RE: Ray Ratto

In the 10/6 edition of the Daily Link Dump, Salb re-introduced us to good ol' Ray Ratto, and his latest article about Macha v. Beane, The Firing.  The article can be found here: History repeats: Beane and his manager at odds

Ratto questions Billy Beane's notion that managers are not very valuable, stating that Beane has a "well-known view of managers -- that you can find them working Wal-Mart aisles."

In this diary, I post my emailed response to Ray, not necessarily disputing the fact that managers are generally worthless, but pointing out that in Oakland, they pretty much are, since we have Billy and a wealth of talented position coaches to draw from.  I even subtly poke at his prediction of the A's only winning 65 games this year-- always a fun thing to do. Let me know what you think, and I'll let you know if/when I hear back from this guy.

Dear Mr. Ratto,

It's pretty clear that you believe that Macha deserved to stay in Oakland, but did he really?  How good of a manager was Ken Macha?   Sure, he did a decent job, but who's to say that someone else couldn't do this?  As Beane himself said, "I thought Ken did a good job. ... Art did a spectacular job, Kenny followed up, and it was a fairly seamless transition." (Source: Macha will not return to A's)

This just goes to show that Beane didn't think Macha was worth the extra $700k/year that Nero first proposed, or even worth the extra $400k/year in the revised contract.  And Beane is right in thinking this.  Macha essentially rode the coattails of prior success, and didn't get the A's in the playoffs the past two years.  Sure 85-90 wins/year is a good thing, but the A's still didn't make the playoffs.  So why pay when you don't have to.  As is evidenced by Macha's succession of Art Howe, Terry Francona's success with the Red Sox, and the Devil Rays' interest in Ron Washington, the A's have a talented staff from which to draw in selecting a new manager, and will do so while saving precious money that can be used in efforts to resign Barry Zito or sign a right handed power hitter (though I believe the former to be more likely).

Perhaps Macha doesn't have a contingency plan (though if I were a betting man, I'd tell you he'll end up Pittsburgh), but I believe that Beane does.  Washington is under contract through 2006, and while he'll be tempted by the D-Rays, he won't go there.  Beane will hire Bob Geren, bullpen coach, to replace Macha, as Geren and Beane already know each other and how the other one works.  Beane knows the value of his staff better than anyone, so why dip outside of this extensive pool of talented coaches?  From here he'll hire a new bullpen coach who can learn the job from Geren, and any "dropoff" from Macha will be negligible.  In fact, I believe that there will be no dropoff, as this young A's team will only get better with age.

Then, in 3 years when Geren's (read: the next manager's) contract is up, he'll want more money and Beane won't give it to him.  A's managers have obviously read Moneyball, and thus know that Beane allocates money to his manager like he allocates money to  his players; they won't be overpaid in Oakland, as baseball there is a business.  All parties should know this by now (see Giambi's singular offer, Miguel Tejada's non-offer, and the trades Hudson and Mulder).  To put it bluntly, Billy sets a value on an individual based on his performance, and he doesn't stray from it.

You point to Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa, and Joe Torre in dismissing Beane's notion that the manager is less important than most people think.  I can't dispute the success these managers have had, but consider this: neither John Schuerholz, Walt Jocketty, or Brian Cashman is as involved as Beane is in daily baseball operations, not to mention the fact that all have spent quite a bit more money per year than Beane (Braves: $85,148,582, Cardinals: 92,919,842, Yankees $205,938,439). For reference, Oakland only spent $55,869,262 this past year.  If Billy Beane had more hours in a day, and could be two places at once, it is safe to say that he would be the manager of the A's as well.  Billy is by far the most valuable GM in baseball, and one of the things he does is "help out" with managerial duties.  Thus, to think that Ken Macha was as valuable to the A's as Cox, La Russa and Joe Torre are to their respective teams is ludicrous.  Frankly put, the A's just don't need someone like the 3 managers you point to, so why would Billy pay for one?

If anything, Macha should be happy with the opportunity he got in Oakland.  He demonstrated to the rest of the league that he is a capable manager and had moderate success with the A's.  He'll use his opportunity in Oakland as a springboard and he'll make the "big bucks" in Pittsburgh or somewhere comparable.  It will be there that we see his success or non-success, and only then can we truly evaluate him as a manager.  We must all realize that it is Billy who runs this team, and whether or not you call him GM, manager, part-owner, or whatever, it will remain this way.

Macha and Beane weren't so much sick and tired of each other, but rather, Macha/Nero overjudging their net worth to Beane by a quite sizeable sum, which made the decision a quick and easy one for Beane.

It would be interesting to hear your thoughts, as you've strongly second guessed (dare I say misjudged?) Billy Beane's decisions in the past.

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