Mark Melancon

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Mark David Melancon

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Biographical Information[edit]

Mark Melancon was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 9th round of the 2006 amateur draft. He was signed by scout Andy Stankiewicz for $600,000. After 2 weeks with the Staten Island Yankees, Melancon had Tommy John surgery and missed 2007.

The Boston Red Sox acquired Melancon in a trade with the Houston Astros before the 2012 season, as they completely revamped their bullpen that off-season. When a late spring training injury sidelined presumptive closer Andrew Bailey, he had a chance to step into the breach, but had a nightmarish time instead. On April 5th, he gave up a 9th-inning run to the Detroit Tigers while getting only one out to be charged with the loss on opening day. In his second outing on April 8th, he gave up 3 runs in two-thirds of an inning in the 11th and was charged with both a blown save and a loss against those same Tigers. He gave up another run in an inning of work in a blow-out win over the Tampa Bay Rays on April 13th, then on April 17th, the roof caved in completely as he allowed 6 runs to the Texas Rangers without recording a single out in an 18-3 beatdown. That put his ERA for the year at an ungodly 49.50 and he was sent down to the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox after the game to right himself. He recovered somewhat, eventually pitching 41 games for the Sox, with a record of 0-2, 6.20 and 1 save. At Pawtucket, he had no record, but 11 saves and a minute 0.83 ERA in 21 games. However, it was clear that his future was not in Boston, and on December 26th, he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates along with Ivan DeJesus Jr., Stolmy Pimentel and Jerry Sands in return for Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt.

Melancon underwent a career renaissance with the Pirates in 2013, being used as the set-up man for closer Jason Grilli. Over his first 24 appearances, he gave up only 2 runs on 18 hits in 24 innings for an 0.75 ERA. Even more impressive, he had at that point struck out 25 batters while walking only one opponent! In his next outing on May 22nd, he picked up his first save of the year when he pitched a scoreless 9th inning following a brilliant seven-inning start by Francisco Liriano and another scoreless frame by Tony Watson to preserve the Pirates' 1-0 win over the Chicago Cubs. He was named to the All-Star team for the first time as a replacement for injured teammate Jeff Locke, a remarkable turnaround from his previous season and a rare All-Star selection for a setup man. He took over the closer's role for a time when Jason Grilli was out but began struggling with a couple blown saves after Grilli returned and Melancon resumed his setup role. He finished the season with a record of 3-2, 1.39 and 16 saves. After allowing only one regular-season home run in 2013, he was victimized by Carlos Beltran in Game 3 of the NLDS. He gave credit for his turnaround to catcher Russell Martin, who encouraged him to use his cutter more regularly, instead of relying solely on a four-seam fastball and a curve.

Melancon moved to the closer's role full-time in 2014, as Jason Grilli struggled with injuries and inconsistency and was eventually traded away. Mark made 72 appearances outr of the bullpen, with a record of 3-5, 1.90 and notched 33 saves. He gave up only 51 hits and 11 walks in 71 innings while striking out 71 batters. The Bucs returned to the postseason, and Melancon pitched a scoreless in the Wild Card Game against the San Francisco Giants, but by that point the Pirates were already losing the game and his efforts were not enough to reverse the final outcome. He got off to a very strong start in 2015 despite struggles with velocity in spring training and the first month of the season, especially after the Pirates began to hand him a lot of late-game leads starting in May. By recording his 23rd save in a 3-2 win over the Chicago White Sox on June 18th, he joined Glen Perkins of the Minnesota Twins atop the major league's leaderboard for the category. He was named to the All-Star team for the second time and set a Pirates team record by converting 35 straight save opportunities before being charged with a blown save against the Arizona Diamondbacks on August 18th. He ended the season with a league-leading 51 saves and was named the winner of the Trevor Hoffman Award given to the top reliever in the circuit.

Melancon was having another excellent season for the Pirates in 2016 as he was named to the All-Star team for the third straight year. On July 30th, he had pitched 45 games with a record of 1-1, a minute 1.51 ERA and 30 saves when he was traded to the Washington Nationals in return for Ps Felipe Rivero and Taylor Hearn. He was slated to take over as closer for Jonathan Papelbon, who had struggled badly of late. The move was a bit of a surprise, as the Pirates were still not out of the postseason race, and Mark was one of the best and most reliable performers on the team. In any case, the Nationals did not hesitate at all about who would close: Melancon got all the opportunities while Papelbon was relegated to the back of the bullpen, coming out only in lost causes, then being released on August 13th. Melancon was now "the man", who would need to get them past the first round of the postseason. In 30 games for Washington, he accumulated 17 saves to give him 47 for the season. His ERA was 1.82, putting him at 1.64 for the year. He made four scoreless appearances in the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, earning the save in Game 2, but the Nats were eliminated in five games. After the season, he became a free agent. On December 5th, he signed a four-year deal with the San Francisco Giants for $62 million.

