OAKLAND -- All things being equal, Bob Melvin is at the top of A.L. Manager of the Year consideration by acclimation and by thunderous weight of clear common sense.
But these are the A's, so things aren't equal at all.
The A's aren't a normal franchise, not in bad times and absolutely not now, amid constant roster tumult, perpetual payroll squeeze and -- quite unexpectedly -- repeated 2012 victories.
"He's way more than a manager here," veteran Jonny Gomes said appreciatively of Melvin. "He's an instructor, he's a coach, a friggin' baby sitter, you know?"
Melvin is also managing the hottest team in baseball -- their 6-2 victory over Boston on Sunday was the A's ninth in a row and pushed them into a tie with the Yankees for the A.L.'s second-best record -- with a payroll less than one-third of the Yankees' total.
Obviously, the A's are mostly run by Billy Beane, who has fueled this incredible renaissance with a massive influx of young talent.
But that's also a large part of Melvin's high accomplishment.
While Beane's shadow overwhelmed the previous three A's managers, Melvin makes working with this alpha-dog front office look like the most natural thing in the word.
It's managing -- players, games, situations, relationships -- at its best.
"You see what's going on in baseball with a couple other teams," Gomes said as he took a theatrical glance in the direction of Bobby Valentine and the Red
"The manager is reee-aally important."
For Gomes, it's obvious that Melvin should be the A.L. Manager of the Year. Note: I have a vote this year, and haven't made any final decision; but to be 19 games over .500 after all this roster turnover is impossible to ignore.
Melvin has found the A's golden equilibrium: He's Beane's manager and also his own man.
Bob Geren was constantly battling the perception (or reality) that he was merely Beane's lieutenant, so Geren had no individual credibility of his own in that clubhouse.
And Ken Macha and Art Howe, in different ways, were qualified managers but felt limited by the front office's domination.
Ever since he was hired last year to replace Geren, Melvin (the 2007 N.L. Manager of the Year while with Arizona) has split the difference diplomatically and not at all showily.
Of course, it helps that Beane and his staff have provided Melvin with so much talent. Melvin has adapted, smoothly adjusted to the flurry of moves and kept things as serene as possible.
This is just who the A's are and always will be.
"Yes, I did know that going in," Melvin told me before the game. "And when we sat down in the winter and discussed where we were going, in what direction we were going, we knew there'd probably be an influx of players this year and guys coming in and out and trying to get guys here when they were playing well.
"Billy's been great about that, getting guys here at the right time."
What's Melvin's relationship like with Beane and the front office?
"When you have several people that you're dealing with, there's always going to be debate. And I think that's a healthy thing and a good thing," Melvin said.
"We discuss different aspects and come to what I feel like are the right decisions. It's been seamless.
"Those guys have been really good to me and given me space when I need space and discussing everything with me ahead of time. It's been great."
The clubhouse is governed by the man the players call "BoMel"; on Sunday morning, he walked through it with a crooked smile as players chattered and Josh Reddick used a remote control to skitter some sort of electric ball across the floor.
"We allow our guys to have a little bit of fun in the clubhouse," Melvin said. "I almost said when I was coming down here, 'Don't watch what's going on in here,' because I try not to watch what's going on in there.
"But we do have a great group of guys who do police that place, and if we do feel like it gets out of hand a little bit, we'll address it. I think we have a good mix of guys here."
Right now, the A's have a good mix of everything -- they're clobbering opponents, they're leading the A.L. wild-card race, they're young, and they're having a blast.
In the next few weeks, the mood might change. But I don't think the A's will melt away. They have the brainy front office, they have a lot of talent, and they've got the Melvin Equilibrium.