By hiring Bob Melvin, the Giants are getting more than just an accomplished manager

SAN FRANCISCO — Stories trickled out of Bob Melvin as easily as if he were at an intimate dinner party with lifelong friends.

He grew up in Menlo Park. Matching his childhood obsession with any Bay Area team in season: Giants, 49ers, Cal and Stanford football, Warriors, A’s. He rode bikes and rode with his buddies down the road to Willie Mays’ house in Atherton as they waited for the unmissable pink Cadillac to pass, hoping to see one of those strong, calloused hands waving out the driver’s side window. Cheers from the stands at Candlestick Park as the aging Mays collected his 3,000th hit.

He fulfilled the dream not only when he reached the major leagues, but also when the Detroit Tigers traded him to his hometown Giants in 1986. His feelings turned from awe to exhaustion when he walked into the home club and it occurred to him that the Giants had organized their lockers alphabetically, meaning that He will dress next to the honorary spaces of Mays and Willie McCovey. He squats behind the board at the candelabra and takes cues from Humm Baby himself, Roger Craig, who taught him how to see the game’s folds and undulations from the scenic view that only the manager is high enough to see.

Sometime Wednesday morning during Melvin’s press conference, one that introduced him as the Giants’ newest dugout surveyor through 2026, a veteran reporter in the back of the room asked him: Aside from baseball, what made living and growing up in the Bay Area so special?

“You know,” Melvin replied.

It wasn’t a verbal tic. It was not a rhetorical pause. It was a two-word personal connection. You Known. The reporter was Chris Haft, the suave and decorated baseball beat writer who covered the Cincinnati Reds for many years before returning home to serve on the Giants for the San Jose Mercury News and Another sports-obsessed kid, Haft grew up in the southern reaches of San Mateo County in the same era as Melvin. Before Haft started working on honing his version, he was a teenager working on honing his jump shot. Sometimes with Melvin’s hand in his face.

You “I know,” Melvin said in response to Haft’s question. “We were playing pick-up basketball in the gym in Menlo. In basketball season, basketball is my favorite sport. In football season, football is my favorite sport. And baseball. So, you can get very good information here at Sports in The Gulf region, perhaps as is the case anywhere in the world.

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It’s one thing to hire a manager with a local connection. It’s another thing to hire a manager so involved in the Bay Area sports community that he can answer a question in his introductory news conference from someone he knows from playing jerseys-for-skins as a teenager.

Bob Melvin, the A’s manager at the time, holds The Bridge Trophy after a game in July 2018. (Jason O. Watson / Getty Images)

How was that Chris Haft shot, by the way?

“I hate to say that in this forum,” Melvin said with a smile. “But it was very good.”

Major League Baseball teams introduce managers all the time. The unspoken truth is that these events are almost always the pre-divorce wedding banquet. The mission basically arrives with an invitation with decorative edges and a perforated pink slip. But in the clubhouse space at Oracle Park on Wednesday morning, there was a palpable lightness beyond the usual sunshine of these events. Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi nervously unbuttoned the Giants’ No. 6 jersey, and Melvin, after putting it on, frayed a buttonhole or two. A large group of front-office employees gathered behind the seated reporters and cameras and applauded at intervals as if they were watching the State of the Union address.

It’s been a long time since the Giants, who largely canceled the pomp and festivities of Carlos Correa last December, have made one of these ceremonial introductions. It had been so long, in fact, that in the minutes before the press conference began, two club employees carrying portable steam irons scrambled to smooth out wrinkles from the black fabric that draped the front of the podium.

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How Bob Melvin Could Manage the Giants

The Giants arranged this press conference to introduce a new manager. But judging from the calls made, the warm smiles exchanged and the general giddyness of the exhibition, it seemed as if the Giants were reintroducing a more familiar version of themselves.

What better way to re-establish the franchise as fan-friendly than by hiring a highly respected three-time manager of the year who also happens to be a lifelong and unabashed Bay Area sports fan?

“Every series (in San Francisco) I looked at that dugout on the other side and said, ‘Maybe one day, I hope,’” said Melvin, who spent most of his 20-year managerial career with NL rival Arizona. Diamondbacks and Bay Area-rival Oakland A’s. “I can admit it now. I was hoping to come back sometime.”

