Melvin poised to resurrect 'that feeling' next season

Melvin poised to resurrect 'that feeling' next season
November 14, 2012, 10:57 pm
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PROGRAMMING NOTE: The Final Cut: 2012 Oakland A's, the story of Oaklands incredible 2012 season, debuts Wednesday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California!

OAKLAND -- Tony La Russa described it simply as "the feeling." It's the state of an MLB clubhouse that won't be defeated, that believes -- knows -- they will pull out a win when they need it no matter the odds.

As the 2012 MLB season wound to a close, Bob Melvin -- who joined La Russa as the only A's skippers to garner Manager of the Year honors -- had his Oakland Athletics playing with "the feeling."

NEWS: Melvin named 2012 AL Manager of the Year

The A's became the first team ever to claim a division title after trailing by five games with nine to play. With his team seemingly peaking at the right time, the Game 5 ALDS loss that ended Oakland's season was a shocker to the manager.

"We really didn't think the season would end on that particular day," Melvin said. "It ended way too soon for us."

The 2013 campaign is just a few months around the corner, and Melvin still has two years remaining on his three-year contract to re-kindle that feeling in Oakland.

The front office team that employs Melvin -- Billy Beane (general manager), David Forst (assistant general manager), Farhan Zaidi (director of baseball operations) and Dan Feinstein (director of professional scoutingbaseball development) -- is plenty pleased with the decision to hire Melvin, and extend him through 2014.

"Bringing him in about a year and a half ago was the best decision we've made for this organization in a long time," Forst stated confidently.

It's an easy angle to take in the aftermath of the A's 2012 season. But things looked bleak when Melvin took over for Bob Geren in June of 2011. The A's were 27-36 and on target for their fifth year without a winning season.

"This is going to be quite a challenge," Melvin recalled thinking. He didn't hold that sentiment long, though. "Within a couple weeks I really felt like I belonged."

But belonging and succeeding are two entirely different beasts. Melvin entered the All-Star break of his first full season in Oakland with a 43-43 record -- impressive considering the preseason expectations, but still a distant nine games from the AL West-leading Rangers.

The road ahead didn't look any easier as the A's eyed a second-half schedule that opened with the Twins, Rangers and Yankees in succession.

That's when it all changed.

Oakland swept the Twins in Minnesota, scoring 24 runs on nine home runs in the three-game series that set the tone for a monster second half. They went 8-1 against the perennial playoff contenders, giving them every indication that if they stayed hot, playoffs were not out of the question.

"That's when the power started to show up across the board," Melvin said. "We felt like we were a different team. We knew we could hold you down, we just weren't sure if we could score enough.

"When we left, I went, 'Hey, something is going on here.'"

The A's showed time and time again that they could score enough, and something was going on in Oakland. Down the stretch, it didn't seem to matter who was at the plate; from Stephen Drew to George Kottaras, they were getting the job done.

Nobody hit like the A's after the All-Star break. They led the majors with 112 home runs and 394 runs scored.

Highlighting his faith in the front office decisions, Melvin said that he stopped bothering to argue with the brain trust over personnel choices.

"By the end of the season," Melvin joked, "I was like, 'Alright, whoever. Just tell me who we got. We'll bring 'em in and make it work.'"

It seemed like a disengaged message from a man who, minutes earlier, explained that the organization had a plan for everything. But that's what made Melvin so effective. He was able to focus all his attention on his lone goal as manager.

"We just played for the day," Melvin said.

The day-by-day approach is made easier when you have your dream job. Melvin, a Bay Area native who has attended his fair share of games at the Coliseum, said he still gets "that feeling" every time he dons the Green and Gold.

Oakland Phenomenon:

On the day he was personally recognized as the best manager in the American League, it was his team's influence on the local culture that afforded Bob Melvin his most fulfilling moment.

"I'm most proud of what we did to invigorate the city," Melvin said.

As the A's bee-lined for the AL West title, the Coliseum rocked.

RATTO: Award validates Melvin's exemplary work

Recalling what stood out in a plenty-memorable season, Melvin couldn't get past the fans Oct. 11 reaction after the magical run finally dead ended in the ALDS.

"The fans giving us a curtain call -- they wouldn't leave," Melvin recalled. "I don't think I've ever seen that before. Detroit's trying to celebrate on the field and they're looking around like, 'What the heck is going on here, you guys are supposed to be leaving in a bad mood.' And it wasn't the case. It was pretty celebratory.

"One of the things that was -- for me -- the most special of all of this was that we really did re-energize an area."

With ownership hesitant to invest in Oakland, A's fans have grown a reputation in the league for not showing up. But down the stretch, local and opposing players couldn't help but respect the chaos of a lit-up Coliseum. With two more years on Melvin's contract, the A's boy-band popularity could quite easily return.

"When you get a full house here, it is electric," Melvin said. "There wasn't a ballpark that we played in this year that was louder than our ballpark at the end of the season."

Two Leagues? No Problem:

When Melvin and Davey Johnson were named 2012 Managers of the Year, they immediately accounted for 33 percent of the individuals who accomplished the feat in both American and National Leagues.

"I think that was probably the one thing that was most special about winning the individual award, being able to do it in both leagues."

Melvin always thought managing in the NL was more difficult, but acknowledged the decision of when to pull a starter is more pivotal in the AL.

"I would hate to get stereotyped as a guy who couldn't manager in one league or the other," Melvin said.

His inclusion on this list pretty much guarantees he won't:

Tony La Russa-- CHW, OAK, STL
Bobby Cox-- TOR, ATL
Lou Piniella -- SEA, CHC
Jim Leyland -- PIT, DET
Davey Johnson -- BAL, WSH
Bob Melvin -- ARI, OAK

"Honored":

If you thought Bob Melvin was sleeping when he was named AL Manager of the Year Tuesday on MLB Network, you were wrong. He certainly wasn't comfortable, either.

"I was in a little tiny room," Melvin said. "I was about as claustrophobic as I could be. I think toward the end I just wanted to get out of the room.

"I didn't care who won."

For fans who waited through multiple commercial breaks to see the winner announced, Melvin said he had no indication of when he was on camera, and acknowledged that he assumed he wasn't when his opponent Buck Showalter was talking. He was.

"The lead in probably is a bit much," Melvin said of the production. "But it really validated the type of the season that we had. (These awards) are more about the organization than anything."