Melvin Fired

Bob Melvin's two-year reign as manager of the Seattle Mariners came to an end Monday morning, as the Mariners announced his dismissal at a press conference at Safeco Field.

The firing of Melvin was all but a forgone conclusion, coming less than 24 hours after Seattle wrapped up its 2004 season with an abysmal 63-99 record.

"We felt it was the right thing to do for Bob at the time, for him and for the club," said Bill Bavasi, the Mariners general manager. "These jobs have so little security, that in the grand scheme of things to provide a little security was the right thing to do.

"I think he had an idea (he was going to get fired). He said he did. It didn't make it any easier for him though.

Bavasi said the decision to fire Melvin and make a change crystalized in his mind "five or six days ago."

Melvin, who guided the Mariners to a 93-69 record as a rookie manager in 2003, was notified of the decision by Bavasi during a closed door meeting early Monday morning.

Bavasi, who replaced Pat Gillick as Seattle's GM last offseason, midway through Melvin's tenure in Seattle, was the only team representative made available to the media at the press conference, and while admitting that there were "reasons" for Melvin's firing, he refrained from mentioning any by name to keep them confidential between he and Melvin. Bavasi added that it would be up to Melvin to address those reasons, if and when he wanted them to become public knowledge.

Melvin's option year of his contract was picked up on May 4 as a vote of confidence during the team's lackluster start, and will be owed $650,000 by Seattle next season.

For the time being, the next step for the Mariners becomes finding a new skipper who can guide the team into the future.

"We'll put together a search as exhaustive as we can," said Bavasi, adding that salary will not be a factor in the decision. "I'm not going to give a timetable.

"There will probably be less interviews than some clubs have done in the past. We will probably target somebody, go after them and go from there. We're going to target as many people as we think are good fits for here."

One issue the Mariners will run into is attempting to find a new manager before free agents are available to sign on the dotted line with clubs around the league. That happens 15 days after the completion of the World Series, which means it's still over a month away.

The Mariners will have $25-30 million to spend on free agents, and with big names such as Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Troy Glaus, Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson on the market they won't have the luxury to wait for guys to fall into their laps.

"We hope that we would move fast enough that we'd have a manager in place before we get too active (in free agency), but if we don't we won't let that stop us," said Bavasi. "The veterans we are going to go after are by and large the guys that can helps us in 2005 and in 06 and 07."

So in the coming days, the hunt will begin for Melvin's replacement. Unwilling to give too much away when it comes to the Mariners' search for their next manager, Bavasi said, "We're not looking for a mute, but we're not looking for somebody who is just going to raise hell."

That leaves the candidate list open to just about anybody, save for Larry Bowa.

"It's a real big deal," said Bavasi. "I don't know when you hire a manager and it's not a big deal."

In other news, the Mariners also announced Monday they have granted the rest of the coaching staff - except for pitching coach Bryan Price - the ability to talk to other teams. Price is under contract through 2005, and according to Bavasi would like to return as long as the new manager wants him on the staff. The GM added that the only way the M's would allow Price to talk to negotiate with another team would be if Melvin gets hired as a manager elsewhere and wants to bring him aboard.

"He and Bob were real close, and if Bob got a managing job and wanted him to talk to him, we might let him talk to him," said Bavasi, emphasizing the word "might."

All this on the first day of the offseason. The good stuff lies ahead.

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