Interview With Oakland A's Manager, Bob Melvin:

How does a 96-win team get better?
Melvin: You always have to look to get better because you know everybody else in your division is going to try and get better. And everybody has. From the Mariners and [Robinson] Cano to the pitching in Anaheim to Kinsler and Fielder over in Texas... You bring in a Nick Punto, you bring in a Jim Johnson, Craig Gentry, and Luke Gregerson. Our bullpen's deeper, our bench is deeper, and we have more versatility. We feel like we have upgraded.
One game in, what do you think of the new replay rule so far?
Melvin: As a manager, you have to watch the game a little bit differently. Have a little umpire in you. I think the farther we get along with this, the more we're going to have an understanding of what we need to do timing-wise... I think there's a lot yet to be determined.
Do you think a manager should be able to argue after the ruling comes back (with regards to replay)?
Melvin: If I go out there and ask for a challenge, you're not allowed to argue after that. So there's still going to be that dynamic between maybe balls and strikes, if you're out of challenges, or if they don't get together on something.
What are your thoughts on the new contact rule -- have you seen it in action yet this spring?
Melvin: Yeah. The part I'm a fan of is that it takes out targeting a catcher when he's not in front of the plate. I think that's ultimately what they're trying to do. Stay away from unnecessary injuries at home plate. There's always going to be some contact depending on where the ball takes the catcher, but the biggest part of that is no more targeting of the catcher when he's not in front of the plate... and that's a good thing.
As a former big league catcher, can you tell me why catchers make great managers?
Melvin: Catchers have a little bit of a leg up watching the entire game and they have to think along with the manager. And they really are an extension of the manager. When our catcher goes out there, he's got a game plan with the pitcher and he has to look to me for certain signs and really has to be aware of what I'm thinking ... so he's ready for whatever I throw at him. So I think catchers are really just conditioned to watch the game more like managers than any other position.
Is there a cache to Billy Beane (the A's VP and GM, played by Brad Pitt in the movie 'Moneyball') that is unique to the situation here that wasn't the reality in other markets?
Melvin: I think he's unique in what he does regardless of just what goes on here. There aren't too many movies and books written about general managers, managers, or anybody in the game really. Based on what he's done here and the unique style of what goes on here, that was the reason for the book and the movie and well-deserved.
You guys take platooning to another level... metrics play a part in that... can you explain how those two things are balanced and what that process is like?
Melvin: There are certain guys that are everyday players. At other positions (based on our payroll, we're not one of the highest teams as far as payroll goes), if there's a deficiency a player has, we try and match it up with another player. So if a left-handed hitter hits righties well, we try to match him up with a right-handed hitter that hits lefties well. Whether it's starting games, or in-game moves, that's just the way we have to do it. So we're trying to combine two hitters to ultimately get one, which we feel is a premiere type player.
If you could change one rule tomorrow in the game, what would it be?
Melvin: I'm not a real big rule changer, I'm a bit of a traditionalist. I think the direction baseball is going in as far as replay is concerned is a good thing. Trying to stay away from injuries certainly is a good thing. I'm just not in the business of being a rule-changer. I'm the guy who goes by what the rules are and I think baseball is a great game... and in pretty good shape.
If you had to...
Melvin: Maybe go DH all the way around. Now with interleague play, there's an interleague game every day. Maybe uniform it. Certainly you want to keep your pitcher healthy and I think in the American League, when we play a National League team, maybe they have a little bit of an advantage because their pitcher is used to hitting... You can always plug a player into a DH role.
What do you think a new stadium would do for this franchise?
Melvin: We know our place is a little older than some. It's the only place still that has a football team and a baseball team on the same field. That part is difficult when football season starts because the field -- which is one of the better playing surfaces in all of baseball if not the best -- is considerably different once football starts. We don't look at it as a disadvantage to us. We go out there and play with what we're given. Our fan base makes our place a fun place to play. We may not get three million fans, but when they're out in a full force, we know our fans are behind us. Until someone tells us something different is on the horizon, our focus is just to play at our place.
Do you think chemistry is undervalued in Major League Baseball?
Melvin: I don't. With analytics and sabermetrics and so forth, I think those are two separate entities -- the statistical part and the chemistry part. Because these are human beings. I think anybody in my position, and in uniform, is going to tell you that chemistry is more involved than looking at the numbers. It is business that is ultimately with human beings. So I think there is chemistry involved. Our chemistry is probably one of the reasons we overachieve so to speak.
Free association game. Say the first thing that pops into your head when it comes to your favorite...
Stadium to win in:
Melvin: Oakland Coliseum

Road venue to win in:
Melvin: Yankee Stadium

Place to visit during spring training when you're not on the field:
Melvin: Tarbell's

Hobbies in the off-season:
Melvin: Mountain biking

Favorite mountain biking venues:
Melvin: The Go John Trail in Cave Creek (in Arizona) and at home (the Bay Area), it would probably be Tilden Park.

Bob Melvin, Manager of the Oakland A's
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