The Oakland A’s record books got a new leader on Tuesday, in the category of wins by a manager.
With the team’s victory over the Seattle Mariners, skipper Bob Melvin earned his 799th win with the A’s, passing Tony La Russa for the most in Oakland history since the organization moved to the Bay Area in 1968. The franchise record belongs to Connie Mack, who spent 50 years managing the Philadelphia Athletics.
That’s impressive company for Melvin, as both Mack and La Russa are members of the Hall of Fame. While Melvin hasn’t matched their October accomplishments and is yet to lead the A’s to a World Series or even an ALCS, he’s at least taken them to the postseason six times in 10 tries, and also won a pair of Manager of the Year awards in an Oakland uniform in 2012 and 2018.
It was especially appropriate for the record-breaking victory to come in Seattle, as Melvin began his managerial career with the Mariners in 2003. He lasted two seasons there, then spent five guiding the Arizona D’Backs and won the 2007 NL MOTY award. His overall career win total is 1,292 over parts of 18 seasons, which ranks 36th in MLB history, with a .514 percentage (2,513 games).
BoMel fired up the guys in the dugout and the team came through pic.twitter.com/O61O2SfXfn— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) June 2, 2021
As for A’s lore, here’s how the franchise list stacks up now, including their total number of games and their win percentages.
- Connie Mack, 3,582 wins (7,466 games, .484)
- Bob Melvin, 799 wins (1,512 games, .528)
- Tony La Russa, 798 wins (1,471 games, .542)
- Art Howe, 600 wins (1,133 games, .530)
- Ken Macha, 368 wins (648 games, .568)
- Bob Geren, 334 wins (710 games, .470)
To see the Oakland list, just cross off Mack, which we may as well do anyway because his record is one of the most unbreakable in pro sports. The opportunity to manage one team for an entire half-century simply doesn’t exist anymore, a relic of a bygone era, so it’s not a realistic bar to aim for moving forward much like Cy Young’s 511 wins.
Looking down the rest of the Oakland leaderboard, after Melvin it’s just a chronological list of the last few decades. La Russa gave way to Howe in 1996, who was then replaced by Macha in 2003, who was then swapped out for Geren in 2007. When Geren proved ineffective and unpopular, he was fired midway through 2011 and the A’s brought in a New Bob, in Melvin. This one stuck, and a decade later he’s still here and winning more than anybody before him.
The concept of having a long-term manager is a relatively new one for the post-Mack A’s, another revolution sparked by La Russa. After Mack retired in 1950, the club went through the rest of their Philly days and their entire Kansas City tenure without having anybody last more than three seasons in the job. Jimmy Dykes (1951-53) set the standard with 208 wins and nobody else matched that until the move to California.
Hall of Fame skipper Dick Williams famously won two World Series with the 1970s Oakland A’s, but he only spent three seasons here and totaled 288 regular season victories. Alvin Dark succeeded him in 1974 for the final chapter of the championship three-peat, but that also didn’t last long — Dark ranks seventh behind Geren with 314 regular season wins, but only because he also did a stint at the helm of the K.C. A’s in the late-60s.
After Dark left and the Swingin’ Dynasty dissolved, there was a parade of five managers over four seasons, followed by a three-year whirlwind with Billy Martin (215 wins, 9th in franchise, behind Williams). The next four summers post-Martin saw three more stopgaps, until La Russa came along in 1986. Now stability has become the norm, with only five bosses over the last 36 seasons, and nobody for less than four years at a time.
“It just means I’ve been around for a while and I’m lucky to be around for a while,” said Melvin of his new record, per Matt Kawahara of the S.F. Chronicle. “I told these guys it’s about the players, the players win games for you. ... My coaches are great preparing these guys and these guys are the guys that win all those games. I’ve just been lucky enough to be around for a lot of them.”
Exactly the words you’d expect from a great manager. And being around this long isn’t luck as he modestly claims, it’s a reflection of his skill, success, and willingness to adapt as the sport changes over time.
When it comes to sports coaches, popularity is never a given. But fans like Melvin, players like him, the organization likes him, and the media likes him. It’s not often you see that pristine atmosphere preserved for more than a decade, but Melvin is so obviously the perfect person for this particular job that he maintains affection and credibility even during the leaner times in the standings.
Congrats to BoMel on a great accomplishment! Here’s to another decade and 799 more wins.