'Obsession with Mark': Kotsay A's manager

With long Oakland history, new skipper to build on predecessor's winning culture

December 22nd, 2021

OAKLAND --  first came across the A’s radar in the buildup to the 1996 MLB Draft. A standout outfielder fresh off winning the Golden Spikes Award and leading Cal State Fullerton to a College World Series title, he topped Oakland’s Draft board that summer.

It was love at first sight for A’s executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane. The club’s general manager at the time, Beane was enamored with Kotsay’s skill set. Frustration came when Kotsay ended up going ninth overall to the Marlins in that Draft -- just one selection ahead of Oakland. But 25 years later, Beane finally got his man, as Kotsay was officially hired as the next manager of the A's on Tuesday. His contract is for three years with a club option for the 2025 season.

“Funny the way things work out,” Beane said. “We thought we were gonna get a chance to draft Mark in 1996. Ultimately, that obsession with Mark as a player continued. We traded for Mark [in 2003], and he had an outstanding playing career here with the A’s and went on beyond that. 

“Even as a player, he’d always expressed this was something that he wanted to do. He immediately took a coaching job as soon as he stopped playing, which shows the passion that Mark has had to do what he’s getting ready to embark on.”

The 46-year-old Kotsay, who spent the previous six seasons working as part of predecessor Bob Melvin’s coaching staff, becomes just the second manager in the Oakland era (since 1968) with no prior managerial experience. Jeff Newman was the first, taking over on an interim basis in '86 before the A’s hired Tony La Russa later that year.

“I feel blessed to sit here and be chosen to lead this organization going forward into our new era,” said Kotsay. “I’m very humbled to have had the opportunity to work on our staff with Bob Melvin. The respect and admiration I have for Bob, I feel confident that any time I need to reach out and seek advice, I have that friendship there.”

Once Melvin, the winningest manager in Oakland history, departed the A’s in November to fill the Padres’ managerial vacancy, Kotsay was viewed as an ideal successor. In a way, he's been groomed for this moment. The process began in 2016, when he joined Melvin’s staff as bench coach and continued as he gained experience in roles as the A’s quality control coach from '18-20 and third-base coach last season.

"I think Kots is a great hire," Melvin told MLB.com. "I'm really happy for him. He knows the players, has their respect and he'll be an easy transition for the front office."

Kotsay’s overall coaching experience goes back to 2015, when he served as hitting coach of the Padres after working as a special assistant to San Diego’s front office the previous year.

Not far removed from a 17-year playing career, which included four seasons with Oakland from 2004-07, Kotsay enters his managerial debut having built-in relationships with both A’s players and front-office members.

Describing his managing style, Kotsay said, “I really see myself as someone that comes across as transparent. I want the players to know that I care about them. I think that comes across with the relationships I’ve developed inside this organization. The care factor is at the top of my list. I’m an open book. I may have some emotion that comes across at times -- good and bad -- but I think the players understand that I’m there for them.”

Transparency was a standout quality of Melvin that players often brought up. Kotsay will look to carry over that trait, as well as other game-planning strategies and day-to-day methods he picked up from observing the former A’s skipper over the years.

“Bob laid the foundation of the culture here over the last 10-and-a-half years,” said Kotsay. “That culture is about winning. We’re gonna carry that forward. Bob had a level of expectation of how the game is played, and I will continue to have that level of expectation. I also think the relationships that Bob built and watching his relationship with the players and front office, I learned a great deal from that."

At the same time, Kotsay has his own unique managerial style he aims to carve out.

“I do have some differences [from Melvin], and those differences will probably show themselves throughout my tenure," Kotsay said. "But if I can have half the success Bob had here as an Oakland A’s manager, I’d be excited about that.”

More specifically, “I know I’m definitely a little more emotional than Bob,” Kotsay said. “Bob had an unbelievable ability to stay very calm. You never knew his highs and his lows. Not that he didn’t enjoy those wins. He definitely enjoyed those wins and wore the losses. I’m sure I’ll wear the losses, too.”

The A’s knew Kotsay’s impending first managerial gig was an inevitability after he’d interviewed for five different openings over the past three years. Between his 17 years as a player and seven years as a coach, Kotsay is seeking to cultivate his own legacy as the 31st manager of a storied A’s franchise.

“All the data comes from being in professional baseball for 25 years,” said Kotsay. “The responsibility of a manager, I’ve watched and learned. I’ve had some unbelievable mentors. Dave Roberts and Craig Counsell are personal friends. Jim Leyland, Bruce Bochy, [Bud] Black are all men I admire and played under or coached for. The knowledge they’ve passed on, I’m excited to take it and hit the ground running.”