Has a Coach like Bob Melvin Been the Answer All Along?
With the Oakland Athletics exceeding all expectations this early in the season, except my own, and having a record of 19-19 while being only 5 games back of the AL West Hulk Smashing Texas Rangers I got to wondering, did the A’s just need a good manager? One can just look on the field and see that the team at least seems to be more cohesive then they ever were under Bob Geren. Maybe it’s been the definition of player roles or maybe it’s just been the fact that Bob Melvin is seemingly more accountable for his actions and substitutions and definitely more fiery than Bob Geren ever was.
Let’s take for instance the little tiff that involved Melvin and former closer Grant Balfour. After a couple of rough outings by Balfour in Baltimore and in Boston, Melvin made the switch and gave the closer role to veteran Brian Fuentes. Obviously Balfour was upset and let reporters know about it.
I told him I wasn’t happy about it, I was pissed off. It’s fine, whatever. He knows how I feel. I’ll just go on the field and do what I do.
Here’s the difference though, Melvin actually talked to Balfour about the move before it was made and still let him know that he would have a chance to win the role back if Fuentes struggles as the closer and that the move itself was not made on a whim.
That move alone is in stark contrast to what A’s players were seemingly accustomed to under Bob Geren aka The Best MAN-ager and was one of the reasons that lead to Geren’s firing during last season. There were rumors that Geren didn’t necessarily get along with players and it started to show when Brian Fuentes, newly acquired at the time, came out and spoke on how Geren never communicated with him his role as a closer.
There’s just a lack of communication. I don’t think anybody knows what direction (Geren) is headed
In barely under a year, all that seems to have changed with Bob Melvin. Melvin has seemed to do the impossible with a hodge podge of a roster that was thrown at him during the off-season. Instead of having proven commodities like Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill to rely on, he was handed an unproven Tommy Milone, aging Bartolo Colon, and suspect Brandon McCarthy and told to go out there to compete. Now there is no doubt that bringing back Curt Young, A’s former pitching coach, has been a great help to Melvin but Pitching is just one part of the game especially when Oakland has such a razor thin margin for error. Oh and it doesn’t hurt when the players the A’s picked up in those off-season trades are able to produce right away.
The everyday roster is where Melvin is showing his worth by continuing to play the hot hand while they’re hitting as opposed to allowing them to languish on the bench because of a pitching match up which Geren was so adept at. Melvin is also allowing many of the young players like Josh Reddick & Seth Smith the time they need to get some seasoning and build some confidence which is already paying dividends. Personally, I’m still not sold on the insistence to play Daric Barton at first base but with Kila Ka’aihue still nursing a hamstring injury it’s the best the A’s have to offer at this point. The true test for Melvin will be once Manny Ramirez and Coco Crisp are ready to play and how he will handle their reintegration back into the line up.
There are still a lot of games to play in this young season but if Melvin can get this young, inexperienced team to crack the 5-7 games over .500 mark by the All-Star break and keep the A’s within striking distance of the Rangers and one of the wild card spots then the bar might have to be significantly raised. Let’s just hope that Lew Wolff doesn’t think that Bob Melvin is doing a horrible job at managing the team and go ahead and fire him. Especially since he was the same guy who thought Bob Geren was doing such a great job as the A’s manager while they were floundering under .500 for the 5th year in a row. I’m just saying, it could happen.
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