Melvin brings needed fresh perspective to SD

November 4th, 2021

SAN DIEGO -- Bob Melvin's lasting image of the 2021 Padres was probably quite a bit different than yours.

The newly minted Padres skipper didn't live through a two-months-long collapse that saw a talented baseball team stare down an October without postseason baseball.

No, the last time Melvin encountered the 2021 Padres, they were, it seemed, cruising toward a playoff berth in early August. Melvin's A's played two series against San Diego in late July and early August, splitting four games. At his introductory press conference on Monday, he recalled being blown away by the 40,000-plus fans in attendance on a Tuesday night.

Maybe it's a good thing Melvin’s A’s played the Padres when they did. Because that's Melvin’s vision of this team, and that’s precisely the version of the Padres that he plans to extract in 2021.

"I really don't know that part of it," Melvin said of the Padres late-season struggles. "I know that when we were here, it was electric. There were medallions flying everywhere, and guys that looked like they were really enthused to play the game.

"That's the part that I saw. Then, you balance that with the roster that's here -- I didn't follow the last couple weeks or the last few months -- I'm just going to do what I've always done in my job, and that's: Be me, try to reach the players and make sure everybody's on the same page."

That kind of fresh perspective is sorely needed in San Diego, considering the late-season debacle. The Padres went 18-36 from the start of August through the end of the season, and blame for their collapse was apportioned to all parties.

But in Melvin's introductory press conference on Monday, he did his best to avoid discussing that collapse at all, preferring to focus on the upside. The 2022 Padres will be a new team, after all, with the new manager to prove it.

"You say [they] underachieve, but, look, they had a really good team," Melvin said. "If you look at two thirds of the season, it certainly didn't underachieve. Just had a bad third of the season at the wrong time, and they're in a division that's immense. It's a tough division."

There will, of course, be some self-evaluation for the Padres if they want to improve on their wholly disappointing 79-83 finish. Particularly because the tail end of the collapse was so ugly. Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. feuded in the dugout. Tensions simmered in the clubhouse. Players groused about the front office's decision not to reinforce the rotation at the Trade Deadline.

Enter Melvin, the steadying hand who has expertly found ways to strike a balance -- within the clubhouse and between the clubhouse and front office.

“His leadership style stands out,” said Padres general manager A.J. Preller. “He has honest and tough conversations and looks forward to them, while still motivating his players to go out and play for him.”

Perhaps the biggest reason Melvin has struck those balances is his ability to adapt. He admits that he was, at first, hesitant to embrace new-school concepts.

"The game has changed a lot, especially from when I first started," Melvin said. "I learned a lot about analytics in Oakland. It was a little painful at times early on, based on the fact that I grew up looking at the game a little bit differently.

"But I think it's made me better. It's opened my eyes. Any information that you get, whether it's information that comes from your experiences and/or information that comes from data, you can marry that. That's what I learned in Oakland -- there's a different way to look at the game."

And that's just Melvin's take on analytics. As far as the game's evolution toward players showing emotion and playing with flair, Melvin has been on board with that from the start. The A's, like the Padres, have been at the forefront of the shift toward what Melvin calls "bat flippin' season."

All of this came across to Preller and the Padres in their interviews with Melvin. They thought he’d be able to take what ailed the Padres during their second half collapse and help find a cure as a much needed steady hand.

As for Melvin, he thinks the answers are already in-house. It’s merely his job to bring them to the fore.

"You look at Atlanta right now, who's got a chance to win a World Series, I don't personally think their roster's better," Melvin said Monday, before the Braves clinched a World Series title one night later. “It's probably equivalent to this team.”

It’s a World Series-caliber roster, in Melvin's eyes. And in the eyes of the Padres, it’s the World Series-caliber manager to lead them there.