After trading their top three players — Andrew Bailey, Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez — over the offseason for prospects, the organization appeared destined for a 100-loss season after going 74-88 in 2011.
At one point, a losing record looked like a reality. On June 13, the Athletics were trailing the Rangers by 13 games for first place in the division. Even with nine days left in the season, Oakland was behind Texas by five games.
Yet somehow, Athletics manager Bob Melvin managed to turn the team’s fortunes around and guide them to a division title with a 94-68 record. That’s why Melvin deserved the American League Manager of the Year.
He got the most out of youngster Josh Reddick — a product of the Bailey trade — and rookie Yoenis Cespedes, who combined for 55 home runs and 162 RBIs to carry Oakland’s offense into the postseason.
During the season, Melvin steadied the ship as the roster drastically changed. By the end of the regular season, the Athletics were playing with a completely different infield than the one from Opening Day. Not a single one stuck at their original position.
That’s nothing compared to the makeover the starting rotation received. One by one, Melvin started slotting rookies into the rotation, hoping they’d survive after being baptized by fire.
Whatever Melvin said, it worked. Tommy Milone, Jarrod Parker, Dan Straily and A.J. Griffin made a seamless transition into the majors.
When Bartolo Colon was suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs and Brandon McCarthy was drilled by a line drive, Brett Anderson stepped right in and posted a 4-2 record with a 2.57 ERA in six starts.
He came up with a creative and consistent platoon in the outfield. Regardless of how they performed on a day-to-day basis, Melvin rotated between Brandon Moss, Jonny Gomes, Seth Smith and Collin Cowgill in the outfield.
With the lowest payroll in baseball –– $59.5 million –– the Athletics penned a sequel to Moneyball by spearheading a run to the playoffs. Had they not faced Tigers ace Justin Verlander twice in a series, Oakland could’ve snuck into the World Series.
The craziest part is they still have young talent on the way for Melvin to play with. Pitchers A.J. Cole, Brad Peacock, Raul Alcantara along with infielder Miles Head were all top prospects acquired last offseason who never played in 2012.
Should they develop sooner and evolve into major contributors, Melvin could be well on his way to another managerial award.