execute that plan, it's my fault, that's not the coach's fault. These guys work very hard, and I want to make sure that's clear. I'm the guy responsible if it doesn't get executed." When he talked about Price, Melvin almost seemed to choke up. "Bryan Price, I don't even know what to say about Bryan Price," Melvin said. "You don't find a friend and a colleague like that ever really. What he did I really have a hard time even talking about that." Arizona general manager Josh Byrnes praised Melvin in a press conference held later to announce the hiring of A.J. Hinch as a replacement. "Working closely with him for several years, one of the finest people I've ever been around, unwavering character," Byrnes said of Melvin. It had become obvious to observers that Byrnes and Melvin began drifting apart last season when the club began struggling after a 20-8 start to the year. Byrnes admitted on Friday that he played a role in lineup construction and playing-time decisions. This year, the distance between the two seemed to get wider and there were rumblings that the front office did not feel Melvin was making use of all the statistical data presented to him. Melvin, though, emphasized the fact that he received two separate contract extensions from Byrnes, one in 2006 and another following 2007, even though Byrnes was not the man who had hired him. "When everything goes awry, everybody is not happy, so that's just the way it is," Melvin said. "He hasn't done anything to me that would suggest that early on there was some kind of a disconnect between he and I." Byrnes acknowledged that it was awkward to dismiss a manager and ask him not to say anything to anyone while he manages for another two games, but he said all the pieces for the change were not in place on Wednesday. Melvin managed Wednesday's and Thursday's game, never letting on that he knew his time was up. As players headed by bus to the airport in San Diego to head home, someone leaked the dismissal to the team's flagship radio station and players began hearing the news that way. The team won a National League-best 90 games in 2007, but that same nucleus of players struggled at the plate for most of '08 and so far in '09. As he did continually during his tenure, Melvin defended his players and took exception to the notion that they have taken steps backward. "I don't think that's a fair assessment of them, and I really believe that going forward all of these guys are going to get to where they've been in recent years if not even better," Melvin said. "And if that's the case, there's going to be some winning involved here very soon. I believe that. I still believe in these guys, and I believe this club has a chance to win still." If they do win, it will be with Hinch at the controls. Melvin, meanwhile, will be paid through the remainder of his contract, which runs through next year. He was unsure what his next move would be. "I know this is the first summer in 28 or 29 years that I'm going to be able to spend with my family and do some things that I haven't been able to do in the past," Melvin said. "I'm looking forward to that."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.