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Here is the opening to my Tuesday column, comparing Bob Melvin and Jim Harbaugh:

It all comes down to Jim Harbaugh vs. Bob Melvin, a strange comparison if there ever was one. But, OK, you need to know what I’m talking about, and that involves an explanation of context. Here goes.

I spent October on the grand tour of the Midwest with the Giants, and as I killed time in press boxes before playoff games, I asked myself a simple question: How would I rank the five professional managers/head coaches I cover?

It’s a fun mind game and, to me, it has meaning. So, let’s name the top and the bottom guys right away because they are so obvious, and then let’s get to the heart of the matter, the Harbaugh-Melvin super showdown.

To read the full column click here.

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18 Comments

  1. J Canseco

    Always glad to see the A’s and Melvin get their due. I suppose we A’s fans owe Brian Fuentes a big thank-you.

    November 5th, 2012 7:39 pm

  2. Johnc

    I think you make a good case for Melvin . He did a fabulous job.

    There is one thing that bothers me however with all this logic and that is the statement that Harbaugh inherited a team loaded with talent. Before last season started you asked CohnZohn bloggers which team between Oakland and the Niners had more talent. I gave a slight edge to Oakland and I think you did also.So theoretically if the Raiders were “more loaded” than the loaded Niners what happened to them?……. I think Harbaugh did a better job than you give him credit for.

    November 5th, 2012 10:28 pm

  3. Dennis

    I seem to recall you suggesting the Raiders had a lot more talent than the 49ers around the time of their preseason game last year. Now you are saying that Harbaugh was lucky enough to take over a talent loaded team. Where did this talent come from? It couldn’t possibly be from Harbaugh’s coaching? We will see what Melvin does next year. With a great coach like Bob I am sure they will be in contention no matter what the roster looks like.

    November 6th, 2012 7:28 am

  4. Steve

    I agree with your rankings, except I think Dennis Allen has a bigger upside than Mark Jackson so I’d rank him fourth. Jackson seems like a phony and I can’t imagine his players buying in for a full season. The NFC West is better than you credit it. In fact, you can argue that, top to bottom, it is the second best division in football this year, behind the NFC North which is far and away the best and will likely send three teams to the playoffs. I do sense that you’re letting your animosity for Harbaugh influence your ranking, but I too give a slight edge to Melvin because he took the Diamondbacks to the playoffs as well.

    November 6th, 2012 8:32 am

  5. Jim Bancroft

    I’d rate Bochy maybe a _little_ better than Melvin, for his handling of the pitching staff, but I wouldn’t go as far as Lowell has. Bruce had a lot of dead years in San Diego, and a few here too, before lighting struck. Where was this supposed genius prior to 2010?

    Let’s not forget how he resisted using younger guys in place of old, dead wood (Aubrey Huff 2011 comes to mind, and didn’t he fail to push Sabean to get Posey up here sooner in 2010, sticking with our pre-Pablo Pablo, Benji Molina?)

    I’ll state again that the Giants used a decade of luck to get out of the Cincinnati and St Louis series, and were _very_ fortunate to catch the collapsing Padres in 2010. If those dice hadn’t rolled right Bochy likely would be gone now.

    Melvin by contrast, took a group of young unknowns, sent down the A’s best young player of 2011 (Weeks), lost his big-name starter (Colon) and still caught the excellent Rangers. And they almost had a Giants-like comeback in the playoffs vs Detroit. What a manager.

    Harbaugh’s act will get old pretty soon I think. The press is the canary in the coal mine here, warning us about him, but while the 49ers win there’s little interest among the fans. That won’t last I think. At some point there will be a tough loss, Harbaugh will give off a jerk stink in the postgame presser and the fan base will start making noise. As Lowell mentioned in a prior posting, NFL coaches have gotten ruder as the years go by but Harbaugh is pushing even that envelope. (After hubris comes nemesis.)

    November 6th, 2012 9:20 am

  6. Steve

    Actually Jim, Bochy should be Manager of the Century for the class he exhibited dealing with the baggage of the jerk known as Barry Bonds at the end of his career. And he led an under talented Padres team to the playoffs on more than one occasion, including a World Series appearance. From outward appearances it may seem that Bochy is reluctant to use younger players, but the front office has been gradually remaking this team during his tenure and the younger players simply weren’t ready last year. Look how Belt and Crawford struggled early in the season. Bochy gave Schierholz and Ishikawa many chances to succeed; they didn’t. He played the hand he was dealt.

    November 6th, 2012 9:46 am

  7. Capts

    Good article, except I would suggest that the A’s history is more glorious than the 49ers. More title game appearances, longer existence, only one less championship (4 MORE than the 49ers if you count before Oakland), brought the Bay its first championship, and have been relevant in every decade (the 49ers really weren’t until 1980.) Popularity wise, it’s of course the 49ers or Raiders, NFL is king.

    November 6th, 2012 10:22 am

  8. Streetglide

    I’m with Harbaugh. I don’t compare people; there’s no upside to it. And coaching 16+ games is WAY harder than a 197 or whatever baseball is these days. You can go weeks on auto-pilot in rounders but you cannot afford to lose even one play on the gridiron. Then again, Lowell-san, you have it in for Jimbo, have since day two, you know it and I know it and that’s fine. But comparing football to a namby pamby game like baseball is bogus.
    .
    Don’t forget to vote. I’m looking for Truman to pull it out…

    November 6th, 2012 10:43 am

  9. Stan

    Well Lowell,a guy who works for a super conducting lab and has a hot girlfriend posted you are wrong. So,admit it.

    November 6th, 2012 11:28 am

  10. jason

    CAPTS – does anyone really care about the Connie Mack A”s? Heck, I can’t even find anyone that cares (or knew) about the Sal Bando/Campy A’s.

