Athletics Fire Geren and Hire Melvin- The Beane Friday Faceoff
Friday, June 10, 2011
MLB reports: The Oakland Athletics record sits today at 27-37, fourth place in the AL West. So it should come as no surprise that after weeks of speculation, General Manager Billy Beane on Thursday came down with the verdict. Bob Geren is out. Bob Melvin is in. Two former catchers. Two guys named Bob, as part of the changing of the guard in Oakland.
I could be humorous and refer to the whispers that a manager in Oakland is essentially a puppet/pawn for Billy Beane. For anyone that read Moneyball, the idea is clear that Beane calls the shots and the manager complies with his moves. As long as Beane is talking to “Bob” on the telephone, it is irrelevant whether it is Geren or Melvin on the other line. But we will touch upon that shortly.
“It felt like at this point a change was necessary,” was Beane’s immediate comments following the announcement. “It got to the point where the emphasis was on the status of the manager on a daily basis and no longer on the field. When that starts to happen, you need to shift the focus to what’s really important, which is performance. Bob Melvin will inherit some of the challenges that Bob had. Bob lost four starting pitchers in the space of three weeks. That was a tough body blow for the team. That was very difficult from Bob’s standpoint.” So begins the Oakland managerial career of Bob version 2.0.
The 49-year old Bob Geren completed his five seasons in Oakland with a 334-376 record, good for a .470 winning percentage. Despite his deep friendship with GM Billy Beane, the time was right to cut the cord as the highest the A’s finished under Geren was 2nd place in 2010, with a meager .500 record. Five years playing and five years managing in the majors represents the MLB career of Geren. The A’s tried taking a fresh approach by hiring him as their manager, but clearly he was not right fit for the role. Given his track record as manager, Geren may not find another managerial role very easily. But with his knowledge of the game, he will likely find a scouting or coaching role in the future. With Geren gone, Bob Melvin became the interim “man” in Oakland.
The 49-year old Bob Melvin (see a trend?) coached for seven years in the majors prior to joining Oakland. Two years in Seattle, five years in Arizona. In Seattle Melvin had a lifetime managerial record of 156-168 and in Arizona 337-340. The Diamondbacks originally had hired Wally Backman to manage the team before Melvin, but after legal issues came to light, Melvin got the job. Melvin enjoyed success in Arizona, including a 90-72 record in 2007 and 1st place in the division, together with being named NL Manager of the Year. Coupled with his 93-69 record in 2003 for the Mariners, Melvin apparently gets his teams firing on all cylinders when he first joins a squad. Nicknamed the “Mad Scientist”, Melvin is known to be a very-hands on manager who is not afraid to try anything and everything to pull out wins. After ten seasons of catching in the majors and seven managing, the A’s have themselves experience and a proven track record by hiring Bob Melvin.
By making this move, Billy Beane moved from inexperience to veteran leadershipbehind the bench. The million dollar question being asked by industry people today is whether Beane will finally let go of the reigns and give full autonomy to his “chef in the kitchen.” After years of watching Bob Melvin play and manage, it is hard to believe that he will agree to be Beane’s puppet. My gut feel is that this marriage will not last long, as Beane may let ease up for some time when the ball club starts winning, but he will take control again before long. Leopards do not change their spots and Beane is unlikely to change his approach in running the Athletics. Melvin surely went into this role with eyes wide open and realized the dangers of taking this job.
As the “interim” manager, Melvin will likely light the fire that is needed to get the A’s going in 2011. The A’s will almost definitely finish with a better record this season under Melvin as compared to Geren staying in the same role. With the “Moneyball” movie due out this fall, Beane had to save face and put a winning product on the field. Despite his assertions that the upcoming movie did not play a role in his decision to change managers, a genius GM played on the big screen by Brad Pitt would look much better to an audience if his team was successful at the same time. Beane did what he had to do to win today and gave his team to a proven winner in Bob Melvin. The danger will be retaining beyond this season. A good short-term move but one that will not work in the long run for the team. The Mad Scientist meets Mr. Moneyball. Let the show begin.
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