At 66, Melvin says he's 'open to analytics'

October 23rd, 2018

NEW YORK -- Doug Melvin says, he feels "a whole lot different" than he did in 2015. Back then, as Melvin moved on from the general manager's post in Milwaukee, he opined that "the job had just grown to a point that it's more suited for somebody who's younger than me."
On Tuesday, after completing a callback interview for the Mets' vacant GM position, the 66-year-old Melvin edited that sentiment. During a question-and-answer session with reporters that the Mets used to gauge his fitness in media relations, Melvin steered many answers toward his comfort with analytics. He did his best to paint the picture of an executive fluent in all aspects of modern baseball operations.
"I'm open to ideas," Melvin said. "I'm always open to anything new and creative. And with the technology and information that's out there today -- I'm quite familiar with launch angle and spin rate and exit velocity and all that. Everybody's got the same information. What's most important is do you have the right people to read that information, and then to implement it."
One of three remaining candidates for the Mets' GM job, Melvin is by far the oldest. Unlike Chaim Bloom, a 35-year-old with an extensive analytics background, or Brodie Van Wagenen, a 44-year-old player agent best known as a negotiator, Melvin is a scout at heart. He began his career in that role, before spending nearly 22 uninterrupted seasons as a GM in Texas and Milwaukee.
Within baseball circles, there is a stigma against older executives as untrusting of analytics at best, unversed in them at worst. Parking himself in neither category, Melvin said he hired his first analytics executive -- Dave Lawson, a former pecan farmer -- nearly a quarter century ago, and he has only deepened his knowledge since that time. In his initial interview, Melvin presented Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon and assistant GM John Ricco with a newspaper article touting his prediction of baseball's now-popular "opener" pitching strategy as far back as 2010.
"I'm very open to the analytics side," Melvin said.
The greatest new challenge for an older GM, Melvin continued, is not analytics but the growing size of baseball front offices. Teams typically employ dozens of professional, amateur and international scouts, plus analysts, medical staffers, sports psychologists and other employees. The Mets, in particular, feature a busy office, with two former GMs -- J.P. Ricciardi and Omar Minaya -- already in house. Ricco is also a longtime assistant GM, and Melvin hinted that he would likely hire additional staffers on top of that.
He would likewise keep Mickey Callaway on board after a fourth-place season, believing the first-time manager "deserves" another chance to lead the Mets to the postseason.
"If this was a team that needed to be a total rebuild," Melvin said, "I would not be here."
Of the Mets' three finalists, industry sources have opined that Melvin is likely the favorite of Mets principal owner Fred Wilpon, who prefers candidates with scouting and player development backgrounds. He also is the least likely to reject an offer, as Bloom and Van Wagenen are already in influential positions with the Rays and the Creative Artists' Agency, respectively. The Mets conducted a callback interview with Van Wagenen on Monday, and plan to do the same for Bloom on Wednesday. At that point, they may be prepared to make a final decision.
Age, Melvin implied, should not be a factor in their choice. Eager to retake control of a team's day-to-day operations, Melvin called himself a "baseball lifer" who is "energized and excited" for the challenges. He cited Pat Gillick and Andy MacPhail as longtime executives who returned to prominent roles after time away from the game.
"Maybe," he said, "Doug Melvin gets an opportunity to get back in."