Bob Melvin Leaves Padres Behind for Giant Rebuild

Bob Melvin is his old self again. In his new position as manager of the San Francisco Giants, he’s relaxed, thoughtful, congenial. He wasn’t that way at times last season, his second and final managing the underperforming San Diego Padres.

The expectations and the stress in San Diego got to him, Melvin recently told Sportico as spring training in Arizona unfolded.

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“You know, it was just a rough year, right?” Melvin said. “There were high expectations. We didn’t make the playoffs. We were a high payroll team. Just throwing money around doesn’t get you anything.”

Melvin came to the Padres off two managing jobs in Arizona and Oakland where the payroll and expectations were both exceedingly low. In San Diego, late owner Peter Seidler tried to build a World Series-winning team before he died. Following an NL Championship Series appearance in 2022, the Padres’ payroll rose to $256 million, third-highest in Major League Baseball last season and the highest, by far, in franchise history.

It didn’t work. San Diego finished 82-80, missing the playoffs by two games despite a feverish 19-7 finish. Seidler died from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma shortly after the season.

“Peter was a beautiful man,” Melvin said. “He did everything he could. It was very frustrating. With the players we had we felt at one time or another it was going to take off. We did at the end, but it was just too late.”

Melvin, hired in 2022 to guide the Padres to a World Series title, admitted he didn’t hold up well under the pressure.

“The top three payrolls didn’t make it to playoffs last postseason,” Melvin said, referring to the New York Mets, New York Yankees and Padres. “Nothing is guaranteed by just spending money.”

Still, Melvin was set to fulfill his contract and manage the 2024 season in San Diego until then-Giants manager Gabe Kapler was let go and San Francisco came beckoning. Melvin grew up in the Bay Area, played for the Giants and managed the A’s. Padres general manager A.J. Preller let him out of the contract.

Melvin now has a big smile on his face.

“It’s my dream job,” Melvin said. “I just bring experience. This is my fifth managing job. It’s not often anyone gets that kind of opportunity. Certainly, there’s the pride of being home. To be able to manage the A’s and the Giants in one lifetime is pretty special.”

Now Melvin is back in a situation of percolating expectations, this time on a three-year contract with the Giants, which are coming off a 79-83 season and have made the playoffs only once since 2016.

Since last season, Giants general manager Farhan Zaidi spent a second-in-MLB $263 million on five players, including Jung Hoo Lee ($18 million), Jorge Soler ($14 million), Jordan Hicks ($11 million) and most recently Matt Chapman ($18 million).

The Giants need a cultural sea change as well as a rebuild. Melvin’s told the team he’d like all personnel in the dugout to stand before the game for the national anthem, a policy he adopted in Oakland and San Diego. He said that policy is not political, but he wants the team ready to play.

“We’ve also done some things personnel-wise that will change things,” Melvin said. “We’ll have some more stability in the lineup with less mix and matching depending on the opposing pitcher. We’re expecting our starters to go deeper into games to take some pressure off our relievers.”

The team he left in San Diego shed $101 million off its record payroll, including trading away Juan Soto. Yet it’s still left with a competitive team that includes high-priced stars Manny Machado, Xander Bogaerts, Fernando Tatis Jr., Joe Musgrove and Yu Darvish.

The fact is, Melvin couldn’t win with those players.

“It’s a game of expectations,” Preller said about the tumult last season with Melvin. “When you’re not as good as you’re capable of being, it’s not fun.”

In the game of managerial musical chairs, Mike Shildt has replaced Melvin in San Diego, with Melvin replacing Kapler in San Francisco. The GMs who made these moves remain intact, but both are now on the clock through the end of their contracts in 2026.

Shildt is the fifth full-time manager to work under Preller since he took over late in the 2014 season. Melvin is Zaidi’s third since he took over for three-time World Series-winning GM Brian Sabean prior to the 2019 season. The two executives have a total of three playoff appearances and one first-place finish to show for all the spending and all the dugout moves.

Comparatively, Dave Roberts is entering his ninth season managing the Los Angeles Dodgers despite winning the World Series only once, at the end of the 60-game 2020 pandemic-shortened season. He’s made the playoffs in every one of his first eight seasons.

In San Diego, Melvin replaced the inexperienced Jayce Tingler, who led the Padres to their first playoff appearance in 14 years in that 2020 season but was fired after going 79-83 in 2021. In Melvin’s first year, which featured an expanded MLB playoff field, the Padres were the second of three wild-card teams and played themselves into the NLCS for the first time since 1998, losing in five games to the Philadelphia Phillies.

On the day Melvin made his first appearance with the club at the start of that spring, it was announced Tatis had broken his left wrist in an offseason motorcycle accident and would miss the start of the season. Before a return to the field, he was suspended 80 games for testing positive for PEDs and underwent left shoulder surgery.

In fact, Tatis didn’t play for Melvin until 20 games into the 2023 season. Welcome to San Diego.

“It was a very tough situation. Bob and I had a lot of conversations about that,” Preller said.

The clubhouse was rife with trouble, according to multiple reports, and that spilt over to Melvin’s relationship with Preller. The two would sit at a table with other members of the baseball operations department trying to sort through the chaos, but nothing seemed to work.

During his Arizona tenure, Melvin had a falling out with then-GM Josh Byrnes and was fired early in the 2009 season. In Oakland, he worked for 11 years under Billy Beane, who’s no picnic for any manager. It wasn’t hard to imagine that eventually Melvin and Preller would clash.

“I remained friendly with Bob, but it was all about the situation, not friendship,” Preller said. “For me personally [2023] was probably my most disappointing season.”

The jury is out on what will happen between Melvin and Zaidi, who was an assistant GM in Oakland for a period when Melvin was manager. It’s all milk and honey right now, but of course, that may change when the season starts, given the rebuilding situation Melvin is walking into in San Francisco. As the saying goes, don’t dream too hard about something—you might get it.

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