When Josh Reddick pushed a whipped cream pie in Oakland manager Bob Melvin's face Monday, it was an act of love and respect. Melvin, a Menlo-Atherton alum of 1979, had just guided the A's to their first postseason appearance since 2006. The A's clinched the second wild card spot with a 4-3 win over Texas.
On Wednesday, Melvin's Miracle Workers finished off a sweep of the Rangers to win the American League West Division crown. The A's rallied from a 5-1 deficit to win going away 12-5.
Melvin is battling Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter for American League Manager of the Year. The A's had a lot of turnover during the season, which made Melvin's job even more challenging.
"The turnover has been immense," Melvin said. "I've never been with a team that has had this much turnover that is in the position we are in right now. That lends for an easier environment for guys to come in and feel they are a part of it quicker. The more you can communicate with players and what their roles are, the easier it is for them."
The A's, feeling a power surge, started swatting homers in June and the team started to jell. Melvin, whose club was 13 games behind first-place Texas on June 30, could tell he suddenly had a contender on his hands.
"Somewhere around June, we felt good about our team based on the offense picking it up," he said. "We have been consistent as far as the pitching end of it has gone all year. Something happened in June where we started to be a different team. We hit a lot of home runs. The front office has done a great job of getting the right guys here at the right time. That's when we started feeling better about ourselves as a team, when we hit some home runs and started scoring runs."
Melvin was hired to replace dismissed manager Bob Geren in June of 2011. Melvin went 47-52 as the A's finished third in the American League West. A's outfielder Coco Crisp played for Geren, Melvin's predecessor.
"Bob Melvin is a great manager for this ballclub," said Crisp, who leads the club with seven triples. "There are a lot of young guys here and he's a youthful, energetic type of manager. He communicates well and that's what you ask for as a manager. He lets us be individuals and who we are. We found our identity early. We all jelled pretty quickly."
Reliever Ryan Cook, along with Jarrod Parker and Collin Cowgill, came to the A's in a trade with Arizona last December. Melvin has a fan in Cook, who has a 2.12 ERA and a 6-2 ledger.
"Bob's actions speak for themselves," Cook said. "He lets us go out there and play and be who we are. It's the respect you have for a manager's stature. He has done wonders for us and for me, personally. Being a former catcher, coach Melvin knows how to get the pitchers behind him."
Melvin isn't a holler coach, but rather one who leads by example.
"He's not a real outgoing guy," Cook said. "He goes about his business and is a hard worker in his own right. He has instilled that in us from Day 1 from spring training. At a meeting early in the year, he said we were going to play hard and let the results fall as they may."
First baseman Daric Barton has played only 46 games for the A's this season, hitting .204.
"The biggest thing is that coach Melvin has confidence in every one of his players," Barton said. "He'll tell you that to your face. He has your back at all times. His positivity rubs off on people. He seems to make the right moves at the right time. We all love playing for him. He's always upbeat and knows what to say at what time."
Melvin knows what it is like to be fired as a manager. His first head job was with Seattle in 2003 where he took the Mariners to 93 wins and a second-place finish in the AL West. The next year, the Mariners went 63-99 and Melvin's contract was not renewed.
Melvin jumped leagues, taking over at Arizona. Within three years, Melvin's Diamondbacks were crowned National League West champions. The Diamondbacks swept Chicago in the NLDS, then were swept by Colorado in the NLCS. Melvin earned NL Manager of the Year and Sporting News Manager of the Year honors.
Diamondbacks broadcaster Mark Grace dubbed Melvin "The Mad Scientist" because Melvin had a tendency to use a myriad of different lineups that often worked. The love affair in Arizona didn't last as Melvin was canned in May of 2009 after the Diamondbacks started the year 12-17.
Curt Young is a former A's hurler and is in his second stint as pitching coach at Oakland, having worked with the Red Sox last year.
"Bob (Melvin) is consistent," Young said. "Every day you come to the ballpark and you know what Bob is all about. Bob is great at moving on from the previous game, whether it's good or bad. He's that kind of personality. The players are all comfortable talking to him, whether it's baseball or anything else. When you have a manager that's approachable the way Bob is, that definitely comes into play."
Should the A's reach the World Series and take the first three games, Melvin could have himself quite a birthday present. He turns 51 on Oct. 28, the scheduled date for Game 4.