Mr. Melvin Meets The Bloggers

Bob Melvin: Hit me with your best shot!

With Oakland right in the thick of a heated pennant race, A’s manager Bob Melvin took some time out just prior to a mid-September night game versus the dreaded Orioles to attend a bloggers-only press conference at the Coliseum. Melvin was his usual friendly and cordial self as he addressed an array of topics over the course of about 10 minutes and, upon his exit, even made a point of complimenting his interrogators on their rapid-fire questions. The first subjects, raised by A’s Farm, concerned a couple of players who’ve spent some time with both the A’s and the River Cats this year, and Melvin went on to offer his take on a variety of different subjects from there…

 

On third baseman Josh Donaldson’s improvement in his second stint with the A’s this year…

“Well, I think as far as Donaldson goes, it was just a matter of getting here and having some success. The ability’s always been there. If you look at the minor league numbers, he’s been able to hit and hit for power. He’s a great athlete – he can play multiple positions. I think it was just important – similar to a Chris Carter situation – that he came here and had some success. And he did early on, and he’s just been riding on that and more or less believes in himself as a big leaguer now.”

 

On second baseman Jemile Weeks’ struggles this season…

Jemile Weeks: Let’s see, am I supposed to be in Oakland or Sacramento today?

“As far as Jemile, you talk about sophomore slumps and so forth, and he’s a tough kid who can be hard on himself, and I think he got into a little bit of a slump where he couldn’t quite get out of it. You look up there – and you have some pride – and you look at your average after hitting .300 for basically a full season, then not being able to repeat that, you try a little too hard sometimes as opposed to just letting your ability take over. And I think it was just a little bit of a change of scenery – he went down there (to Sacramento) and instantly hit. And I don’t think this is going to effect where his career is going forward.”

 

On the adjustments Jemile Weeks needs to make…

“I think mainly just keeping the ball out of the air a little bit. I think, this year, he hit a couple of home runs early on. He will tell you that had nothing to do with swinging a little bigger. I think he just felt more comfortable with his swing that he could drive some balls. And last year, he just wasn’t trying to do too much. He was just putting it in play, and putting it in play on the ground. So it’s just a matter of finding a happy medium for him, and he will do that.”

 

On the special challenges of working with a younger team…

“Well, I think basically, with where we are in the season, we try to keep the distractions to a minimum and just – I know it’s very cliché – keep all our efforts focused on a particular day. We are playing some match-ups in the second half – whether it’s a Moss/Carter type of thing. And I think keeping them aware of when they’re playing is important so they know and can do their homework on potential pitchers they’re going to face – whether it’s Kottaras and Norris, and we’ve run a little bit of a platoon with Pennington and Rosales at second. So I think they benefit by knowing what days they’re playing. And then I think with younger players, you try to be consistent in giving them good feedback, because the one thing about being a younger player coming to the big league level that you always have to get over is that awe factor and ‘do I belong here in the big leagues?’ And we’ve, as an organization, put a lot of stock in our younger players and getting them to the big leagues. We put them in prominent roles, and I think we’ve done that across the board this year, whether it’s the pitching end of it, whether it’s the position player end of it, and we’ve been rewarded with good performances.”

 

On traditional bullpen roles…

“It’s always a Catch-22, because you want to get the hot hand out there, you want to get the guys that are the best match-ups. Yet relievers are a little different breed. When that phone rings, the guy wants to have a pretty good idea when he’s coming in the game. If we have to change the role for a period of time, I think we’re more apt to do that than just consistently trying to match up. It’s a little different with call-ups when you have more options. But I think if you look at our late guys, our plus-game guys, they know when they’re coming in the game, and that I think is a comfort to them…confidence-wise for them, it helps them to prepare and feel good about what they’re doing, even though just looking at it statistically, it can be more of a match-up thing. So I think it’s a double-edged sword as far as that goes. I do like defining roles, but I’m not afraid to change them if we need to change them.”

