Front office won't explain why manager was fired

Updated: October 5, 2004, 2:19 AM ET
Associated Press

SEATTLE -- Don't ask Seattle Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi what -- or who -- he wants in a new manager.

Don't bother asking why he fired the previous one, either.

Bavasi refused to answer those questions Monday when he announced that Bob Melvin won't return next season.

Strangely, the GM insisted the Mariners still love Melvin. Bavasi gave the impression that Melvin simply wasn't the right fit any longer.

"I have absolutely nothing negative to say about Bob," Bavasi said. "He's a real good man. He works hard. He cares about his players."

Melvin was fired one day after Seattle ended its worst season in 12 years with 99 losses. He got the news during what was described as a congenial meeting, where Bavasi said tears were shed but disclosed little more.

Melvin, who led the Mariners to a 93-69 record in 2003 after Lou Piniella left for Tampa Bay, wasn't available for comment.

When Bavasi addressed the media later, he praised Melvin for his hard work and commitment to players. But he left reporters puzzled because he wouldn't say why the move was necessary.

Bavasi said the decision "crystalized in my mind" over the past five or six days, and that team chairman Howard Lincoln and president Chuck Armstrong supported the move.

Bavasi said he'd even called another undisclosed team to suggest Melvin for that organization's managerial vacancy.

"To the untrained eye, I'm talking out of both sides of my mouth," Bavasi said. "We just let him go, but I'm recommending him. In this crazy business, that fits because he will do things differently the second time. He had some bad luck here."

Bavasi had no timetable for hiring a successor, nor would he say what the front office wants in the next manager. He refused to discuss names, saying only that he hopes to work quickly.

"We'll probably target somebody, go after them, and go from there," he said.

Potential candidates include Angels bench coach Joe Maddon, who was in Anaheim when Bavasi was general manager there. Maddon handled the team for the final 29 games in 1999 after Terry Collins resigned.

The Mariners quietly hired Jimy Williams to evaluate their minor league system after he was fired by Houston this season. He was among the candidates interviewed when Collins got the Angels' job in 1997.

"You can't cross anybody off the list," Bavasi said.

The front office also told hitting coach Paul Molitor, bench coach Rene Lachemann, first base coach Mike Aldrete, third base coach Dave Myers and bullpen coach Orlando Gomez that they are free to pursue other jobs.

Each had a contract that expires Oct. 31.

The exception was pitching coach Bryan Price, who is under contract with the Mariners through 2005. Bavasi said Price indicated he will return, provided the new manager wants him back.

Melvin was fired despite the team's decision in May to exercise its contract option for the 2005 season. At the time, Seattle was 9-16.

"We felt it was the right thing to do for Bob at the time," Bavasi said. "These jobs have so little security. In the grand scheme, a little financial security going forward was the right thing."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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