Everybody before Bob Melvin made it look so hard to be the A's manager.
Either it was Art Howe and then Ken Macha feeling suffocated and unappreciated working with a Spartan payroll under the auspices of a superpower general manager.
Or it was Bob Geren, who was general manager Billy Beane's friend but wholly irrelevant as a presence in the clubhouse.
Those three cautionary tales are why Melvin got my vote for 2012 A.L. Manager of the Year -- because he didn't just avoid becoming Tale No. 4, he created his own story.
Oh, and Melvin won, too, edging Baltimore's Buck Showalter, who had an arguably stronger list of managerial accomplishments this season.
Melvin deserved this award because he took the toughest job in baseball -- under Beane, rough stadium situation, no money, young players -- and made it look easy.
And, like all the great ones, Melvin made you wonder: Why couldn't anybody else make it look this simple?
You let Billy do his magic, you figure out who fits where, you get the players to believe in themselves, you draw up some smart platoons, you win games.
But the simplicity is the genius here.
Melvin took all the pieces Beane and his front office assembled and kept reassembling as the season went on, and Melvin did not fret about it.
Instead, he kept everybody pointed to the next day, kept his players calm, kept things organized ... and won the A.L. West.
And this isn't just
It's also about Beane, who finally found the right guy and then stood back and mostly let Melvin operate.
There was no hint of discord, even when the A's dropped nine in a row. There were never any eye rolls or mumblings. There were no turf battles.
It was just a good, savvy manager working for a smart, uncompromising front office. Why wouldn't that work?
The brilliant, hard-driving G.M. and the diplomatic, gregarious manager did this together -- and couldn't have done it without each other.
"Billy has probably been my biggest champion since I've been here," Melvin said on a conference call after winning the award Tuesday.
"He's been as supportive as anyone wherever I've been. He has made this job for me about as easy as you can get.
"I heard all those rumors, too, about he's very difficult to work for -- he's very passionate and wants to win. I think we have those same traits."
That drive to win, I think, is the most underappreciated aspect of Melvin's tenure here, because he covers it up under layers of calm and charm.
On Tuesday, he seemed a little surprised to recall that "I didn't have a bit of a rant" at any time this season, since he said he usually has at least one a year.
But I think the A's players understood that there was always the chance of a rant -- and that Melvin had lines that they should not cross.
Even while they were in their pie-tossing frenzies, the A's players were never really out of control; they got rowdy, but they were always incredibly focused the next day.
I think Beane and his front office understood that about Melvin, too, or learned it soon after Melvin was hired in the middle of the 2011 season.
And Melvin knew that working with Beane's front office guaranteed that he would have fascinating lineup options and that the talent level would always be renewed.
That's all Beane expects out of his manager -- be consistent with the players and accept that things will be turbulent with the roster.
And Beane respects the manager confident enough to handle the commotion, embrace the unique chaos, and understand there's a method to everything.
That's all Melvin needs to know from Beane -- they are united to find the best way to win baseball games, even if they occasionally find the oddest ways.
Beane is and, for as long as he's here, shall always remain the electrical current that powers this franchise.
With that budget and these big-picture conditions, there's no other way the A's can or should operate, of course.
And sometimes, as past managers can attest, it's not easy working for Beane.
But Melvin is proof that the job doesn't have to be impossible, and that when you win the respect of both the A's front office and the clubhouse, this job almost looks easy.