OAKLAND -– Bob Melvin’s two-year contract extension as the A’s manager was a reward for all he’s accomplished in the past, and a vote of confidence about his leadership looking to the future.
However, it was the present that Melvin tackled head-on during Wednesday’s press conference to announce his new deal, which runs through the 2018 season. Melvin referenced his team’s American League-worst 60-79 record and heaped the responsibility for it on his shoulders.
“It’s not lost on me that during a year like this, these are things that don’t typically happen, and I’m very fortunate and appreciative of that,” Melvin said of his extension. “The one thing the front office always has done for me here is given me good players. I believe we’ve underachieved this year, and I’m responsible for that.”
[STIGLICH: A's announce contract extension for Melvin]
There’s some unintended irony in those words. Since the end of last season, the dominant storyline surrounding the A’s is the number of players that have been taken away from Melvin via trade -– Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija, Scott Kazmir, Ben Zobrist and Tyler Clippard among them.
Even general manager Billy Beane referenced that reality when he looked at Melvin, seated next to him Wednesday, and cracked: “By the way, not all the players I gave you were good.”
The A’s are a team in “transition,” as Beane calls it. Since the trade deadline, he’s talked of the need for the A’s to restock their farm system, build around young talent and make decisions with an eye toward the future. Translation: the front office is willing to accept the fact that 2016 could include some growing pains for this team.
Melvin’s previous contract was set to expire after the 2016 season, and Beane didn’t want questions surrounding Melvin’s job security to develop into a storyline next year.
“It’s a fair question to ask, because it’s part of the business … (but) we wanted to put that question to rest right away,” Beane said. “I looked around as we (did the last manager search in 2011). He was the right guy for the last generation, and he’ll be the right guy for the next generation.”
Beane noted how deep of an interest Melvin takes in the A’s farm system, saying that reliever Ryan Dull popped up on the manager’s radar long before it came time for a September call-up.
But Melvin’s comments Wednesday were not focused deep into the future. He guided the A’s to three consecutive postseason appearances before things went south this year, and he talked with conviction about his desire to get things turned around next season. He mentioned rookies Billy Burns and Mark Canha, third baseman Danny Valencia and second baseman Brett Lawrie as position players from the current roster he thinks hold promise for 2016.
“I’m fully committed to this team, this organization and this fan base to get this thing turned around sooner than later,” he said. “Starting with figuring out what pieces from this year (will fit) going forward into next year. We’ve turned it around very quickly in the past -- 2012 -- and that’s what we’ll be looking to do in the near future.”
Melvin has guided the A’s to a 385-339 record as manager, but that includes an 89-117 mark since the 2014 All-Star break. Obviously, the above-mentioned trades -– along with the Yoenis Cespedes deal -- have factored into those struggles. But when it comes to this season, Melvin also pointed the finger at himself.
“You look at the one-run games, and it’s my job to put the guys in position at the end to finish the game out and win,” he said. “There’s been so many games we’ve been ahead, that for seven innings we’ve been the better team, and then we get bit at the end.”
Catcher Stephen Vogt said he believes Melvin is the right man to guide this team moving forward.
“We've had some changes in the last couple years, but when you keep the leader in place, that's what you need,” Vogt said. “… You take him out of this equation, you never know what could happen. So it's good to see that he's sticking around, and we love playing for him.”