"Ken Macha, 2006": A Horror Story, Written And Produced By Billy Beane


On Monday, Billy Beane swooped in heroically to save a disgruntled clubhouse from a problem that he had single-handedly created. The issue wasn't whether Ken Macha was a manager worthy of leading the Oakland A's. It had already been established in the Winter of 2005 that Macha was "good enough before and he's good enough now," and whether you loved, liked, disliked, or hated Macha's managerial style and decisions, the record reflects that he was "good enough" to be rehired for 2006, that his teams won an awful lot of games even through the challenges of youth and injury, and that his latest club advanced farther than any A's club had advanced since 1992.

So the why was the 2006 version of Ken Macha suddenly not "good enough" anymore, why was he unable to command the respect and appreciation of many of the same players who supported him in 2005? When Macha left last Winter, only to return a few days later, Billy Beane passed up the opportunity to say, "We're really glad to have him back," or "He has an excellent track record and we're glad things ultimately worked out." Instead, it became publicly known that Macha had been forced to crawl back to the same financial terms of the non-negotiable offer he had earlier refused, and Beane's choice of words to describe his "willingness" to "take Macha back" was that Macha had been "good enough before" and was "good enough" now.

In a baseball locker room, guys walk around naked together. Imagine if you walked by your boss and while he was giving you orders, and asking for your respect, you noticed that he had no testicles. And he's standing there, being all "in charge," and all you can think about is...Imagine that you are a boss and you are publicly humiliated by your boss, and you know that your employees have read all about it in the newspaper, and now you have to supervise guys whose contract negotiations actually yield them raises and they just heard that you're back because you were "good enough". How much respect would you expect to garner in your "clubhouse," and how much resentment would you carry to work with you each day?

Billy Beane chose not to offer Ken Macha a token $50,000 or $100,000 raise so that it would appear there had been a negotiation that caused the manager's return the second time. Instead, Beane, and these are the exact words I used at the time, "won the battle and lost the war," bringing back a humiliated and demoralized and disgruntled man whom the A's now, ironically, owe $2,000,000 for services that will never be rendered. Beane chose not to talk up his newly hired old manager, choosing a term, "good enough," that is every bit as inflammatory as the term "non-entity" Macha used to describe those on the DL. Who do you think was made to feel like a "non-entity" in 2006? The boss. By whom? His boss.

So if you're wondering how the same Ken Macha who seemed to be a "good enough" communicator, personality, and overall manager through 2005 could suddenly not be "good enough" with mostly the same players and actually more on-field success, the answer is simple: It was not the same Ken Macha. It was the neutered, resentful version that Beane crafted. Macha may never have been the best manager available, but he is the victim this time--the victim of an evolution that was so inevitable, anyone but the boss' boss could have seen it coming a mile away.

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