From BoMel’s poker face to Kotsay’s fire?

When Mark Kotsay spoke to the media after being confirmed as the new A’s manager, he was asked what he thought the differences were between himself and Bob Melvin.

Kotsay explained that he tended to wear his heart on his sleeve more than the famously stoic BoMel, prompting suggestions that he may be more combative when the typically bizarre umpire review calls come through from New York.

Melvin would often wear a strong poker face through the good and the bad. Whilst keeping things on a level is usually a welcome trait over a long baseball season, some A’s fans on Twitter would criticise him for not showing more fire.

With that in mind, I thought I would take a look at his ejection numbers during his years managing the A’s.

The first thing that struck me was how relatively infrequent manager ejections are now that the MLB review system is in place. Not that it means they get all the calls right now – us A’s fans know that painfully too well – just that it’s even more pointless to get angry when the people you can argue with on the field are not the ones who made the maddening decision.

Taking out the shortened 2020 season we see that the MLB average is three ejections per season. Melvin was usually around that mark, except for his 99-game season when joining mid-way through 2011 and then in 2016.

Because we focus on the A’s games it’s easy to lose some perspective and remember the times when we felt Melvin could have ripped into the umpires but didn’t. You may still feel he could have done it more often, but it’s not true to say that he was notably more reluctant than his fellow managers.

We do see quite a spike in his final season with the team, though. Melvin’s six ejections in 2021 were the most in a single season that he has ever had (including his time with the Seattle Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks) and was the joint-second highest total among all MLB managers last year. He was tied with the annoyingly gobby New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone and only out-done by the then-San Diego Padres manager Jayce Tingler with seven ejections.

Maybe Melvin was getting a year of practice in before heading over to San Diego?!

None of this means we won’t see a slightly different approach from Kotsay in respect of how he tries to motivate the team. What it does suggest is that we need to look beyond ejections for evidence of this. Ejections are the most demonstrative example of firing up a team, yet they are far from the only one. We may see Kotsay going around the troops more in the dugout to cajole and encourage them, for example.

The unknown with it all is that most managers tailor their approach based on the group of players they have. With the MLB owners and players still at an impasse in the Collective Bargaining Agreement talks, none of us – probably Kotsay included – really know quite what roster he will have at his disposal once the season begins.

The only thing that is certain is that Kotsay will have to handle the emotions of New York stuffing up replay calls on a regular basis once again.

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