Wally Backman is out.
"It's obviously a mistake on our part," Principal Owner Ken Kendrick said today in the first part of a pair of press conferences at Bank One Ballpark, "I take full responsibility and I hope our fans understand that we will make mistakes, but I also hope they understand we will not repeat those mistakes."
Citing inaccuracies in the reports that had surfaced early this week, Kendrick said the club made their decision based on their own background and research checks conducted over the past two days on Backman.
Sitting along side Kendrick was General Manager Joe Garagiola Jr. who announced immediately that Bob Melvin would be the new Diamondbacks manager.
"There is no better place, for me at least, than right here as an Arizona Diamondback." Melvin said.
Melvin, who won a World Series ring with the D'Backs in 2001, says he intends to "return the Diamondbacks to their glory days."
Melvin also announced that former Diamondback Jay Bell would become Melvin's bench coach. Earlier reports had Bell being named Backman's bench coach, and Melvin spoke of having considered Bell as long ago as 2002, when Bell was still playing.
"Clearly we made our decision without all the facts," Garagiola Jr. said about the hiring, and firing, of Backman.
Melvin deflected questions about his feeling on Backman's dismissal, "Things transpire and happen for different reasons. I wasn't part of the process [of firing Backman], I was part of the interview process, and I was one of the finalists, which was an honor. I am happy to be here and am looking forward to the challenge."
Melvin was fired after the 2004 season after two years managing the Seattle
"I took a lot from my experience in Seattle. I feel good about the fact that in 2002 that team maybe overachieved, but last year was a tough year, and I learned a lot from that," he said, then smiled when asked about the opportunity in Arizona, "This job is made for me."
Kendrick acknowledged that the Diamondbacks did indeed do a background check on Melvin.
"We had made a decision and made a commitment, and [Backman] put himself on the line for us, so we wanted to give him every benefit of the doubt," Kendrick said when asked about the delay between the reports in New York Papers on Monday and the announcement today.
Kendrick claims he asked Backman if there was anything that the Diamondbacks should know, and Backman did not inform them of the past problems with the law. Jeffrey Moorad called Melvin a "Consummate professional," and "a good friend," later saying that he was "Proud to have him leading this franchise."
The Diamondbacks, who will likely not be that active in the free agent market, now might have their hands tied even more as every coach and player joining the Diamondbacks is likely to be put under the microscope. "The coaches and hires that are going to be made should restore the trust in this organization." Garagiola said. "If people continue to focus on the past we can't do anything about that. I think that is negative, and backwards."
It is unclear what effect Melvin's hiring might have on negotiations with free agent first baseman Richie Sexson or the trade rumors that swirl daily around Randy Johnson, though the more experienced Melvin would certainly be a more attractive candidate to both players than Backman, who had no prior Major League coaching experience. The fact that Melvin was the bench coach during the Diamondback's 2001 World Series campaign, a season which saw Johnson garner Cy Young, and co-MVP of the World Series honors might help convince the Big Unit to finish his career in Arizona.
Though financial terms were not disclosed General Manger Joe Garagiola Jr. said Melvin's deal is for two years, with two club options, the same as Backman's proposed deal would have been.