 

On team chemistry and when it started to click…

“I don’t know if there was a particular time. I felt good about the players we had in spring training. And when you look at a big league roster, a 25-man roster, I think ours was more like 32 – we were bringing guys back and forth depending on how they were playing at a certain time. And I think, once we kind of defined what roles certain guys had…I think the timing might have been middle to late June…I think we’ve been pretty consistent, especially offensively. And once we started to play better offensively, hit some home runs and so forth, the team started to find an identity within itself. We always felt like we were a scrappy-type team, a team that played well and focused later on in games and played hard and that type of thing. But I think once we started to hit the ball out of the ballpark, we kind of gained a lot more confidence because of that. And we have the guys here to do that now.”

 

Josh Reddick: Who needs an MVP when I’ve got one of these!

On the team’s MVP this year…

“It’s a tough one. You know, the guys that we count on the most are Coco, Reddick and Cespedes. And I think at different parts of the season, they would each be considered the MVP at the time. I couldn’t put my finger on just one. But from an offensive standpoint, those three probably stand out the most.”

 

On the team’s perspective down the stretch…

“We’re trying not to look at the finish line. We’re trying to take it more day-to-day, and let’s count ‘em up at the end. We know the schedule – we know we’re playing a lot of games on the road. We’ve been fortunate enough to win some games on the road. But if you start thinking about this match-up, that match-up, who’s pitching in this series, those are just distractions you don’t need, especially for a younger group. So we’re trying to remain in the moment and put all our focus on today’s game.  I know it’s very cliché, but I think it really has worked for us to this point this year, and that’s the way we’ll remain doing it.”

 

On how his past managerial experiences have prepared him for the challenges of this job…

“Well, first of all, I don’t think you ever get comfortable and say ‘Okay, I’ve had all the experiences, and this is the way I’m going to do things.’ I try to learn from our players. And it’s more about me acclimating to the players than the players acclimating to me. I have to work the personnel that we have in the fashion that we’re best-suited to do it. If we’ve got a bunch of guys that run, you’re not going to sit around and play for a three-run homer. If we have a bunch of guys that hit home runs, you’re not going to run into outs. And this team has kind of morphed into that type of team. We were running quite a bit early on, but we’re not running quite as much now because we don’t want to run into outs because we’re hitting some balls out of the ballpark. I think keeping guys accountable more so now, and communicating. There are certain times you don’t want to communicate, whether it’s your mood or whatever, but you have to stay consistent in what you’re doing as a manager. I like to be a positive guy, especially with the whole group. I will take guys individually if there’s something I want to do on the negative side. But I think it’s staying consistent, whether you’re winning or losing, and staying consistent in my approach to the players – that’s probably the thing that stands out the most for me.”

 

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After Bob Melvin’s press conference, long-time A’s broadcaster Ray Fosse took some time to chat on the field during batting practice and offered up some interesting takes on the A’s current manager…

 

Ray Fosse: I love Bob Melvin this much!

Fosse on Bob Melvin…

“Bob Melvin’s the greatest manager. He deserves so much credit. Nothing against the other guys, but Collin Cowgill, I just interviewed him, and he knows him from being with the Diamondbacks, and he said, ‘I’d run through that wall for the man.’ And when your players are willing to sacrifice their bodies to do whatever…Brandon Inge, when he dove for the ball and separated his shoulder, he comes in the next inning and hits a double down the line, and then he goes on the disabled list. He comes back, he does the same thing here, hits a double, drives in two runs, and then has surgery. But when he was out here, he said, ‘I’d take a bullet for the man right now. If there’s a fight, I’m defending him.’ And that’s the respect these guys have for that man.”

 

Fosse on respect…

“For the first time in the years that we’ve had the (World Series championship) reunions, when the players came in on the cars and they had the red carpet out to the mound, did you notice that every current player was lined up? Never has that been done before. Bob Melvin said, ‘We need to respect the guys who won the championships. I want my team out there shaking their hands as these guys walk by.’ Gene Tenace came on the air and he said, ‘I won’t get a chance to see Bob Melvin, but please tell him that’s the classiest act I’ve ever seen to show respect for a team of the past.’ And it was – I still get goose bumps thinking about what they did.”

 

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Be sure to like A’s Farm’s page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm to keep up with all the news down on the farm!

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