Melvin signs three-year deal to stay with A's
Bay Area native embraces opportunity to return home
OAKLAND -- The A's managerial job perhaps isn't the most admired, or the most desired, given its place in a desolate stadium that houses a small-market team that hasn't reached the playoffs since 2006.
But amid those very imperfections, Bob Melvin has found in fewer than four months that the role suits him rather perfectly, so much so that he's agreed to uphold it through the 2014 season -- a promise solidified by way of a three-year contract the A's awarded their manager on Wednesday.
For it was always and only ever about the relationships, the traditions and the history for Melvin, whose journey back to Oakland -- first initiated on June 9 in an interim role when Bob Geren was dismissed -- represents something of a full-circle transition. He's a Bay Area native who went to the University of California and cheered on the A's and Giants -- "I was a front-runner is what I was," Melvin playfully joked -- before ultimately donning a Giants uniform for a short while in his 10 big league seasons.
"I always hoped it would come full circle back here," said Melvin, with his daughter, Alexi, sitting in the front row of the news conference. "It's something you think about as a kid. The opportunity to do this, in a transient business to begin with, to be able to come home and do it in this fashion, it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
Melvin's presence does not mark a new beginning, but rather a continuation of what he's employed since arriving. Mired in a nine-game losing streak at the time, the A's went on to win seven of their next 10 games and are 42-50 under Melvin, including a 30-33 record after the All-Star break.
"Oakland deserves a manager like this," pitcher Gio Gonzalez said. "He's brought some good vibes, some great coaching with him. This is something we definitely wanted. He helped change things around in the second half. We looked like a different ballclub. We're showing signs of improvement every time we go out there, and I think he leads us to where we want to go."
Melvin isn't so much interested in looking at the future as he is about focusing on the here and now, promptly noting the next item on his to-do list is "winning the remaining games that we have right now." General manager Billy Beane, though, made it clear that his new manager will be involved in every decision-making process the organization decides to undertake this offseason, which will include several free-agent decisions.
"I talk to him more times in a day than I talk to my wife," Beane joked. "It's really a real stimulating relationship. Bob's got a lot to offer, and one of the things that I really appreciate is he's got great ideas. I've been really amazed at how seamless not only our professional relationship, but our personal relationship, has grown as well. We agree on a lot of things and I think we have an idea of what it takes to put together a good club going forward, so Bob's a part of every discussion we have."
Oakland is Melvin's third big league managerial job and second in the American League West. He led Seattle to a 156-168 record from 2003-04 before spending four seasons in Arizona, where he earned National League Manager of the Year honors in 2007 after guiding the D-backs to an NL West title.
Those experiences, his players maintain, only add to the respect they've garnered for him in the past few months. Moreover, they say he's a fierce competitor regardless of record and his preparation is unmatched -- "No one beats him to the ballpark," Andrew Bailey said -- and his coaching style very much likable.
"He'll let you go out there and compete," Gonzalez said. "If he sees signs of weakness, he's not going to pull you off the hill. He's going to constantly make you work and give you the chance to show your ability."
"When you talk to opposing players that have had him, you hear he's a great guy and you're gonna love him," Josh Willingham said. "And I think, having experienced over half a season with him, you know he's behind you 100 percent, and he puts his players in a position to succeed."
Such a notion is exemplified through several players, including Jemile Weeks and Brandon Allen. Melvin has yet to let up on the rookies, whom he insists on playing through struggles in an effort to showcase true grit and character. Even the veterans have benefited greatly, as Melvin insisted from his first day that Hideki Matsui would be the club's everyday designated hitter. That wasn't the case when his predecessor was running the show, as Geren handed Matsui just nine starts against left-handed hurlers.
Essentially, Melvin is a stabilizer, a trait desperately needed back in June during what Beane at different points on Wednesday called "a very challenging situation" and a "chaotic time." Though the A's never turned out to be the contending club it was etched out to be in the winter -- mostly because of injuries and underachieving performances -- Melvin at the very least has steadied a lineup and bullpen once victims of a lack of communication and undefined roles that before weren't so distinct.
"Bob's a great fit," catcher Kurt Suzuki said. "I think he brings a winning attitude, a lot of energy to the team, and being a young ballclub, you need that. He's a great communicator, a great teacher, and a great motivator, and I think when you combine that with our youthfulness, you have a good combination."
"He brings a great sense of confidence to us, and I think he's able to get everyone to play at their highest potential," Bailey said. "With a full offseason of him getting to know the organization better and with Spring Training, I'm excited to see what he has to offer."
Melvin's permanent title lends him a dose of relief, knowing he can move forward without having to qualify himself with each question related to the future, as he was having to do prior to Wednesday -- and it just so happens to be one he's hoped for since departing his last managerial job, even if he didn't know it at the time.
"I went through a number of interviews and from what I understand came in second a few times," he said. "I had several last year and the year before so I always remained optimistic. You don't want to fall into the trap of if you don't make it through an interview then you're headed in the wrong direction.
"The New York interview, the Mets one was the last one I had, and I was really looking forward to the potential, having had a place in New York and living part of the year there. But then this came open it was like, 'Oh, this is why all that didn't go as well and why I didn't come out on top in New York or wherever it was.' I felt like this happened for a reason."