Here’s how a post about Bob Melvin being awarded the AL Manager of the Year should go: Introduce what pundits predicted to happen at the beginning of the 2012 season. Discuss the Athletics’ success despite the dearth of payroll and talent. Liken what Billy Beane did to
a magic trick an illusion. Describe Bob Melvin via analogy and allusion to Houdini, or Gob, or (if I’m feeling particularly self-loathing) Criss Angel–thereby furthering the “magic” theme. Underscore the size of the payroll for good measure. Conclude with provocative question, such as “I wonder what tricks Beane and Melvin have up their collective sleeve for next season,” or “I wonder what else they have in their bag of tricks.”
While there is merit to such stories, there’s also no shortage of them. The A’s unlikely road has been mapped. And that map will be reprinted for eternity. To focus on the road traveled by the A’s and their manager detracts from the success. What’s behind all of it is just a man. A man who willed his team to the second best record in the American League, sure. But a man nonetheless. Melvin told Chris Townsend and Matt Steinmetz of 95.7 The Game that winning such an award “doesn’t make sense” to him.
“When you grow up here,” Melvin tried to explain, “you kind of think of yourself in terms of being younger than you are at this point in time. And to (win the award) is kind of a surreal sight.”
Of course it’s surreal. The deeper narrative of Melvin’s success has yet to be told. The dots yet to be connected. Somewhere in that narrative is Melvin the man who resurrected both his managerial career and the A’s. But underneath that is the story of Bob Melvin the boy who returned home to revive his city (well, he grew up in Palo Alto, but you get the point).
When asked about the differences between winning the award in 2007 and today, Melvin was quick to name place. “The pride you have wearing the uniform of your hometown team,” Melvin said. “I felt it the minute I put (the uniform) on. You know, I was in Chicago and they got the number for me done quickly, and I got to put the uniform on. Before I went out there and actually introduced myself to anybody, I snuck a peek in the bathroom and took a look with the uniform on. It was pretty cool.”
“There is just a feeling sometimes and you can’t explain it,” Melvin conceded.
I can’t explain it either. There are the physical details, of course. The science of the season. It’s all there to be analyzed. But there is something more. Something that lays beyond the utility of Bob Melvin, beyond the accolades. There is something about the story of a man who returns home and fulfills the dreams of his childhood that proves possibility.
So, yeah, winning the AL Manager of the Year proves Melvin’s worth. It proves the A’s are a team to be noticed. It proves money doesn’t buy victories. But, maybe, it proves that everything is possible again.