The job Bob Melvin did with the Oakland Athletics deserved recognition not just as 2012 American League Manager of the Year. Manager of the Millennium might not be that much of a stretch.
For the moment, though, the annual award will clearly suffice. The Baseball Writers' Association of America announced Tuesday night that Melvin had won the AL Manager of the Year Award.
Melvin won in a relatively close vote over Buck Showalter of the Baltimore Orioles. Melvin received 16 first-place votes to 12 for Showalter.
2012 AL MANAGER OF THE YEAR VOTING
Voting results for AL Manager of the Year, conducted by the Baseball Writers'
Association of America
There is no doubt that Showalter did a very commendable job with the Orioles, and he merited the significant support he received among Manager of the Year voters. But what Melvin accomplished with the A's was on a level all by itself.
You will recall that in preseason prognostications, the A's were basically picked to finish in the Pacific Coast League. The Rangers, after all, had won two straight AL pennants. The Angels had loaded up on expensive free agents, including the most prominent of them all, Albert Pujols.
The Athletics, on the other hand, had traded away three All-Star pitchers, two starters and a closer, in an attempt to simultaneously control costs and replenish their farm system. There is no question that these moves, roundly criticized at the time as waving the white flag of surrender, became instead renewed evidence of general manager Billy Beane's astute decision-making ability. But this is not an Executive of the Year column.
Melvin's managerial ability is no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention. He became just the sixth man to win the Manager of the Year Award in both leagues, as he had already won this award in the National League back in 2007 when he was the manager of the D-backs. That team, despite being outscored, won 90 games and a division title. That was a remarkable managing job, but the task Melvin accomplished with the A's was even greater.
The 2012 A's were largely a collection of kid pitchers and castoffs. Going into the season, even if you believed that their pitching would be adequate, you couldn't realistically see them scoring enough to remain competitive over the long haul. And for a few months, that's exactly what happened until, in June, the Oakland offense started doing enough to complement a developing pitching staff.
Melvin displayed confidence in his players, a confidence that probably wasn't shared by many outside the immediate Oakland A's family. But the club had further adversity in the second half.
The A's rotation had two veteran pitchers, Bartolo Colon and Brandon McCarthy. Colon was hit with a 50-game suspension for use of a banned substance. McCarthy was hit in the head by a line drive. Both were finished for the season.
The A's, for a time, had a rotation of five rookies, but still they kept winning. They saved their best work for the end of the regular season. They won their last six games, including a sweep of the Rangers in a season-ending series, which won the AL West for them on the last day of the season.
Before the season, many projected this team to lose 100-plus games. Instead, it finished 94-68. That was the second-best record in the league.
Showalter's Orioles upended numerous negative predictions as well, and there should be nothing said to diminish the work that the Baltimore manager did. Earlier in the year, advocates of Showalter's MOY candidacy were pointing out that he was doing all this good managerial work in baseball's toughest division.
That particular view requires some revision. By the numbers, the toughest division in the AL, and in all of Major League Baseball, was the AL West. And it wasn't particularly close. Melvin took a club that was picked for oblivion, and won the toughest division in baseball. It is difficult to imagine a better managing job, in this year, or any other year.
Bob Melvin is known for being supremely well-prepared, for being detail-oriented, for being in command of all the empirical facts regarding both his players and the opposition. At the same time, he is able to relate to a wide variety of players, serving as a steadying influence, gaining their trust and support, and eventually, bringing out the best possible performances from them.
What the Oakland A's have in this manager is a remarkable blend of intelligence, diligence, baseball knowledge and genuine humanity. There aren't many managers who could have taken the 2012 Oakland A's from nowhere to a division title.
This managerial performance richly deserved exactly what it got in this instance; the 2012 AL Manager of the Year Award.