Melvin named 2012 AL Manager of the Year

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Melvin named 2012 AL Manager of the Year

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 -- Bob Melvin was named the 2012 American League Manager of the Year Tuesday after leading the Oakland Athletics to a 94-68 record. The A's overcame a 13-game deficit to win the AL West on the final day of the season and reached the postseason for the first time since 2006.

Melvin beat out Buck Showalter for the honor. Both Melvin and Showalter appeared, in some order, in the first two slots on all of the 28 ballots.

Melvin took home 16 first-place votes and 12 second-place votes for 116 overall points. Showalter was close behind with 108 points -- 12 first-place votes and 16 second-place votes.

On June 9, 2011, the A's named Melvin their interim manager. Since that day Oakland has gone 141-120. Under Melvin's guidance the culture of the A's has changed.After shipping off All-Stars Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, and Andrew Bailey prior to the 2011 season, no one outside of the A's organization expected the team to succeed in 2012. Yet, they finished 20 games better than they did in 2011.Is it any surprise that Melvin is the American League Manager of the Year? It shouldn't be. He is just the second A's manager to win the award that was first given out in 1983 -- Tony La Russa took home the honor for the A's in 1988 and 1992. Melvin was voted the National League Manager of the Year with the Diamondbacks in 2007, and is the 13th skipper to win the award more than once, and just the fifth to win the award in each league.With Melvin at the helm, the A's overcame the seemingly insurmountable. They won the AL West after trailing by 13 games. They overcame the loss of their three best starting pitchers during the stretch run to become the first team in MLB history to win a division while trailing by five games with nine to play. They had a catcher playing third base, a shortstop playing second base, a center fielder playing left field and an outfielder playing first base.Somehow, Melvin made it all work. At times the A's roster looked like an insolvable brainteaser, but the A's manager had more answers than The Riddler. "To do what he did with a ballclub that wasn't supposed to do anything is something special," A's outfielder Josh Reddick said.
The A's offense thrived though the use of platoons at first base, second base, shortstop, DH, and catcher. They were able to do so because of Melvin's communication skills. Every player knew when he was going to be in the lineup, out of the lineup, and the reason why. After every game Melvin had his coaching staff let each player know what their role for the next day would be. He used every last player on the roster to win. He simply managed the A's to success. Melvin was communicative, had his lineups posted early every day, openly answered any and all questions asked by the media, and even donated his office microwave to the beat writers so we could heat up our food in the press box.He went above and beyond in every way imaginable.Melvin won the award over Orioles' manager Buck Showalter, who snapped a skid of 14 consecutive losing seasons in Baltimore with a 93-win season. Showalter's Orioles were one of the biggest surprises in baseball, but the A's story was more shocking. The Orioles entered 2012 with a far more talented roster than the A's that included All-Stars Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, J.J. Hardy, and Jim Johnson. The A's used 19 rookies, 12 of them were pitchers.REWIND: Melvin among three finalists
"Obviously I am biased, but all do respect, I think Buck Showalter has done a phenomenal job, I can't imagine anyone other than Bob Melvin being manager of the year," general manager Billy Beane said at the conclusion of the season. "That statement from me says it all."Beane's vote of confidence in Melvin is huge. Traditionally the A's GM has employed more passive managers. His hiring of Melvin was a departure from that strategy and it worked.It's not just the front office singing Melvin's praises. During the A's champagne celebration after winning the AL West, third baseman Josh Donaldson pulled me aside, made sure my recorder was ready and went on an impassioned rant about why Melvin deserved to be manager of the year. Melvin made that strong of an impression on the team. Every player on the A's would run through a brick wall for Melvin."If Bob Melvin doesn't win manager of the year, then baseball is ridiculous," Donaldson said after the 162nd game. "I know we don't get publicity from the East Coast, but people have to realize the job that Bob Melvin has done and what has happened in Oakland. You've got to give the man his respect."Melvin got his respect. Not that he was seeking it. The humble manager usually likes to deflect attention and he is the first to credit his players, coaches and front office for the team's success. After a remarkable 2012 season across the board in Oakland, the future appears to be brighter than ever for Melvin and the A's.

