9 Reasons Bob Melvin Is the Key to the Oakland Athletics' Success
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The team is talented, but Melvin pulled the right strings at the right times throughout the 2012 season. With the first base platoon returning and five outfielders for four spots, he'll have to hope his magic touch hasn't waned.
Take comfort, A's fans.
There's a reason Melvin is a two-time Manager of the Year winner. After nine years of coaching in Major League Baseball, he holds a .502 winning percentage. Furthermore, he's managed teams to 90 or more wins three times, including in his first full year as Oakland's manager.
In 2012, he did it with low expectations. Now he'll have plenty—from fans and management.
The roster hasn't seen much turnover in the offseason, so Melvin will face similar challenges. However, this time he'll be more accustomed to the pieces he's playing with.
These are the nine reasons Melvin holds the keys to the green and gold machine.
You might find that most are no-brainers. Nearly all of these reasons should be written in a manager's job description. But with a team this young, the role becomes that much more important for success.
He Created the First Base Platoon
Carter (left) currently splits time with Moss (right).
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Splitting time, Brandon Moss hit .291 with 21 home runs and 52 RBI. Chris Carter hit .231, but still knocked in 39 RBI and put 16 home runs on his stat sheet.
Melvin played them perfectly.
Carter started well in June and leveled off in July. Moss started slow in June, but began warming up the following month.
Then Carter earned the majority of the at-bats in August before slumping badly (.148 in September and October). Moss, however, picked his teammate up, hitting .369 in the final six weeks of the season.
If nothing between the two men changes, Melvin will have to run the platoon option all over again. If one wildly outplays the other, his decision becomes easier.
Either way, it's up to BoMel to figure out who's hot and who's not.
He Can Personally Mentor Derek Norris
Manager and catcher embrace after a win.
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Shortly after the A's called Derek Norris up, they traded their former starter, Kurt Suzuki, to the Washington Nationals.
They obtained George Kottaras. Kottaras and Norris split time the rest of 2012.
Suzuki is gone. Kottaras is gone. Jaso is brand new to the team.
Lucky for Norris, his manager spent his playing days as a catcher. At this current juncture, there's no better and more important mentor for Norris than Bob Melvin. There's none more consistent either.
He Decides Who Plays Second Base
Have Jemile Week's talents taken a dive?
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
In 2012, the play from shortstop could have been better. Worse, the production at second was awful.
The organization acquired Stephen Drew, and Melvin successfully transitioned former shortstop incumbent Cliff Pennington to second.
The move paid dividends.
The middle infield was solid defensively, turning 12 double plays in 32 games. Both Drew and Pennington's batting average rose, even if ever so slightly.
In 2013, Melvin has no Drew, and he has no Pennington.
He also has three candidates for second base.
Scott Sizemore has the most big-league experience, but he missed all of 2013 with an injured knee. Jemile Weeks played fantastically in his rookie debut (.303 average), but earned a demotion to Triple-A last season.
Grant Green is yet another option. The prospect has played many positions in the minors, but according to Casey Pratt of CSN Bay Area, the A's had him focus on second base last year.
One guy transitioned from second to third and now back to second. Another has spiraled downward. The third hasn't played in the big leagues yet.
No matter who earns the job, Bob Melvin is going to have to keep a close eye on the winner.
He Can Smooth Nakajima's Transition
The A's introduce a new shortstop.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
There's always a risk when bringing in foreign talent.
New Oakland Athletics shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima hopes to find immediate success in Major League Baseball. His consistency for hitting near or over .300 with the Seibu Lions in Japan is encouraging.
Still, questions of whether his talents can translate linger.
According to Ben Leven of RantSports.com, Bob Melvin is confident:
I’ve had Japanese players before; it’s not a challenge to get them to work…I have heard that he’s a very hard-working kid. There’s more to playing over here than just getting to know his teammates, the coaches and the manager. There’s a pretty sharp learning curve in spring training, but he’s got the background for it.
It's up to the player to put in the work, but it's up to the manager to get the best out of his guys.
Melvin must offer solutions for struggles and qualm the stress of making the leap to MLB. It's up to him to set Nakajima up for maximum success.
Effectively Rotate Five Guys in Four Spots
Gomes and Smith get a shot to play some defense in the same game.
Greg Fiume/Getty Images
This reason will be one of the most important and likely the challenge a majority focus on: finding room for five outfielders.
Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick manned the outfield in 2012. Seth Smith and Jonny Gomes split time at DH. The pair also filled in at left field.
Exit Gomes. Insert Chris Young.
There's just one major difference: Gomes has never really been a full-time player, whereas Young has been. Gomes split time, and he never complained. But even he has recently voiced a desire to play full-time.
