(Bob Melvin argues after Randy Winn is called out at the plate in a June, 2004 game. Seattle Times staff photo.)
Bob Melvin, fired as Mariners’ manager after a 99-loss season in 2004, is back in the AL West.
Oakland general manager Billy Beane today fired the best man in his wedding, Bob Geren, and named Melvin as interim manager of the A’s for the remainder of the season.
You could see this one coming — the Geren move, that is. The Melvin hiring is a bit of surprise, but he does have strong Bay Area roots, having grown up in the Palo Alto area and attended Cal-Berkeley.
The A’s, picked by many to win the AL West — heck, I picked them to win the AL pennant — have scuffled all season, and now they’re in free fall. They have lost nine games in a row to drop to the basement of the division at 27-36, eight games behind Texas. Not exactly the sort of season Beane envisioned in the same year that the “Moneyball” movie will be released in September, featuring Brad Pitt as the mad genius Beane. (I’m still waiting for the Mariners’ movie, by the way).
The beginning of the end for Geren came last week when Brian Fuentes ripped his handling of the bullpen, and Huston Street chimed in from Denver, telling Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle about Geren: “For me personally, he was my least favorite person I have ever encountered in sports from age 6 to 27. I am very thankful to be in a place where I can trust my manager.”
Tell us how you really feel, Huston.
What did in the A’s more than anything was an anemic offense that produced just 223 runs, fewest in the American League and six less than the Mariners despite playing one more game.
As for Melvin, I’m glad to see him get another chance, because he never really got a fair shake in Seattle. Inheriting a veteran team that was just two years removed from 116 wins, he guided them to a 93-win season in 2003 after replacing Lou Piniella. And when veterans like John Olerud, Dan Wilson, Edgar Martinez and Bret Boone went into inevitable decline, and saddled with non-producing veterans like Scott Spiezio and Rich Aurilia, Melvin paid the price when the M’s plummeted to the basement in 2004. Much like Don Wakamatsu after him, Melvin had one good year and then went down with the ship when given a bad team to try to do the impossible with.
Melvin went on to have greater success with Arizona, sneaking unexpectedly into the job in 2005 when Wally Backman was forced to resign four days after being hired. Melvin made the most of the chance, winning an NL West division title in 2007 and taking the Diamondbacks to the NLCS before being swept by the Rockies. Melvin was the National League manager of the year.
Barely a year later, following an 82-80 record in 2008, the Diamondbacks fired Melvin on May 8, 2009, replacing him with A.J. Hinch,. It was another quick hook, considering the D-Backs were 12-17 when Melvin was fired and went on to go 58-75 for Hinch. Bryan Price, whom Melvin brought over with him from Seattle to be Arizona’s pitching coach, resigned in sympathy when Melvin was fired.
Melvin went on to work as an advisor in the Mets organization and was up for a couple of job that he didn’t get, most notably Milwaukee and the Mets.
The A’s job is interim, but it’s there for him to earn. The A’s have had some pitching injuries and some under-achieving performances on offense, but I still believe they’re a lot better than they’ve shown. If they take off under Melvin, I suspect we’ll see him in green and gold beyond this year.