A's spring training Day 43: Shore K's Trout in surprise big league start

A's spring training Day 43: Shore K's Trout in surprise big league start

TEMPE, Ariz. — Rather than join his minor league teammates for workouts like usual, Logan Shore got word Tuesday morning he would take the ball for the A’s against the Los Angeles Angels.

A few hours later, Shore was striking out Mike Trout to highlight his impressive four-inning outing. What an experience it was for Shore, a right-hander drafted last summer in the second round out of the University of Florida.

“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “There’s not really any words to describe that.”

The A’s scratched No. 5 starter Raul Alcantara, opting to throw him in a minor league game rather than let a division opponent get another look at him for scouting-report purposes. That presented Shore with a surprise opportunity.

He responded with four innings of one-run ball, holding the Angels to two hits. The game would take an ugly turn as the A’s bullpen got lit up in a 14-3 loss. But Shore’s outing was a glimpse of what Oakland might have to look forward to with the 22-year-old. The righty didn’t come out of college with the same hype as Florida teammate A.J. Puk, who the A’s drafted sixth overall last June. But he’s thought to be more polished than Puk at this stage.

Shore went 0-2 with a 2.57 ERA in seven starts with short-season Vermont in his pro debut. This spring, he’s been grouped with high Single-A Stockton, but he hasn’t received his official regular-season assignment yet.

“That’s the kind of lineup that gets your attention a little bit,” manager Bob Melvin said. “I thought he threw the ball really well. He had great command of his fastball, a backdoor sinker, good changeup, good slider. He probably got a little bit tired at the end, but he was very impressive. That’s the first time I got to see him throw.”

Shore pitched in relief for the A’s earlier this spring as a minor league extra, so that helped him keep his nerves in check Tuesday. Still, it was a different challenge tackling what closely resembled the Angels’ regular-season lineup, which features Trout and Albert Pujols in the meat of it.

Trout struck out and flied to right against Shore. Pujols flied to right and singled.

“I grew up watching all those guys, so it’s kind of cool to get to pitch against them,” he said.

HEALTH UPDATES: Left fielder Khris Davis and third baseman Trevor Plouffe, both nursing minor injuries, won’t return to the field until the Bay Bridge Series which starts Thursday night at AT&T Park, Melvin said. Plouffe has missed the past few games with a groin injury and Davis has a right quad issue.

“We’ll just bubble wrap them right now and send them home,” Melvin cracked.

Right-hander Chris Bassitt took another step in his Tommy John recovery with a 30-pitch session that included two sets of 15 pitches, simulating two innings with a break in between.

NOTEWORTHY: The A’s play their Cactus League finale Wednesday on the road against the Cubs, but most of the game will feature minor leaguers. All of the players who are heading north to face the Giants will be leaving for the airport sometime in the latter stages of the game.

On that topic, the A’s announced the 43 players that will make up their Bay Bridge roster. It includes 30 players from the 40-man roster, six non-roster invitees and seven extras from minor league camp. Oakland officially has 36 players still in camp, with Saturday the deadline to cut down to the final 25-man roster.

ODDS AND ENDS: After Shore left the game, the Angels struck for five runs in the fifth against Liam Hendriks. … The next inning, highly touted prospect Grant Holmes gave up five runs (four earned) in two-thirds of an inning. Holmes was one of three righties acquired from the Dodgers in the Rich Hill/Josh Reddick trade. Jharel Cotton and Frankie Montas were the others.

 

Revisiting the A's top 5 questions from the start of spring

Revisiting the A's top 5 questions from the start of spring

TEMPE, Ariz. — The A’s moving truck has already left the desert, and the team will be bolting for the airport after Wednesday’s Cactus League finale.

