Series showcases the AL's top managers, but they don't look at it that way

'I don't go against Buck,' says Oakland's Bob Melvin, who played for Showalter in N.Y.

September 15, 2012|By Dan Connolly | The Baltimore Sun

OAKLAND — Neither the Orioles nor the Oakland A's — the two biggest surprises in baseball this September — have a roster conducive to landing postseason awards.

Except, of course, American League Manager of the Year, with the two primary candidates facing off at the Oakland Coliseum this weekend. Or their teams are, anyway.

"I don't go against Buck. It's the players against the players. You just try to prepare your players for the series," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said about the Orioles' Buck Showalter. "If I start looking at it as I'm managing against him, I'm going to be in trouble. It's not about that. It's about the players going out there and doing their thing."

In Baltimore, fans have pretty much handed over Manager of the Year to Showalter, who has led an Orioles team from a 93-loss abyss and 14 straight losing seasons to a showdown for the AL East title.

In Oakland, though, Melvin has done an equally — perhaps more — impressive job, taking a team with a $51 million payroll, no recognizable names in the rotation and an offense with just one player with more than 20 homers to atop the AL wild-card standings.

"They got the right guy, obviously, with Bob," Showalter said. "Bobby has done a great job putting the pieces in place where they can best prosper."

The men know each other fairly well. In 1994, Showalter managed the New York Yankees; Melvin was a reserve catcher for that club at the end of his playing career.

"I take away a lot of things that he taught me. He was the first manager I ever played for that said, 'Hey, you are going to play against this guy, on this date and this is why.' That was very important for me," Melvin said. "Especially for the role players and bench players, because they know what day they are playing against a potential guy and they can visualize and prepare for that. And he was the first guy I was ever around that did it that way."

Melvin, who played in Baltimore for three seasons, including for the 1989 "Why Not?" Orioles, was initially considered a potential candidate for the O's managerial job in 2010, when Showalter was hired. Melvin never was interviewed, however.

That's a good thing for A's fans. The even-keel, cerebral Melvin has brought the right tenor to his ballclub, using a preparedness that is reminiscent of Showalter.

"Bobby's the type of guy, [people say], 'Well, he's a good fit here,'" Showalter said. "I think Bob would be a good fit wherever he would go."

During this key three-game series, there's a whole lot of mutual respect in the dugouts — even if the two managers aren't technically battling each other.

"The way I evaluate managers is, 'Am I worried about what he is going to do? Am I worried about what he is doing? Is some of my focus always taken off what I am doing to try and make sure I know what he is doing?'" Melvin said. "And Buck has always been one of those guys."

Around the horn

Jim Thome (herniated disk) is expected to play his first instructional league game Wednesday. … Chris Davis broke a suite window in center field with a batting practice homer Saturday. … The Orioles have named lefty Jacob Pettit (Double-A Bowie) and outfielder L.J. Hoes (Triple-A Norfolk before this week's call-up) as the organizational players of the month for August. … The Orioles' four double plays in successive innings Friday night was the second time they did that this season, also grounding into four in four straight innings May 6 in a 17-inning victory at Boston. No other team in the majors has done it once this season.

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