The good news for the As is that Bob Melvin has gotten a three-year extension as manager. The even better news is that barring a sale, a firing of the general manager or a meteor strike, hell get all three years to complete the repairs he was charged with tackling back in June.
We say this with some confidence because while general manager Billy (Charles Laughton) Beane has been a grind on managers by habit, he has been loath to actually whack them buggers.
Oh, he called and visited and kvetched after games, and he harangued them over lineups and pitch counts and development issues, but he fired them with some reluctance. For a soccer fan, our little Kevin Kline treated managers contracts better than he would have if he were a soccer man.
Art Howe, who took such a beating in the film weve all been yammering on about this week, got seven full years, the last four being very good ones indeed.
Ken Macha did four years the hard way, fighting against the Beane-ian tide every day, and even after getting fired gut unfired shortly thereafter, for one more year he didnt like.
And Bob Geren, Beanes friend from yesteryear, got 4 years despite never producing a winning record.
In short, Beanes managers average more than five years per run, and whether its because he doesnt like to fire guys with time left on their deals or because he rides the gas but not the brake, it still means that Melvin ought to get the full length of his deal.
Melvin did not work miracles by any means -- he took a .429 team and transformed it into a .467 team, and a 12th-place team because a 10th-place team. He operated within the parameters of what he had, got the players to play with more verve and less resignation, and got true value out of more of them than he didnt.
But now he has to do the hard part -- transform them from players who like coming to the park to players who love coming to the park, and show it. The Elephants have been dramatically lacking in the sort of effervescence that this franchise desperately needs, and though it has plenty of youth, it still doesnt have the one thing that youth is best at providing:
The Bay Area is notorious for its front-running nature, and there is nothing that seizes its collective innards like a cool party just starting to assemble. The Giants did that a year ago, about four months into what because the Improbable Dream. It also got the teams managing general partner run off 10 months later, but thats another story.
The As havent had that in any way since 2006, and havent had it in a truly electric way since 2002 . . . which, coincidentally, is the year in which the movie Cries And Whispers is set.
In short, having gotten the lads to devote more of their energies to the tasks at hand, Melvin has three years to turn those energies into increased competence and the sense that the Coliseum can still be regarded as a cool place to spend a few hours. It happened five years ago, when the stadium was no prettier than it is now, so the excuse that the stadium depresses the team is nonsense. The team, more like, depresses the stadium.
And Melvin must, through words of mouth, show the players how to make Oakland a happening place again. Not through marketing, or through the ghastly mascot, or Moneyball 2: The Reckoning, but playing a brand of ball that makes people want to drop their chores and go to the ballpark on their own.
He has to overcome years of inertia, a difficult management situation above him (always agitating to move the team to another town is a serious downer), a resistance to changing habits and the omnipresent preening of the team across the pond.
If he can do that, he should get three more extensions.
But hell get the three, because thats how Alec Guiness operates. He promised three, and even if it isnt as much fun as it seems from the outside, even his pointed word is his bond.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.