"Bob Geren relieved of his managerial duties..."
These were the words I heard as I walked out of 7-11 this morning with my Rockstar drink in hand, listening to Sports Radio 95.7 through the Tune-In application on my Blackberry.
I have to admit, I didn't quite believe what I was hearing. My walk back to my car turned into a quick jog, for all of 15 feet. I turned the ignition and turned up the radio as quick as I could. The application on my phone had just gone to commercial, the lag between the internet streaming feed and the real-time radio feed should mean I would catch up with 95.7 right as they came back on the air.
The remaining 15 seconds of commercials gave me just enough time to check the Twitter feeds coming into my phone, also reporting that what I had heard was no mistake, Bob Geren had in fact been fired.
My instant reaction? Joy, relief and excitement!
I don't dislike Bob Geren, the man, at all. He's a good baseball man and an even better person from every account I hear. I felt that Geren had lost the clubhouse though, the evidence coming forth with Brian Fuentes' public criticism during the series against the Angels in Anaheim.
Once you've lost the clubhouse, there is just no coming back...
I knew that Melvin had won a Manager of the Year award while with the Diamondbacks, so I was cautiously optimistic that this just may be the type of person we need running the Athletics if the team is to turn around their season and compete.
A quick glance at Melvin's career managerial totals were less than inspiring: 493-508.
He had good seasons though with both the Mariners and Diamondbacks.
In 2003 he led the Mariners to a record of 93-69, good enough for second place.
In 2007, he led the Diamondbacks to a record of 90-72, first place in the National League West. He followed up that performance with an 82-80 finish in 2008 and a second place finish.
Given that Geren's best record with Oakland was 81-81, and it was considered underachieving, I've got to give the edge to Bob Melvin here, he proved he can lead a team to a winning season.
Next, I heard the evaluations of Melvin's managerial style.
He does not possess a commanding personality. He works closely with the front office. He likes to shuffle the lineups to hide a player's weaknesses and capitalize on matchups.
Shuffling lineups? Sounds a lot like Bob Geren, I start to worry that this is just Geren version 2.0, another puppet (as the perception of Geren has been) for the front office to pull the strings.
Maybe, just maybe, the problems aren't limited to Geren's on-field mishaps? Maybe the front office interfering with the manager's job limited Geren's abilities and the hiring of a similar manager will only yield the same results?
Still though, the phrase "hide a player's weakness" sticks with me. I start to think about it further, this is not something Bob Geren did at all. Geren seemed to expose a player's weaknesses, a la insisting to leave Daric Barton in the No. 2 hole and repeatedly sticking Brian Fuentes in non-save, tie ball games.
So now I am feeling better about this hire. I've had time to listen to Billy Beane's conference call at this point, and I start to realize that this move was very much a signal to the players and the fans that the front office has not given up on the season.
Then come the player's reactions... I don't have the direct quotes, so please understand that I am paraphrasing here (courtesy of Susan Slusser's tweets today).
Mark Ellis offered the lone strictly positive comments regarding Bob Geren. He did not try to defend Geren as a manager though, he simply emphasized that Geren is a "good man." He also stated that the players need to take accountability as well.
Andrew Bailey stated that it could provide a spark.
Former A's catcher, Rob Bowen, seemed elated about the decision to fire Geren, claiming via twitter:
"Finally the A's have realized Geren has destroyed a dozen pitcher's careers and doesn't have a clue how to manage a big league club."
Ouch, Rob, guess we know your opinion of your former manager.
A's beat reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, Susan Slusser, insinuated in a tweet directing her readers over to Bowen's twitter account that these are the type of off-record comments she has heard since Geren took over in 2007 (twitter link here).
Conor Jackson offered his full support of the decision to hire Bob Melvin, and added that Melvin is a player's manager and that communication will be no problem under Melvin.
Nothing too shocking from the players, I expected there to be a certain level of excitement from a clubhouse that had clearly lost respect for their leader. I didn't expect any of them to throw dirt on a man that was now gone, and they didn't, with the exception of Bowen that is.
Conor Jackson got me excited though.
Although Bob Geren and Bob Melvin do have similar managerial styles, Melvin's track record and reputation as a player's manager suggest he will be able to motivate this team to play for him.
He has 99 games, starting tonight, to earn an extension and remain the A's manager beyond this season.
On April 22, I wrote this in an article questioning if Bob Geren should already be in the hot seat:
I find it hard to ignore the example of the 2009 Colorado Rockies though. Rockies manager Clint Hurdle was fired with his team currently 10 games below .500. His replacement, Jim Tracy, managed to turn the team completely around to 10 games above .500 and a postseason contender.
I often find myself wondering if a different manager would be able to extract better results from the current roster (the rotation is the best in baseball, but the offense is anemic).
Clearly the front office feels that Melvin will inspire a similar turn around in Oakland, if they did not believe a turn around was possible, they would have simply promoted from within and searched for a permanent manager at the end of the season.
My excitement returned.
Billy Beane just does not come from that school of thought that the manager needs to be left alone to run the team as he sees fit. The front office wants to have their say in the lineup decisions, allegedly, and the overall team philosophy. This likely limits their ability to make a bigger splash in the middle of the season.
They could have made a bigger splash by bringing Lou Pinella out of retirement, or by offering a shot to a high profile Minor League manager such as Ryan Sandberg. They could even have gone to San Diego State University and offered the interim position to Hall of Fame outfielder, and current SDSU manager, Tony Gwynn.
Any of those moves would have created bigger headlines, but they would not necessarily have worked for this current roster.
The hiring of Bob Melvin was absolutely the best move for this franchise for the remainder of 2011 though. Melvin is a good communicator that will work with both the players and the front office.
Whether or not he turns the A's season around, at least the A's made a move.
Am I confident the A's will finish above .500 and win the AL West? No, but I am confident they will play more inspired baseball the remainder of the year.
By the way though, does anyone remember when the last time the A's replaced a manager in the middle of a season?
In 1986 Tony LaRussa took over for Jeff Newman (who took over for Jackie Moore). Just two years later the A's would begin their streak of three straight World Series appearances.
Can history repeat itself under Bob Melvin? Let's wait and see...