Oakland Athletics Manager Bob Melvin has struggled all season with knowing when to pull his starting pitchers, and at this point of the season, it doesn’t matter any more. However, it’s quite ridiculous to see the A’s blow a five-run lead just one day after overcoming one themselves. Melvin is lost in the same fog as the rest of the Oakland organization this season, and for all involved, the 2016 season can’t come soon enough.
Tonight in Seattle, the A’s scored five runs in the first two innings, but starting pitcher Jesse Chavez couldn’t get out of the fifth inning before he gave it all back—and then some. The Mariners won the game, 6-5, because Melvin waited too long to pull Chavez when it was clear he had no ability to challenge the heart of the Seattle lineup despite having the lead. That kind of passive, fearful approach to pitching hasn’t succeeded in the history of major-league baseball, really, and it didn’t succeed tonight, either.
It doesn’t help that the Mariners have a known PED cheat in the middle of their lineup who hit a home run tonight in the fourth inning and intimidated Chavez into a walk in the pivotal fifth inning. With two outs in the fifth, Chavez walked the aforementioned PED user, gave up an infield RBI single, walked another batter and then gave up the go-ahead runs. It was clear after the infield single that Chavez was mentally out of it, and it was obvious after the second walk that Chavez had nothing physically.
Yet Melvin left his starter in one or two batters too long (depending on your point of view), and the game was lost. The A’s manager has succeeded tremendously in the past by trusting his veterans and his rookies, but this year has been something very different—and he hasn’t adjusted at all. Again, it matters not now, with Oakland double-digit games out of a playoff spot.
The A’s are now a ridiculous 14-30 in one-run ball games this year, and you wonder how many of those games could have been won with better management from Melvin. This is not to say another manager would be better for the A’s in 2016; that’s just not the case. It just means that when Melvin sits down with General Manager Billy Beane at the end of the season, both of them need to hold each other accountable for this disaster of a season.
Chavez is now 7-13 with a 4.00 ERA in 2015, and it’s clear he’s not a long-term solution in the rotation. He’s done an admirable job when managed properly, but the more he pitches, the less effective he becomes. Chavez is a gamer, though, and Melvin wanted him to get the chance for a win tonight; it just didn’t work out the way the A’s manager wanted it to—again.
After pulling all the right strings in 2012, 2013 and most of 2014, Melvin’s touch has failed him this season. Here’s to hoping he rediscovers his deft hand in 2016.