    November 6th, 2012 2:15 pm

  11. Dennis

    The more I think about this the more I am in agreement with Streetglide. Comparing football, baseball and basketball coaches/managers to one another doesn’t make any sense. It would be like comparing your writing skills to a novelist like Tom Wolf. As far as I know the only thing you have in common is you are both writers. But how can you compare the both of you to one another. What taste better and apple or an orange? Football coach, baseball manager, basketball coach – all different jobs even though they all involve sports. There is really no way to compare one against the other.

    November 6th, 2012 3:50 pm

  12. Capts

    @Jason Yes, there are literally hundreds of thousands of people that care about A’s history, and really, any worthwhile sports fan would appreciate those dynasties. Maybe the casual, yuppie crowd may not.

    November 6th, 2012 5:15 pm

  13. Loneraider78

    Not even really a game at all.

    Bochy is coaching, what is right now, the dominant team of this decade. Who knows what could follow this run. With that staff, they will be in the discussion for awhile.

    Melvin clearly second. The A’s had not one player that you could look at and say “bonified superstar”. And they kept grinding out wins.

    Harbaugh is great, I wish he would’ve come back to Oakland. Noone can argue that he didn’t inherit a team that had “bonified superstars”. He brought the missing piece: offensive continuity.

    Beyond those three there’s really no discussion. Jackson and Allen are too green.

    November 6th, 2012 8:01 pm

  14. jason

    CAPTS- I live in the east bay and have been for over 40 years. I’ll put my knowledge of A’s baseball against anyone. Bando/Campy/Rudi/Jackson/Odom -those are the easy ones. Don MIncher, Gonzalo Marquez, Angel Mangual? Monte Moore, Al Helfer, RedRush, and of course Harry Carey? A young and skinny (with hair) Jon Miller from my circa 1973 A’s yearbook. Games broadcast on KBHK channel 44. A’s first radio station in bay area? KNBR!! Sponsored by Atlantic Richfield stations. Says so on my pocket schedule that I still have.

    You and I can talk A’s all night, but heck if I can find anyone who even remembers those days. Hundreds of thousands? nah.

    November 7th, 2012 12:04 am

  15. Capts

    @Jason I would wager more sports fans can name pre 1980′s A’s than 49ers and that’s sort of my point. A more consistent and storied history. As much as A’s attendance gets ridiculed, millions of people have gone to see them over the years and I’m sure they are aware of the Bay Area’s only three peat champions.

    November 7th, 2012 11:17 am

  16. Kommon Senze

    I see the logic in choosing Melvin, but I tend to agree with many that there seems to be some facts that are a little flimsy in the ‘knocking’ of Harbaugh. As others have said, several of the players that were considered ‘Pro Bowl’ talents were not that when he took over. Who is to say they would have reached that potential if under a different coach? Why is he not given credit for the transformation of some of these pieces? In two years or so, if/when some of the “no-names” on the A’s show that they are all-star caliber, couldn’t you then retrospectively say “well, the pieces were there for Melvin” too? Obviously, Baalke deserves a lot of credit for some of the personnel, but the same could be said for Beane on the A’s side.

    I think, really, what bothers me with the article is the hint of the tone taken that Harbaugh was ‘lucky’ to fall into such a great situation (not the sentiment that people had prior to last year, btw), but Melvin did it all on his own. To me, it’s much much closer, and an equally persuasive argument can be made for Harbaugh. Consider the total transformation he has helped bring about in Alex Smith. There’s no real comparable during Melvin’s tenure, really.

    I’m very curious to see how Melvin does next year. If he pushes the A’s to a similar record again, then I think his place behind Bochy would be far more secure, because he’ll have repeated his success (the key to Bochy being #1). If not, then questions can be fairly raised if he didn’t catch some lightening in a bottle for this past year. I tend to think Melvin did achieve his success because he is good (he had success with Arizona and Seattle before), but we’ll see this upcoming year.

    BTW – No Todd McClellan? I guess out of sight, out of mind.

    November 7th, 2012 2:24 pm

  17. CohnZohn

    Kommon Senze, I didn’t knock Harbaugh and I didn’t say he got lucky. I said he’s done a fine job. I just said Melvin did better. That is hardly a knock.

    November 7th, 2012 2:50 pm

  18. Kommon Senze

    I didn’t say you said any of that explicitly. I just felt the argument about him having everything ‘set up’ for him to succeed was the one aspect that didn’t read true to what I’ve seen and comes off as an attempt to ‘knock’ the accomplishment (i.e., take it down a peg). I know that you later said he deserves credit for getting the most out of his team, but, prior to that, you made a point of underlining how the situation was ideal for him given how unqualified his predecessor (Singletary) had been.

    I won’t debate how good or bad Singletary was as a HC, but couldn’t the same argument be made regarding Geren (i.e., he didn’t get the most out of his team)? Isn’t that usually what successful coaches are supposed to do? That section came across as an attempt to lessen Harbaugh’s accomplishment rather than to suggest Melvin just did a little more.

    Perhaps I’m reading into it a little, given my awareness of your occasionally prickly stance on Harbaugh’s unfavorable manner toward the media, but even you seemed to acknowledge that this might be an unpopular position by calling out folks who might run to Harbaugh’s defense.

    In the end, I’m not trying to change your mind. I don’t even necessarily disagree that Melvin is deserving of that spot. In simplest terms, I think it’s hard to argue the notion that he did more with less this year than perhaps any manager in the big leagues. To me, though, your argument didn’t come off as one of mere degrees of excellence; it appeared to carry an edge when discussing the success of one vs. the success of the other.

    November 7th, 2012 4:41 pm

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