It wasn't a surprise when the San Diego Padres picked a longtime Bay Area manager to take over after firing Jayce Tingler. But it was a shock that it was Bob Melvin.
After months of (ill-informed) speculation about Bruce Bochy and a couple of weeks of interviews with other former managers, the Padres stunned the baseball world Thursday evening by hiring Melvin away from the A's, according to multiple reports. MLB.com's A.J. Cassavell, who broke the news, reported that the A's, who picked up a 2022 option on Melvin in June, allowed him to interview with the Padres and then did not demand compensation when the two sides agreed to a three-year deal.
It's hard to imagine how the Padres could have possibly emerged from their search with a better choice. Melvin is a three-time Manager of the Year and is widely considered one of the best leaders in the game, and he'll immediately command the respect that wasn't there for Tingler or fellow first-timer Andy Green.
Padres president of baseball operations A.J. Preller handpicked Tingler and Green, but Green never finished above .500, and Tingler was let go after a massively disappointing 2021 season. The Padres were supposed to give the Los Angeles Dodgers all they could handle in the NL West. Instead, they finished 28 games behind the first-place Giants.
People around the team characterized it as a group that lacked toughness and leadership, but there is still plenty of talent in that room, and with the right coaching staff, the Padres should be right there with the Giants and Dodgers next year. They'll add Mike Clevinger back to their rotation next year and still have a lineup led by Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado and Jake Cronenworth. The reasons people picked the Padres as a World Series contender last offseason are still there this time around, and they've once again made a splash.
That's Preller's style, and for as much heat as he has taken lately, you have to admire the fact that he consistently tries to hit homers, not singles. It hasn't led to much postseason success, but at least the Padres are trying to compete with the Dodgers and Giants rather than laying down and embracing mediocrity as many smaller-market teams have over the last decade. Of course, the Padres could use more help around the margins, but upgrading their coaching staff should help in that regard.
This is a big win for Preller and for Melvin, who went to the playoffs six times in 11 years with the A's but faced an uncertain future. There were reports Thursday that Melvin's departure was part of the A's latest attempt to slash payroll, and that's an awful sign for a team that has guys like Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Chris Bassitt, Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas getting expensive in arbitration and coming up on free agency.
When that's the case in Oakland, the next step is always the same ...
As the A's possibly tear it down again -- and try to figure out where they'll be playing in a few years -- Melvin will get a real shot to compete for the postseason. The Padres, as they often do, came out of nowhere to make the first big move in what should be a fascinating offseason in the NL West.
It appears Bochy will watch all the action from his home in Nashville, where he's enjoying life as a grandfather. His name came up often in recent months, but there was never really any indication that the Padres had him at or near the top of their list, and the noise wasn't coming from Bochy. It was easy to make the connection, but he downplayed it during a recent appearance on Giants Talk.
"I was a little uncomfortable with all of that," Bochy said last month. "That's all speculation, I haven't talked to anybody. That's probably a little bit my fault because I get asked the question a lot and I don't know what to say, I just say 'you don't rule anything out.' But I'm not pursuing anything, I've enjoyed what I've been doing.
"But you know what, you don't know. I'm sure I'm going to have to keep answering that question but right now I'm working for the Giants and enjoying what I'm doing. We'll see what happens. You look at (Tony) La Russa, geez, what did he take off, eight or nine years and he's back on the field. We'll see."