Spring training is quickly drawing to a close, with only the three-game Bay Bridge Series remaining before the games start to count. To mark that reality, here’s a look at the five most burning questions Oakland faced back when camp started in mid-February, and what kind of answers have materialized since …

1) Does Sonny Gray return to his old self?
The A’s absorbed their first major injury blow early when Gray, their potential Opening Night starter, went down with a strained lat muscle after a March 7 start. It wasn’t exactly what the right-hander had in mind coming off a 2016 season that sent him to the disabled list twice. Encouraging news came last week when Gray was allowed to start throwing again one week ahead of schedule.

When exactly he returns is tied to how soon he gets back on the mound. He’s been playing catch out to 105 feet, but manager Bob Melvin stressed the A’s aren’t going to rush things with Gray. Until further notice, the assumption is still that Gray will miss most of April.

2) Can a ‘healthy’ outlook be sustained?
Given what you read in the above item, obviously things haven’t gotten off to a great start in this department. Jake Smolinski, a candidate to make the team as an extra outfielder, showed up to camp with a sore right shoulder and required labrum surgery. Second baseman Joey Wendle, who was ticketed for Triple-A to begin with, also has been set back by a shoulder injury. But the focus, from an injury standpoint, is on Gray. If he were to miss just the first month of the regular season, that’s an absence the A’s should be able to cover. Any longer than that, and his presence really will be missed.

After last year’s roster-wide rash of injuries, better health is the most important first step in the A’s escaping the American League West cellar.

3) Who wins the closer’s job?
Six weeks of spring training has yet to reveal an answer here. If Melvin knows who his closer is, he isn’t saying publicly. Lefty Sean Doolittle, one of the veteran anchors of the relief corps, said Melvin hasn’t discussed roles yet with the relievers themselves. Expect more news on that during the Bay Bridge Series, which runs Thursday through Saturday. Of the four assumed ninth-inning candidates — Doolittle, John Axford, Santiago Casilla and Ryan Madson — none has been lights-out in Cactus League games.

The guess here is Madson, the A’s main closer last season, gets the first crack at the role this year as well.

“I don’t even think it’s on anybody’s radar,” Doolittle said Tuesday. “That’s one of the things that makes our bullpen effective. We’re not as attached to those roles as people might think.”

4) Where does Ryon Healy fit into the puzzle?
He fits in a little at first base, a little at third base and a little at DH. What we know is that Healy’s bat will be in the lineup regularly, it’s just a matter of where. Melvin spread his time pretty evenly between all three spots. Healy responded with a terrific spring at the plate. Entering Tuesday, he ranked third in the Cactus League with 16 RBI, the most spring RBI by an Athletic since Kevin Kouzmanoff also had 16 in 2010. Healy will play first base against lefties, platooning with Yonder Alonso. He’ll spell Trevor Plouffe at third. But it stands to reason a large chunk of his time will have to come at DH.

“I think he’s handled it well,” Melvin said. “It’s not easy, especially for a younger guy that was originally a first baseman. He worked as hard as anybody last year to make himself a third baseman. Now, it’s a little bit different for him and he knew that coming into camp. I think he’s handled his time wisely, worked hard at both positions, and he knows he has to move around a little bit this year.”

5) Can the A’s get their mojo back?
If a positive clubhouse vibe plays any part in a team turning around its on-field fortunes, the A’s are off to a good start. The early indications are that newcomers Plouffe, Matt Joyce, Casilla and Rajai Davis — those latter two are in their second stints with the A’s — all add some nice leadership qualities and mesh well with the returning vets. True, you can’t really read too much in spring training, when everyone always gets along in the spirit and optimism of a new season. But the A’s do seem to have better components up and down their roster to lead to a healthier season-long chemistry.

Just as you’ve read in the past, getting off to a strong start in the standings is the most effective way to maintain that chemistry.