Why Showalter will win AL Manager of Year over Melvin


Why Showalter will win AL Manager of Year over Melvin

Bob Melvin cringes when it is suggested that he might be American League Manager of the Year. For one, he doesnt want to get ahead of his skis, and for two, he doesnt want to get ahead of the organizations skis.

And for three, its September 2 -- 31 days and 29 games before the ballots have to be in.

But theres a fourth reason why his cringing might be well-founded. Hes not the likeliest candidate.

That would be William Nathaniel Showalter, who clearly changed his popular name to Buck for good reason, and who is actually doing the same job in Baltimore, in a tougher division with dramatically worse pitching.

Melvin has been superb mixing, matching, spackling and reattaching names and faces on a day-to-day basis, turning the As into the most charming story of the baseball season. The players have earned their pie-faced due to be sure, even if none of them will end up winning any personal awards either, but well get to them in due time.

But Melvin wont win, not because he hasnt done enough to do so, but because his job turned out not to be as hard as we all thought it was.

(For the same reason, Bruce Bochy will finish behind Davey Johnson, Dusty Baker and maybe even Fredi Gonzalez in the National League, so if you want to just change names throughout the text for reasons of National League smugness, be our guest. We are, after all, interactive in every way).

None of this is Melvins fault, mind you. He has a clubhouse full of players performing well, either for him or because of him but certainly not despite him. He has done a MOTY year by any standard.

But he isnt the only one, and if you asked any manager whether he would rather try to win with a team that allows 3.7 runs per game or 4.5, hed happily take Option A.

Therein lies the difference. Melvin has a much better pitching staff than anyone thought hed have, and the fact that pitching coach Curt Young has made the young ones men well before most folks thought doesnt detract from that.

Showalter is winning with a starting rotation that is dramatically worse, a bench that hasnt been as productive, largely equivalent hitting across the boards, and in a division with two other formidable teams rather than one.

And given the superficial nature of peoples understanding of managers and how they do what they do and under what pressures, numbers are going to make the difference.

Which is why Showalter will ultimately win. Theres something about a 120-run differential discrepancy that tends to get a voters eye.

This does not diminish Melvin in any way, though. For one, he could always win a bowling trophy if he has a space on the mantle.

But more to the point, his work demonstrates that on the matter of a managers importance, Billy Beane has been too bearish an investor.

Beane struggled to see the benefits of Art Howe, struggled even more with Ken Macha, and spent more time protecting Bob Geren than getting production from him. But he gets credit for rethinking his position on the position, because Melvin was not a hire he would have considered in an earlier time in his career. Melvin was less willing to hold his tongue in meetings, and Beane was less willing to let him wag it.

In short, Melvin has been the ideal fit for this team, whether it had won 70 (as predicted by most), 80 (the best-case scenario by the most charitable), 90 (a pipe dream) or more (a Mendocino County pipe dream).

He just isnt likely to win the little trophy that tells other people what we already know. And sometimes, thats just the way the ball lies.

A's coach plays part in Schwarber's World Series comeback

A's coach plays part in Schwarber's World Series comeback

Ryan Christenson has a reason to follow the World Series even more so than most years.

Christenson, who manages the A’s Double-A Midland squad, is also skippering the Mesa Solar Sox of the Arizona Fall League. One of his players happened to be Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber, if only for the briefest of periods.

Schwarber, as is well-documented, played in two AFL games as a quick tune-up before joining the Cubs’ active roster for the Fall Classic. It’s an unprecedented path, as Schwarber hadn’t appeared in a game for Chicago since April 7, when he tore the anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments in his left knee.

When he crushed a double off the right field wall in Game 1 against the Indians’ Corey Kluber, Schwarber became the first position player in major league history to get a hit in the World Series after recording zero hits during the regular season.

His preparations for the grand stage took place in the relative anonymity of the Arizona Fall League, and it presented some unique conditions for Christenson to manage under.

“It’s such a unique situation to see someone thrust into that after missing so much season,” Christenson said in a phone interview before Game 1. “To have a chance to be activated this time of year, it’s something special if he can pull this off. If he (sparks the Cubs), literally the guy can be a legend.”

Schwarber appeared in just two games for the Solar Sox, going 1-for-6 as a designated hitter. Christenson didn’t have much hands-on interaction with Schwarber — the Cubs had their own staff members on site helping him with treatment — but Christenson saw Schwarber’s swing rounding into form even in his brief time in the batter’s box.

“The bat speed is there,” said Christenson, who hadn’t met Schwarber previously. “I love watching him work in the cage. He’s got a great swing. I don’t think it would take someone of his caliber long to get his timing and pick up where he left off. It’s a simple swing.”

The Cubs asked Christenson to work Schwarber into the top of the batting order with the Solar Sox so as to maximize his number of plate appearances. They also asked one other favor.

“The only request they had was that I took it easy with him on the bases … not trying to score him from first base on a gapper.”

Schwarber’s mere presence in the Arizona Fall League created a delicate dynamic. The league is geared toward up-and-coming prospects who have yet to break into the majors, and Christenson said AFL officials were concerned about Schwarber dropping in and taking playing time away from those players.

Each major league organization sends at least six players to the AFL. Of those six, one is designated a “priority player,” meaning they must play at least four days a week, so innings can be tricky to spread around.

Adding to the sensitivity of the situation, the Solar Sox’s roster includes not only Cubs prospects but also those of the Cleveland Indians. Christenson needed to avoid a situation where Schwarber was stealing at-bats away from prospects of the American League champs — the team that Schwarber was training to try to help the Cubs beat.

But things unfolded smoothly, and Schwarber showed appreciation for getting the chance to drop in for a couple games.

“I’ll definitely be pulling for him,” Christenson said.

A's claim left-handed reliever off waivers from Cubs

A's claim left-handed reliever off waivers from Cubs

CLEVELAND — Left-hander Giovanni Soto has been claimed by the Oakland Athletics off waivers from the Chicago Cubs.

Soto was designated for assignment Saturday to open a spot on the 40-man roster for slugger Kyle Schwarber, who was activated from the 60-day disabled list following knee surgery in April. Schwarber was put on the World Series roster Tuesday and went 1 for 3 with a double, walk and two strikeouts in the opening 6-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians.

Soto was traded to the Cubs from Cleveland on April 11 and was 1-3 with a 5.14 ERA in 33 relief appearances for Triple-A Iowa. He made his big league debut with the Indians in 2015 and appeared in six games and 3 1/3 innings.

Oakland claimed him Wednesday.