I was going to write a retrospective today on the season and start handing out final grades to individual A's for their performances in 2006, but as always with our Oakland Athletics, the offseason is NEVER a dead time. As a matter of fact, AN has often seen growth in the offseason thanks to the hyper kinetic A's offseasons.
It appears like the A's will be firing Ken Macha today, who goes into the Oakland Athletics record books as the manager with the second highest winning percentage behind Dick Williams.
Macha did a fine job this year. He did cost the A's a game here and there, in my opinion, and he also didn't make enough use of the A's amazing bullpen in the playoffs. But for the most part, I don't think Macha is to blame for the A's coming up short. The offense and the A's starting pitching is largely to blame for that one. Well, that and the injury bug just never seemed to fully leave the A's.
Macha shouldn't have much of a problem finding a new job with all the managerial openings out there. He's a proven winner, although in many ways his winning was largely a result of the talent the A's front office gave him.
As for what direction the A's turn to, I would imagine the immediate candidates would be Tony DeFrancesco (the River Cats manager), Rene Lachemann (the A's first base coach), Ron Washington (the A's third base coach) and Bob Geren (the A's bench coach). Expect Geren and Lachemann to be the front runners.
If the A's look outside the organization (which seems unlikely to me), perhaps they go after someone like Bud Black or an under-the-radar guy like Orel Hershiser. I don't see them sweeping in and grabbing someone like Piniella or Dusty Baker as that's just not the A's. Remember that Beane likes the front office to have a lot of say in decisions made on the field and Baker and Lou aren't the type of look to the front office for input. Love it or not, that's the way Beane has felt about managers.
I don't think this is a bad thing. My problems with Macha has always been a couple of things...first, I do want my manager to show some emotion on occasion. I don't want a raving lunatic like Lou or Whiny Mike Scioscia, but I do want a manager who will call bulls%&t to an umpire on occasion. Macha took whatever bad breaks the umps gave him. Maybe that even keel worked in the clubhouse, but I don't think the players would've minded a guy who went out and fought the good fight on occasion.
Macha also didn't manage to win in the postseason. Bobby Kielty should've been in against lefties and if Kotsay didn't like it, that was tough. I know Kots made two great plays in the outfield to save runs, but he also didn't do anything against lefties offensively. And believe me, you won't find a bigger Kotsay fan anywhere than right here. He also should've really yanked Loaiza earlier than he did. You've got an amazing bullpen that was lights out for the majority of the series and you didn't use it as much as you should've. There's a reason that Beane built the team from the back to the front. And Macha needed to realize that. Granted Duchscherer wasn't available which left a gaping hole, but in the postseason you absolutely have to be more aggressive about pitching changes. I don't blame Macha for leaving guys out there a little too long in a 162-game season, but not in a seven-game series.
And ultimately, I guess what undid Macha is the fact that he had a poor level of communication with his players. That's pretty unacceptable for a manager. You need to know your players and what is going on with them. Even the ones who seem insignificant like Melhuse. That's YOUR JOB.
So, it appears like less than two days after the A's were eliminated from the playoffs, Ken Macha will be taking the fall. It's already shaping up to be a fascinating offseason in Athletics Nation. As usual.
[UPDATE: Macha has officially been fired. We move into a next phase of the Beane era now.]