On Monday night, CSN Bay Area aired their annual season preview for your Oakland Athletics. The special was comprehensive and engaging featuring player interviews, highlights from 2012, and insight from Athletics insider Casey Pratt and analyst Shooty Babitt among others. Taken at face value, the program served it’s purpose of adequately wetting our collective pallets for the fast approaching season. However, there was very little of substance to take from the special as a whole. Nothing of great intrigue or mystery. Nothing we didn’t know already. At one point former Athletic and current CSN analyst Bip Roberts bluntly proclaimed that Oakland needed to “pitch well” to repeat as Division Champions. How enlightening, Bip. Feel free to keep that cutting edge analysis to the Giants post-game show. Nevertheless, redemption could be found in the brief segment featuring reigning Manager of the Year Bob Melvin and his effect as the skipper of the Oakland Athletics. In a series of short interviews with Ryan Cook and company, it became evident by their expressions and lack of overly-cliched answers that Melvin made the strongest of impact and earned the utmost respect in his role as leader.
What truly resonated deepest with me, was the proclamation by Cook that Melvin was a “Master of Communication”. He went on to discuss how Melvin was always upfront and honest with each and every player regarding their role and his expectations. With an ever changing lineup that employed multiple platoons throughout much of the season, as well as a bullpen that featured nothing short of three changes at the closer position; Melvin’s clarity would prove pivotal to the Athletics success in 2012, and bode well for the future.
Not to discredit former manager Bob Geren, but a glaring issue during his infamous tenure at the helm of the good ship Athletic was his inability to communicate. A long history of documented quarrels with Huston Street, Bobby Crosby, and Brian Fuentes lead to his reputation as being little more than a middle man between the front office and the field. His eventual undoing was sparked by his altercation with Fuentes, when the veteran southpaw claimed that there was a breakdown in communication regarding his role in the bullpen.
Since Bob Melvin took over for the beleaguered Geren, the difference has been night and day. Gone from the press, are whispers of discontent and confusion. The clubhouse has been stabilized, the team has become a coherent unit, and for the first time in years the possibility of a full fledged player mutiny appears to be nonexistent. In Beane we may trust, but in Melvin we may continue to flourish.