With A's, the right environment for Melvin to flourish
Third time the charm for manager after short-lived stints in Seattle, Arizona
PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Bob Melvin wasn't looking to prove anyone wrong.
He just wanted a chance to manage again so he could prove himself right.
Given a third shot at managing by the Oakland A's, it's been a charming turn of events for Melvin. A year ago, in his first full season with Oakland, he led the team to the franchise's first American League West title in six years and most victories (94) in nine years.
And he isn't done yet.
The A's weren't on the radar of the experts last spring. During the course of the season, however, they made a stretch run to overtake the two-time defending AL champion Texas Rangers, and this spring, Oakland is getting the respect.
The A's earned it.
So did Melvin.
"He has a great demeanor for baseball," A's outfielder Seth Smith said. "He has a quiet intensity. He knows want he wants and stands firm."
The third time has been charming for Melvin, who has roots in the Bay Area. He was born in Palo Alto, went to high school in Menlo Park, and attended the University of California in Berkeley. He even spent three of his 10 big league seasons playing across the Bay with the San Francisco Giants.
"There are horses for courses," Melvin said. "There are places you really feel right. This is one of those places."
His managerial career started in Seattle, where he was on the job for two years, taking over for fan favorite Lou Piniella. Piniella led the Mariners to the only three postseason appearances in the franchise's history, and seven winning seasons in 10 years on the job. The Mariners have only four other winning seasons since their creation as an expansion team in 1977.
One of those three seasons came in Melvin's debut. The Mariners were 93-69 in 2003. Age, however, caught up with the Mariners in a nasty way. They slipped to 63 wins in '04.
Every member of the Mariners' regular lineup that second season was in his 30s, except DH Edgar Martinez, who was 41. Only three of them -- Ichiro Suzuki, Raul Ibanez and Bret Boone -- retained an everyday role in 2005.
Melvin did not survive, either.
He matriculated to Arizona, where in 2007 he led the D-backs to a National League West title. He, however, was dismissed 29 games into the '09 season by general manager Josh Byrnes, who had been hired prior to the '06 season and inherited Melvin. Byrnes' main lieutenant, farm director A.J. Hinch, took over for Melvin in a move that was a part of why Byrnes himself was dismissed a year later.
"In some places, there is a shelf life, and that was the case in Seattle," Melvin said. "It was a team that got old at the same time. In Arizona, in my view, it was a different situation."
Melvin had been told three days before the move was announced that he was going to be let go. He was sworn to secrecy on the matter so the club could handle the announcement when the team returned to Arizona for a homestand. However, the news leaked while the D-backs were on the flight home.
It was difficult for Melvin, fueling his desire to get another managerial opportunity. He interviewed for the job in Houston, which went to Brad Mills, and he never felt he was a serious candidate. He also was a candidate in Milwaukee, where Ron Roenicke was hired, and with the New York Mets -- Terry Collins got the job. In those opportunities, Melvin felt optimistic about his chances.
Then came the chance in Oakland, where he took over midway through the 2011 season, after general manager Billy Beane made the difficult decision to let go of his childhood friend, Bob Geren. Melvin and Beane had never been teammates or worked together after their playing careers, but they had developed a professional relationship.
"We'd always found time to talk, whether it was during Spring Training, when I managed Arizona, or when I was in Seattle and we'd play the A's, or even the year before when I was scouting [for the Mets]," said Melvin. "We had good conversations."
Now, they are enjoying a good working relationship .
"When we came out of Spring Training [last year], you knew we had good pieces, and I felt we had the ability to get better and better as the season went along," said Melvin.
The season began to turn around in mid-June.
At 26-35 after being swept in a three-game series at Arizona, leaving them in third place on June 10, the A's went into Colorado, swept a three-game series from the Rockies and began their climb up the standings. They moved into second place on July 24 and eventually faced Texas for a season-ending three-game series, trailing the division-leading Rangers by two games.
Three wins later, the A's celebrated a division title.
"In that second half, we had a different feeling," said Melvin. "Billy did a great job of managing the roster. Every move he made had an impact of some degree on our success. Everything fell in place."
And Melvin knew he was finally in the right place.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.