His first appearance for the Giants on opening day, April 2, 2017, was anything but storybook. Tasked to protect a 5-4 lead against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 9th, he retired the first two batters, but then gave up four straight hits: a double to Jeff Mathis and singles to Daniel Descalso, A.J. Pollock and Chris Owings that resulted in a 6-5 loss. On May 9th, he was put on the disabled list with a sore forearm. He had 6 saves in 8 chances with a 2.35 ERA at the time, but the Giants were struggling badly, owning the worst record in the majors at the time. He ended up making just 32 appearances that year, going 1-2, 4.50 with 11 saves. In 2018, he was no longer the closer, going 1-4, 3.23 in 41 games, with just 3 saves. It was more of the same in the first half of the 2019 season, as he put up decent but unspectacular numbers for the Giants, going 4-2, 3.50 in 43 games, with 1 save. It was alright, but not worth the huge salary the Giants were paying him, especially on a team at the bottom of the NL West standings. On July 31st, he was traded to the Atlanta Braves for Tristan Beck and Dan Winkler, and there he was given more responsibilities on a team in postseason contention. He went 1-0, 3.86 in 23 games the rest of the way, notching 11 saves. The Braves won a division title and in three appearances in the Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, he was credited with a save in Game 2 and Game 3, but only after completely imploding in Game 1, on October 3rd. In that game, he came on in relief of Luke Jackson with two on and two out in the 8th, with the Braves holding on to a 3-2 lead. He gave up a game-tying single to Matt Carpenter but escaped further damage when Kolten Wong was thrown out at home. With the score now tied after the Braves failed to score in the bottom of the inning, he loaded the based on two singles and a walk after recording the first out, then gave up a two-run double to Marcell Ozuna, and, after a second out and an intentional walk, another two-run double to Wong. He was charged with the 7-6 loss.

In 2020, he returned to the Braves for the final year of his contract and had a very good season as their closer, going 2-1, 2.78 with 11 saves in 23 outings in a season shortened to 60 games by the Coronavirus pandemic. The Braves returned to the postseason, and this time he was very solid, not giving up an earned run in 7 outings totaling 6 1/3 innings while also registering a pair of saves. However, the Braves were eliminated in seven games in a tight Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, missing out on the World Series.

A free agent again after the 2020, season, he signed a contract with the San Diego Padres on February 12th for one year, joining a crowded bullpen on another team expecting to compete for the highest honors. He was designated the team's closer at the start of the season.

His last name is pronounced "Muh-LAN-son"; it is of Acadian origin (i.e. from the French-speaking areas of Canada's Maritime provinces), where it is usually spelled Melanson or Melançon, although the cedilla was presumably dropped at some point in his family's travails. After the 2013 season, he went to South Africa to conduct baseball clinics for African youth on behalf of Major League Baseball. He had had a first experience of this type a couple of years earlier when taking a cruise to New Zealand and having MLB arrange for him to conduct a baseball clinic at his request. He later served as a MLB Ambassador in China, Taiwan and Australia as well.

He is the brother-in-law of J.B. Shuck; his wife and Shuck's wife are sisters. The two are also partners in a landscaping business that Melancon runs out of his residence in Florida, along with his sister and her husband. The business grew out of a home improvement project when he installed a putting green in his backyard, and works on custom projects in the area, employing some 15 people. He says that he gets tips from groundskeepers from around major league ballparks.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 4-time NL All-Star (2013, 2015, 2016 & 2021)
  • Trevor Hoffman Award Winner (2015)
  • 2-time NL Saves Leader (2015 & 2019)
  • 30 Saves Seasons: 4 (2014-2016 & 2019)
  • 40 Saves Seasons: 2 (2015 & 2016)
  • 50 Saves Seasons: 1 (2015)
  • Won a World Series with the New York Yankees in 2009 (he did not play in the World Series)

Further Reading[edit]

  • Griffin Adams: "Mark Melancon doesn't feel pressure as Nationals closer", USA Today Sports, August 19, 2016. [1]
  • Michael Clair: "The Padres' closer has a side job: Need a putting green in your backyard? Call Mark Melancon",, April 8, 2021. [2]
  • Chris Haft: "Giants find their closer, give Melancon 4-year deal: Free agent gets $62 million to shore up SF's top need",, December 6, 2016. [3]
  • Matt Kelly: "5 reasons Melancon is in high demand",, November 23, 2016. [4]
  • Jorge L. Ortiz: "Giants reach 4-year deal with closer Mark Melancon", USA Today Sports, December 5, 2016. [5]
  • Jorge L. Ortiz: "Giants relieved to turn ninth inning over to Mark Melancon", USA Today Sports, February 14, 2017. [6]
  • Tracy Ringolsby: "Q&A: Melancon discusses ups and downs: Giants closer hasn't always had straight path in Majors",, April 22, 2017. [7]
  • Meggie Zahneis: "Melancon finds off-the-field calling a world away: Pirates closer ran baseball clinic in South Africa as part of MLB ambassadorship",, November 18, 2014. [8]

Related Sites[edit]