The Padres smacked a home run despite Petco Park being readied for the Holiday Bowl.
The local nine resides on cloud nine after hiring Bob Melvin as their manager, a move few saw coming and even fewer are questioning.
Melvin exited the Oakland Athletics after 11 years because of the athletic abilities, and the upside, of the Padres. The three-time manager of the year felt his salad days had wilted with Oakland, a franchise in flux.
So Melvin plants his flag in San Diego.
Melvin is another newcomer in these parts, but those with area roots are blossoming with praise.
“I think it’s fantastic,” said Rancho Santa Fe’s Mark Loretta, a former major league second baseman and bench coach. “This is just the type of guy that the Padres need. He has big-time experience and credibility with the players.”
Del Mar’s Brad Ausmus managed the Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels after catching for 18 years.
“I think it’s a great move,” Ausmus said.
Loretta, who finished his playing career with the Padres, inadvertently described the traits that Melvin’s predecessor didn’t possess. Jayce Tingler, who was dismissed after the season, was a first-time manager and it showed.
The Padres’ second-half pratfall was far from Tingler’s fault exclusively.
The starting pitcher faltered, the offense sputtered, shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. pouted about going to the outfield and the Padres’ feel-good vibe vanished like their playoff chances. Instead of building on the exhilarating 2020 season, their encore fell flat.
So Tingler was shown the spinning door and when it spit someone back, Melvin was the man.
That Melvin became a Padre just days after agreeing to a 2022 contract with the A’s was shocking. When Padres general manager A.J. Preller first inquired about Melvin’s availability, his A’s counterpart was clear about his request.
“No chance, go to hell,” said Billy Beane, the A’s vice president of baseball operations.
Preller, who lives in Encinitas, wasn’t deterred. The result could ultimately be Preller’s greatest acquisition — OK, second to hoodwinking the Chicago White Sox out of Tatis.
“It was kind of a no-brainer for the Padres,” Ausmus said.
Poway’s Bruce Bochy, who won three titles with the San Francisco Giants, was likely the Padres’ first call. He pointed San Diego to the 1998 World Series and he has more equity in San Diego than a block of seaside homes.
But Bochy stayed retired and Preller never rested in chasing Melvin. Every GM has a list of potential managerial candidates and on Preller’s, the 60-year-old Melvin was No. 1.
“A lot of credit goes to the Oakland A’s,” Preller said of Beane allowing Melvin to interview.
It also speaks of the high regard those that know Melvin best have for him. Instead of blocking Melvin’s way, they cleared his path to San Diego.
“I don’t know if there’s a better destination in baseball,” Melvin said.
Ausmus had Melvin when he was earning his stripes with Milwaukee Brewers as a bench coach.
“He was a gamer, smart and he was easy to talk to from a players’ and coaches’ perspective,” Ausmus said.
Loretta also played for Melvin in Milwaukee.
“He has total respect and I’ve never heard a negative thing about him,” Loretta said.
Both said Melvin has that enviable blend of being an old-school baseball guy and accepting of today’s data-driven decisions.
Call Melvin a hybrid and he’ll smile. Call him the Padres new manager and his grin only grows.