If a guy who averages 110 games played per season wants to play everyday, imagine telling the guy who averages 140 per year he'll be playing less.
Luckily, that job belongs to Bob Melvin.
There are a ton of questions pertaining to the Oakland outfield. Who sits most? Do you really split time equally with an offensive weapon like Cespedes and a defensive wonder like Reddick? Will sitting Crisp or Young hurt their psyche?
Melvin will find out soon enough. More so, he'll need to be ready with adjustments.
BoMel owns the crucial job of keeping all five of these men happy.
Successful Bullpen Management
Closer Grant Balfour lost his job then earned it back.
Jason O. Watson/Getty Images
The Oakland Athletics bullpen has seen its fair share of ups and downs in the past few years.
In 2011, many scrutinized then-manager Bob Geren for his bullpen management. This last season, the bullpen came with plenty of drama.
The shenanigans included Grant Balfour losing his closer role. The job went to Brian Fuentes, until of course he was designated for assignment. The job eventually landed at the feet of All-Star Ryan Cook.
And then he too lost the job.
Naturally, of all the craziness that could possibly take place, the job went back to Balfour. The Australian-born reliever thrived, increasing his strikeout-to-walk ratio from 1.78 to 4.00. He struck out more, he walked less, he allowed fewer home runs and he earned 17 saves in the second half (seven in the first half).
So just how was Balfour able to keep his cool and re-find success?
Easy answer: Bob Melvin.
Balfour joined 95.7 The Game to describe what makes Melvin such a great manager:
He's just a guy that allows everyone to play the game. He keeps the clubhouse loose. You're not feeling like your job is on the line everyday. He helps [young guys] believe in the team and what they're capable of and allows them to go out there and do their thing. He sets a good example. He's a great guy to be around.
Interesting take for a guy who actually did lose his job at one point. Clearly, though, Melvin knows how to calm the storm and keep everyone on board. He's what is called a "player's coach."
Hopefully during next season there won't be as many headaches to deal with, but Melvin has the experience to handle them.
Know When to Pull or Skip the Young Rotation Arms
The skipper removes AJ Griffin from a game.
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The fact that the Oakland A's won 94 games with rookies Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily is uncanny.
All four men seem poised to develop their talents more as they mature too.
But because of their youth, it could be tricky.
Will his young pitchers be overwhelmed with higher expectations to produce better results in 2013? Will there be a stall in energy entering 2013 after such a thrilling finish to 2012? Were any of them simply flukes?
There's always cases of trying too hard.
Yet again, it becomes all the more important for Bob Melvin to display his "Manager of the Year" talents. He'll need to be able to spot pitcher fatigue or slumps early—earlier than anyone else. He will need to make the gutsy call that occasionally yanks a starting pitcher out of the game before the fifth inning, or worse, skips him all together.
Melvin Keeps His Team Focused
What manager still plays "fungo" with his players?
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
When the A's were 13 games behind the Texas Rangers nearing the midway point of the season, one man kept his cool.
The starting catcher was traded, the ace was lost for season due to injury and the next pitcher in line was busted for a banned substance. Still, one guy feared not.
Battling the hurt feelings of Coco Crisp losing center field or Grant Balfour losing the closing role, Melvin found a way to keep them bought in. When injuries claimed Yoenis Cespedes and Brandon Inge, Melvin had a plan.
And when the A's found themselves in contention for a postseason berth and the AL West crown, it was Melvin who kept them grounded.
Jarrod Parker had this to say about his manager: "The belief he instilled in us from the first day of Spring Training throughout the season was a key factor in the year we had as a team."
The Melvin way is to "play for the day."
Scouting, Research and Knowing the Opposition
The look of determination as he scouts his opponent.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
The A's have over a dozen players on their active roster who have just one year (or less) of experience in the bigs.
Pitchers like Tommy Milone and A.J. Griffin don't have a whole lot of experience to go by when pitching to top-notch players such as Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. Likewise, Yoenis Cespedes, Hiroyuki Nakajima and Josh Reddick have little (or no) experience against major league aces.
Manager Bob Melvin needs to know which lineups to use, which pitchers to throw and for how long and what plays to call in certain situations.
To put his young players in the best situation to succeed, he needs to prepare them as best he can.
It's no different than a teacher preparing his or her students. Provide the information and teach the process and they're more likely to succeed when it comes to being tested. It's the same as a manager setting up her or his employees to thrive. Supply them with the tools and up-to-date practices and they will hypothetically perform at a more effective rate.
Major league managing. It's part knowledge, part luck. There's tons of strategy and a bit of babysitting involved. A big league manager wears many hats.
It seems like a daunting task.
Fortunately, the Oakland Athletics have a two-time Manager of the Year driving their bus. If he drives the same course, the destination should be the same.