A's players understand reasons for change

A's players understand reasons for change

A's players understand reasons for change
CHICAGO -- One of the interesting aspects of a midseason managerial change in Major League Baseball is that the media and the fans often get a glimpse of the new boss before the guys that are most affected: the players.

So it was for the Athletics on a chilly Chicago afternoon on Thursday. The players gradually filtered into the Oakland clubhouse, seemingly more affected by a rough night of travel than the teams' managerial change from Bob Geren to Bob Melvin. Meanwhile, across the passageway outside the visitor's clubhouse in the bowels of U.S. Cellular Field, Melvin was being introduced by his old friend and new boss, A's general manager Billy Beane.

"[Today there has been] a lot going on getting to know people, from support staff to players to trainers, everybody," said Melvin. "It's a little overwhelming, but ultimately, at the end of the day, I get to put this uniform on again and do it at a place where I'm home."

Melvin was asked about his familiarity -- or lack thereof -- with the current players and staff on the Athletics.

"I'm glad to have Brian Fuentes on my side now, because in Colorado, he was a pain in my butt," Melvin said. "Conor Jackson, I managed in Arizona. I will rely on the staff for the familiarity until I get to know each and every player intimately."

Back in the A's clubhouse, Fuentes was preparing for his first game under Melvin. Fuentes made headlines a couple of weeks ago when he criticized Geren for "unorthodox managing" in series against the Giants and Angels. He didn't revisit that issue on Thursday, but didn't seem caught off-guard by the change, either.

"I can't say it was a surprise," Fuentes said. "Regardless whether it was our team or any other team, when things don't go well, there are always moves that are made."

This move brings in a skipper without a formal attachment to the Oakland organization, though Melvin, a Bay Area native, describes himself as a "Bay Area sports fan." Though Melvin singled out Fuentes in his comments, the reliever said he didn't know a whole lot about his new boss.

"I don't know much," Fuentes said. "I don't really pay much attention to other manager's style of play. Usually I'm just in the bullpen waiting for my number to get called. I know speaking to guys like Conor Jackson and Jake Peavy, that he's a real standup guy."

As for the confusion over roles that caused Fuentes to speak out about, and later apologize to, Geren, he said that's all up to the new kid in town.

"I want to be on the same page as Bob," Fuentes said. "He's the boss, that's the bottom line. My pitching will dictate what role that's in. We haven't discussed anything like that. We haven't even had a formal introduction. I'm just looking forward to getting in there and pitching in some games."

Jackson was the touchstone for many of the travel-weary Athletics on Thursday as he played several seasons under Melvin in Arizona. That qualified him as the Bob Melvin expert in the Oakland clubhouse, many of whom sought Jackson out for the lowdown. What did he tell them?

"Great player's manager," Jackson said. "There's not one guy in the clubhouse that wasn't a friend of Bob. He really knows how to work with young players. It's a great team for him. We have a lot of young talent and I feel like he's a pretty good molder of personalities and baseball players as well."

Jackson was still with the D-backs when Melvin was replaced by A.J. Hinch early in the 2009 season. Nevertheless, Jackson doesn't really know how the team will react to its new boss.

"We're going to find out," Jackson said. "The track record goes back and forth, you just never know. But knowing the person Bob Melvin is, I'm sure this team will rally around him. He's got that kind of impact as a person."

While Jackson is the only current Athletic to have played for Melvin, there are a handful of former Melvin players on the White Sox, Oakland's opponent on Thursday. The consensus was offered by Chicago slugger Adam Dunn, who played for Melvin in 2008 with the D-backs.

"It's hard to get 25 guys to like a manager," Dunn said. "That's really hard to do. Players just really loved him. He was an awesome guy. He let you go out and play and he's just really, really positive. We were stinking pretty bad when I got over there, but he was super positive. He was just a good guy to play for."

Any time a ballclub changes managers, the clubhouse sentiment is largely that the players helped get the old manager dismissed and that it'll be the players that make or break the new guy.

"It's unfortunate that [Geren] had to take the fall," reliever Andrew Bailey said. "It's our job to play the game and win ballgames. ... It's easier to fire one guy than 25. We need to step up and start playing the game."

Oakland outfielder David DeJesus has been through this before. The Kansas City Royals twice changed managers midstream during DeJesus' time in the Midwest.

"This is my third one I'm going through right now," DeJesus said. "It's one of those things. It happens, it's the way baseball is. You just have to keep going. It doesn't change our routines every day. It's just going to change who's in charge."

DeJesus also warned against believing that the managerial change is going be some kind of quick fix for a team that had lost nine straight entering Thursday.

"There's not a miracle thing that we can perform," DeJesus said. "We've got to go out there and perform the way we want to perform. We want to end this streak. That's all we can do, is just go out there and just give it our best."

Bradford Doolittle is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.