The Sporting News has announced its American League Manager of the Year, and, no surprise, it’s the Oakland Athletics’ Bob Melvin. It’s Melvin’s second nod from the Sporting News, having won the National League Manager of the Year award with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2007.
“Bob said in spring training that he thought this was going to be a good group,” said general manager David Forst. “… I’ll reference we played well last year in the second half, Bob wasn’t afraid to say in spring training that he thought we could win.”
With the lowest Opening Day payroll in Major League Baseball, after three straight last-place finishes, Melvin guided the A’s to their first postseason since 2014, as Oakland won 97 games and reached the Wild Card Game, before bowing out to the New York Yankees on Oct. 3.
Oakland’s 22-win improvement over 2017 was the third time a Melvin-managed team increased its win total by 20 or more games from the previous season.
After finishing last season going 16-7 down the stretch in 2017, with their first winning month since 2014, the A’s started 2018 going 34-36. On June 16, Oakland one of the great runs in baseball history, winning 63 of its final 92 games and briefly wresting hold of first place in the American League West from the Houston Astros, before falling back of the rejuvenated World Series champions as they got several key contributors back from injury.
Melvin knew something of injuries this season, as well, having lost six starting pitchers to season-ending procedures. Kendall Graveman, Andrew Triggs, Paul Blackburn and Daniel Gossett all missed significant time, with Graveman and and Gossett undergoing Tommy John surgery. A.J. Puk — Oakland’s top prospect who was expected to crack the rotation at some point this year — also missed the entire season with Tommy John surgery, as did Jharel Cotton, another prospective starter.
Triggs missed most of the year due to thoracic outlet syndrome. Sean Manaea pitched with shoulder discomfort most of the year, and was finally operated on in the final weeks of the season. He’s expected to miss most of 2019.
With retreads and tatters to make up his starting rotation, Melvin deftly balanced cast-offs like Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson with youngsters like Daniel Mengden and Frankie Montas, while integrating journeyman Edwin Jackson in a rotation that saw 14 different pitchers start games this season.
Of those 14 starters, one was a reliever — Liam Hendriks. With the starting rotation in shambles, Melvin and the A’s resorted to using Hendriks as an opener eight of their nine tries at the strategy in the month of September. In those nine games, Oakland went 4-5. The strategy didn’t work out so well using Lou Trivino during the final series of the season, or against New York.
Nevertheless, the A’s finished with the fourth-best record in baseball and made the postseason for the fourth time under Melvin. The Cal grad and former big league catcher is just the third Athletics Manager to be named the Sporting News Manager of the Year, following Billy Martin (1981) and Tony La Russa (1988 and 1992). He is also a two-time winner of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Manager of the Year award with Arizona (2007) and Oakland (2012).
Melvin also won the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Manager of the Year award in 2007, and in 2012, when he managed the A’s to the AL West title on the final day of the season. He’s expected to be a frontrunner for that award this year, as well.
With his contract up at the end of the 2019 season, an extension is being discussed. Melvin has been with the A’s
“Bob is one of the best in the game, and he’s perfect for us,” said Billy Beane, the A’s executive vice president of baseball operations. “The idea is that he’s her for a long time, and for the rest of his career.”
Melvin, a former San Francisco Giant and a Menlo Park native, has been with Oakland since 2011, going 634-599 over that span — the third-most wins in franchise history behind Connie Mack (3,582) and Tony La Russa (798). Among active managers, only Bruce Bochy (San Francisco), Ned Yost (Kansas City), and Clint Hurdle (Pittsburgh) have longer uninterrupted tenures with their current teams.