OAKLAND -- In the world of sports, sometimes there is a moment in time that becomes known as the turning point. The "A-ha" moment. The singular move that changes things for the better. For the A's, that moment came on June 9, 2011.
That's when Bob Melvin was named the interim manager.
Since then, Melvin has led Oakland to a 141-120 record, an improbable division title, and was named the American League Manager of the Year. On Monday, the A's rewarded him with a two-year contract extension that keeps him in green and gold through the 2016 season.
"This has become one of the best decisions Billy has made," A's managing general partner Lew Wolff said of hiring Melvin. "Equal to a lot of the great trades we've made."
The decision to sign Melvin was of the no-brainer variety for general manager Billy Beane.
"This is probably the simplest negotiation I've ever had in my career here," Beane said. "I think that's a reflection of the relationship Bob has with the organization."
"Probably took me longer to dial the phone," he added.
The feeling was clearly mutual.
"I think we sat down for two minutes to actually discuss the terms of the contract," Melvin said. "That's how long it took."
In his first full year on the job, Melvin improved the A's win total by 20. It was the third biggest one-year turnaround in Oakland history. En route to winning the American League West, the A's overcame a 13-game deficit while playing without their top three starting pitchers. They did it because even in the face of a massive deficit, the clubhouse believed they were never out of it.
"There's never a game Bob didn't think he could win regardless of what it looked like," Beane said. "He's very consistent."
An example of that fighting spirit demonstrated by Melvin and embodied by the team could be seen in the A's Major League-leading 14 walk-off wins in 2012 and the fact that they won 72 of their final 110 games for the best record in MLB since June 1. As a result, the A's became the first team in Major League history to win the division after trailing by five games with nine to play.
That was enough to convince the team to lock down the manager for an additional two years, and well before his current three-year contract was up. If it feels right, why wait?
"From our standpoint when you have someone that you think is absolutely perfect for your organization, I think you are foolish not to be proactive," Beane said. "That was the case with Bob's contract."
"From the moment I got here, I've felt welcomed," Melvin said. "Not only from the front office staff but from the players, the clubhouse personnel, to the training staff. Everything has been so fluent here."
Known for his communicative nature, his calm demeanor, and the ability to instill his players with the confidence to win, Melvin has transformed the A's young team into a legitimate contender. The Palo Alto native who attended Cal is the first to arrive every day. If you show up early enough to the Coliseum you might catch a glimpse of him running the stairs in the stands. Up and down, all the way around the infield.
"If you had to describe him in one word, he's a leader," Wolff said.
The A's are setting themselves up to be competitive not just this season, but for the next several years. They recognize that Melvin will be a big part of that. Melvin now joins players such as Josh Reddick, Yoenis Cespedes, Jarrod Parker, and Tommy Milone that will all be under team control for the next several seasons.
Beane said that he also felt it was important that the team's leadership was in tact through those years. He wants them to feel they are all in it together, and added that it seemed fitting that Melvin was signed through 2016, a similar duration as assistant general manager David Forst, and himself.
And to think at the time of his hiring, Melvin -- already a one-time Manager of the Year award-winner -- was between jobs.
"I was almost surprised he was available, and now I am ecstatic that he was available," Wolff said.
The A's believe their future is bright. After recovering from a stretch of five consecutive years finishing .500 or below, the team has a talented core in tact, and a potent leadership group in place. The A's enter the season as the reigning American League West champions after taking their first division title since 2006.
"I'm extremely confident with how competitive we'll be," Wolff said. "I think we've got a lot of talent that's young. It's not just next year, it's the next two or three years. The spine of our team, in my mind, has been selected brilliantly."