A's in better shape with Melvin at helm
Sharp baseball mind offers fresh perspective to struggling team
The Oakland Athletics have acted wisely and well by naming Bob Melvin as their interim manager for the remainder of the 2011 season. They should have named him manager instead of interim manager, but at least he represents a long stride in the right direction.
Melvin replaces Bob Geren. This is a certain step up for the A's. Even attempting to draw a comparison between these two could be misleading. Melvin is one of the game's brightest and best. He was in the running for several managerial jobs last winter, and by all rights, probably shouldn't have been available for the A's at this moment. But it was their good fortune that he was.
A very real high point of Melvin's managerial career was the 2007 season with the Arizona Diamondbacks. With a team that was offensively challenged, and was actually outscored over the course of the season, Melvin produced a 90-72 record and a National League West title. The D-backs advanced to the NL Championship Series in the postseason and Melvin was deservedly named NL Manager of the Year.
But Melvin had established his credentials in the game before that. He had been a bench coach for the World Series champion D-backs in 2001. Arizona's then-manager, Bob Brenly, always gave Melvin credit for his organizational ability and diligence with detail that helped put in place the foundation for the team's success.
Melvin, 49, has a wide variety of baseball experience that he can draw upon. A former Major League catcher, he also managed the Mariners for two years. In addition to coaching for the D-backs, he was a bench coach with Milwaukee and Detroit. He has also spent time as a scout, a roving Minor League instructor, a special assistant to the general manager, and most recently with the D-backs, a special advisor to the team president.
He will take over a team that is last in the AL West at 27-36, coming to that point with a nine-game losing streak. Geren had been under recent criticism from current and former players regarding his managerial approach. It was widely thought that one of Geren's largest virtues in terms of holding the A's managing job for four-plus seasons was his close friendship with general manager Billy Beane.
Beane, by definition, has put an end to that line of argument by dismissing Geren and hiring Melvin. The current Oakland team, through Wednesday night's game, led the American League in team ERA, but was last in the league in runs scored.
It is a difficult but not impossible competitive situation for the Athletics. Two of the other AL West teams -- the Angels and the Mariners -- have had a similar overall pattern this season, with strong enough pitching, but struggling offenses. The defending AL champion Rangers pose a major problem for everybody else, particularly now that 2010 AL MVP Josh Hamilton has returned to the lineup.
But the A's ought to be better than 27-36 and in last place in their division. It will be Melvin's task to make that improvement a reality instead of a theory. Based on his track record, there are some things that can be taken as certainties: He will evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of his roster with complete objectivity and honesty. And he will spare no effort to find the methods to maximize the talent on hand.
In Bob Melvin, the Oakland Athletics have a highly organized, highly intelligent and highly competitive individual. Some people miss that last part, because Melvin is much more understated than showy in his public demeanor. But he's the right man for a Major League managing job, and the Oakland franchise just improved itself by bringing him on board.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.