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Melvin, the visiting manager, ran the stadium stairs on the first day of each series. Whenever the Diamondbacks, A’s or San Diego Padres arrive on the shores of McCovey Cove, there are moments in the early afternoon, facing 42,000 empty seats and his own thoughts, when Melvin ponders his connection to this franchise. Then he heads to the Coke bottle in left field for another cathartic experience.

“I was sliding down the slide for luck,” Melvin said amid laughter. “Then they started locking it. They didn’t want me to slide upside down anymore.”

This is how this press conference went: anecdotes from local sources, embarrassment at the accolades, and soft smiles even from those straining to be objective. It was a startling change from the November 2019 news conference that introduced Melvin’s predecessor. Gabe Kapler wore a t-shirt for the cameras that day. He looked hard at the cameras. He sat down for a tense investigation.

Kapler may have failed to create authenticity in his four seasons with the Giants, but at least he was serious about his efforts. Many of them were praiseworthy. He’s won over his share of skeptics. He worked hard at his personal relationships. But the result was a manager who always seemed to make everything harder than it needed to be. If Melvin is Kapler’s antithesis in any respect, it’s this: It doesn’t feel like work in Melvin’s presence. He puts others at ease easily.

Al-Zaidi may have made the correct assessment four years ago when he chose Kapler to be his manager. Kapler was perhaps the best equipped person at the time, given the materials available, to help the Giants win most baseball games. They won 107 games in 2021, a record. But it didn’t take four seasons into his tenure — a season that appears in the annals, which included an NL Manager of the Year title that hasn’t been bestowed on a Giants captain since Dusty Baker — to understand that an organization steeped in nostalgia had lost something else in this. the operation.

Its connective tissue.

In their wildest dreams, the Giants couldn’t have designed a candidate who combined Melvin’s job profile with local connections and interpersonal skills. Which is why they waited unofficially for several weeks, and officially for several days, even though the soon-to-be 62-year-old coach (his birthday is Saturday) was under contract to manage the troubled San Diego Padres next season. Once the Padres completed their offseason evaluations and granted the Giants’ request to speak with Melvin late Saturday night, the process moved very quickly. Melvin held Zoom meetings with Giants front office officials on Sunday, met in person with Chairman Greg Johnson and Executive Board member Buster Posey on Monday, and by Tuesday morning, the Giants began informing other interviewees that Melvin would be their pick.

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It will represent their brand. He will represent their fans.

“San Francisco is the Giants, and the Giants are San Francisco,” Melvin said. “I don’t think anyone understands that more than me.”

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Bob Melvin is exactly what the Giants and Farhan Zaidi need

No matter what job you have, no matter how glamorous it is, no matter the amenities and fringe benefits, it will feel like work once you’ve spent a couple of decades in it. That’s how long Melvin has been in the major leagues. He talked about his playing career and his time as a bench coach, including the 2001 season in which he won a World Series ring with Arizona, closer to four decades.

Appreciation is boring. Wonder recedes. Endorphins flow instead of a rush.

And after…

“When I woke up this morning, it was like it was so crazy I couldn’t even fathom it,” Melvin said, adding later that he had some painful conversations with some of his best and longest friends — including some, like the head coach. And former Giants player Matt Williams, who will likely be added to his coaching staff.

“There were conversations about ‘Can you imagine?’ And now…

“Now I can imagine.”

When Melvin donned a Giants jersey, it was hard not to notice the corporate logo on his sleeve for Cruise, the troubled driverless taxi company whose operating license was revoked by the California Department of Motor Vehicles on Tuesday. The symbolism landed with all the accuracy of the barrier that collided with the cement mixer.

There may come a time when big league teams no longer need an independent mind to guide them through the season. There may come a time when AI solves every problem easily and game management can be turned over to algorithms and predictive modeling. But that time is not now. The Giants needed someone new and trustworthy to lead them, their players and their fans to a new destination.

They went with someone who already knew the back roads.

(Top photo: Eric Risberg/The Associated Press)

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