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Buck Showalter and Bob Melvin Face Off in Mets-Padres Series


SAN DIEGO — They were hired with much fanfare over the off-season and have received rave reviews around Major League Baseball for his or her early work with their recent teams. Each have won three Manager of the 12 months Awards and, should things sustain, could be strong contenders on this yr’s voting as well.

But before they became dugout peers and fast friends, Mets Manager Buck Showalter and his San Diego Padres counterpart, Bob Melvin, shared a moment together under different circumstances. It got here in Yankee Stadium in 1994, when Showalter, then 37, was a third-year manager guiding the Yankees under the owner George Steinbrenner. Melvin, who was 32 on the time, was an aging catcher in his final season.

“Bobby saved my job,” Showalter said, explaining that he had three catchers on the roster on the time and was in search of an additional right-handed bat to face a difficult left-hander for a game in May. He got here upon the unorthodox idea of using the light-hitting Melvin as his designated hitter. “Mr. Steinbrenner was able to kill me.”

Melvin responded to the bizarre task by slugging a three-run home run against the Baltimore’s Arthur Rhodes in the underside of the primary inning of his first game on the Stadium that yr, setting the tone in a 5-4 victory.

“When he got that hit, I said, ‘Oh thanks, Bobby,’” Showalter said.

Standing on the Petco Park field here on Monday before the Mets-Padres series opener — a gathering of the teams with the first- and third-best records within the National League, which the Mets won, 11-5 — Melvin chuckled on the hyperbole and said he doesn’t think what turned out to be the last of his 35 big-league home runs saved any jobs. He remembers it, though, for a unique reason.

Showalter, said Melvin, “used to elucidate to me why I used to be playing against certain guys; that’s the primary time I’ve ever had a manager try this.”

Moreover, Melvin added, Showalter initially approached him that day with the concept of playing him at first base. But Melvin’s eyes told the manager his backup catcher wasn’t comfortable with that — Showalter still uses what he calls “eye talking” today — and so Showalter used him as a chosen hitter as an alternative.

“Which was probably a harder sell, to D.H. anyone like me, to the front office or whoever he had to reply to,” Melvin said.

But their conversation boosted Melvin’s confidence, allowed him to completely prepare, and the homer partially became a reward to Showalter, as well.

Moments like that all the time have been an element of Showalter’s methodology. And over 19 seasons managing Seattle, Arizona, Oakland and, now, San Diego, Melvin has never forgotten that lesson. Lately he repeatedly implements it, too.

“Though he’s the manager and there’s a clear-cut distinction, it felt like he was in it with us,” said Mets outfielder Mark Canha, who played for Melvin for seven years in Oakland before signing a two-year free-agent cope with the Mets this winter. “It very much feels that way with Buck, too. We’re in it together, we’re all after the identical thing. It doesn’t feel like there’s any motivation for him aside from how can we win today.”

“Calm down, all right? Don’t attempt to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they’re fascist. Throw some ground balls, it’s more democratic.”

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Showalter’s attention to detail is unsurpassed, and with Billy Eppler, the Met’s first-year general manager, a few of that old Yankees’ lineage is clear. Though Showalter, 66, is 20 years older than Eppler, their baseball foundation in some ways was solid from the identical curriculum. Gene Michael was the overall manager and Bill Livesey the scouting director during Showalter’s Yankees years. Brian Cashman was the assistant general manager. Eppler later worked within the Yankees’ scouting department and, eventually, ascended to assistant general manager under Cashman.

Due to that, Eppler said, Showalter’s fixation on even essentially the most minute of details has been familiar.

“I’m cognizant of, ‘How long is the bus ride to the ballpark? What sort of water is on the plane?’” Eppler said. “So is he. It’s like, whoa. I get a kick out of it. Anyone else is pondering along this line also!”

Showalter said he knew it was going to work with Eppler because he’s a Michael disciple and a “pick up the phone on the primary ring form of guy.

“We share the identical passion,” Showalter said.

A part of that keenness led Showalter to make a phone call one evening this spring on his way home from the Mets’ Florida complex. Within the car parking zone outside a Subway sandwich shop, he said he sat in his automotive at the hours of darkness for about an hour, using the time zone difference to meet up with Melvin, who was in Arizona. Three Mets players — Canha, pitcher Chris Bassitt and outfielder Starling Marte — had played for Melvin in Oakland, and Showalter had questions.

“The timing was perfect, because I used to be going to call and ask him about Manny, too,” Melvin, 60, said of the slugger Manny Machado, who played for Showalter in Baltimore. “It was a lengthy conversation. And I feel we probably talked a pair more times this spring, too.”

Information is essential to constructing relationships. And with the lockout-shortened spring training, Showalter and Melvin were seeking to get information as quickly, and from as many alternative sources, as they may.

“Mark Canha’s a left of left hippie,” Showalter said. “Chris Bassitt is correct. Not right of right, but right. Yet they’re best friends. It’s an amazing story. Bob said they sit on the plane and talk politics and stuff. I told Bob I wish that’s how our country would go — you’re thinking that this, I feel this, let’s discuss it, civilly. It paints an image. You’re attempting to get head starts on guys.”

Melvin, Showalter said, “looks at players and things very just like the way in which I do.

“We don’t have all of the answers,” he said. “We all the time should keep the tip game in mind. It’s possible you’ll not put your best foot forward tonight so you possibly can win the following three games.”

That the Padres were in a position to poach Oakland’s profession leader in managerial victories was a thunderbolt within the moment last October, and the primary signal that the A’s were about to embark on one other rebuilding project. Melvin is a Bay Area native, a Cal graduate and wore No. 6 in Oakland as a tribute to Sal Bando. It was much more emotional for him to depart than most realized. But along with his coaches Ryan Christenson, Matt Williams and Bryan Price, he’s quickly turn into comfortable in San Diego. The one bump was a six-game absence for prostate surgery last month, but Melvin is back and healthy now.

“His communication is a few of the most effective I’ve ever been around in letting us know where we’re at and what the expectations are, even things like coming to us and explaining why he’s made among the moves he’s made,” said Joe Musgrove, the ace of the Padres’ rotation.

In other words, quite a bit like what Melvin’s old skipper did for him once upon a time — and still does today along with his Mets.

“I consider him an actual friend,” Melvin said of Showalter. “There are acquaintances in baseball, there are baseball friends. But he’s a man who, off the sphere, we talk throughout the off-season, call one another, even when he was doing ESPN stuff he would call me. We’ve never been to dinner together, but I consider him a friend. In the sport of baseball, that’s further than someone you only admire on the sphere.”

Not that there aren’t differences. Recently, Showalter said, his little sister Melanie scolded him by saying “organization and detail is great, but you recognize what, every once in awhile I actually like spontaneity. From time to time, it’s OK to be spontaneous.”

Showalter related this story with a knowing smile and a shrug of his shoulders during a weekend conversation within the visiting manager’s office at Dodger Stadium. What are you going to do?, he appeared to be saying. A tiger can’t change its stripes.

Melvin, meanwhile, has been in a position to change his. He’s long been a connoisseur of hard candy during games, but only in the primary, third, fifth, seventh and ninth innings. And over 11 years in Oakland, the candy within the ninth needed to be green.

Now? It’s only root beer barrels in Padres brown within the ninth innings.

“And we’ve had two or three walk-offs,” he said. “So it’s worked.”

The Padres have actually had 4, but like old Manager of the 12 months Awards once the season gets going, who’s counting?

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