Wednesday marked the 10-year anniversary of Bob Melvin’s managerial debut with Oakland.
The A’s celebrated by handing the D-backs their 19th (19th!!!) straight road loss with a 4-0 victory, as Sean Manaea lowered his ERA to 3.09 with six scoreless innings.
Back in 2011, Melvin’s opener didn’t go so well as he was trying to match A’s players’ faces with names. Trevor Cahill got tagged for six earned runs in 2 2/3 innings and the team lost its 10th straight game.
But at least Bob Geren was out of the locker room.
Fun might be the wrong word, but it’s interesting to go back and see the final moments of Geren’s tenure and the drama that preceded his firing. A combination of bullpen blowups, Brian Fuentes’ postgame comments and a juicy text message from Huston Street ultimately led to Geren’s undoing in Oakland.
Geren’s hiring in 2007 was met with skepticism, as he was literally Billy Beane’s best man at his wedding. The conflict-of-interest doubts didn’t die down as Geren dawdled for four seasons with an overall record of 307-340 entering the 2011 campaign.
Like Geren’s previous seasons, 2011 was muddled in mediocrity to start the year. On May 8, Fuentes recorded his ninth save in 11 chances and things seemed relatively normal for the 18-17 A’s.
Then it started getting weird for Fuentes. The A’s didn’t have a save situation for about a week, so Geren used Fuentes in a tie game at home against the Los Angeles Angels on May 16. Perhaps a bit unorthodox to use the closer in that situation, but nothing too crazy, and Fuentes needed work. He made it through the inning without giving up a run and the A’s won so no one said anything.
But did Fuentes lose his closer job without Geren telling him? His next three appearances came in tie-game situations and he received a loss in each one, including two walk-offs on the road in San Francisco.
Then came Fuentes’ fateful outing on May 23 against the Angels. Fuentes was summoned from the ‘pen in a tie situation, this time in the eighth inning. Weird spot for a team’s “closer,” ey? Fuentes gave up three runs and was charged with his fourth loss in a span of six days. Sheesh.
The veteran Fuentes, who was 35 and a four-time All-Star, finally blew up after the Angels game, saying it’s hard to prepare when you don’t know when you’re coming into pitch.
As John Shea of the SF Chronicle reported, Fuentes said he had “zero” communication with Geren and that the skipper handled his manager duties “pretty poorly” when it came to defining Fuentes’ role.
“The games in San Francisco were unorthodox managing,” Fuentes told reporters. “I thought it was a National League thing. But tonight was pretty unbelievable. … There’s just a lack of communication. I don’t think anybody knows what direction [Geren] is headed.”
Then Fuentes added that there was “a pretty drastic difference” between Geren and his other managers in his career. The next day, Fuentes was demoted from his closer’s role and Street, the former A’s closer who was pitching with the Colorado Rockies, sent an incendiary text to the SF Chronicle’s Susan Slusser.
“Bob was never good at communication, and I don’t want to speak for anybody else, but it was a sentiment reflected in many conversations during the two years I spent in Oakland, and even recently when talking to guys after I left,” Street wrote. “For me personally, he was my least favorite person I have ever encountered in sports from age 6 to 27. I am very thankful to be in a place where I can trust my manager.”
From age 6 to 27! Street from the top rope! Ten years later and still — dayum!
So by the time the A’s got swept in three straight series two weeks later, Beane had to pull the plug on his best man.
“On a daily basis, it became more important than what was actually on the field,” Beane told reporters. “When that starts to happen, you have to reshape that focus.”
It’s crazy to think a decade has passed since then.
Melvin has since become the winningest manager in Oakland A’s history and baseball’s longest-tenured skipper. He has been able to earn his players’ respect with his open communication style while also serving as a buffer between the front office and the clubhouse. He’s old school but he’ll listen to the analytics.
Melvin’s bullpen management has been a fair target for criticism at times, but he has been able to mix and match his way to an 804-714 record (.530). Melvin has led the A’s to six playoff appearances but just one postseason series win, coming last year in the Wild Card round against the Chicago White Sox.
The team has momentum again in first place and looks destined for its fourth straight playoff appearance. It seems like Melvin is the right captain for this ship, but how much longer does he have to wait for an extension?
The A’s have a club option set for 2022 but are yet to pick it up — or at least announce it publicly. As it stands now, Melvin is staring at an expiration date in four months.
I’m expecting him to sign another multiyear extension to stay in Oakland. The team has made sure to celebrate his milestones in the past couple weeks but it might be time to reward him with another deal.
No one wants another Geren situation.