Ken Macha, endlessly and often harshly criticized at AN, is doing a superb job this season.
Let's consider why:
1) We're in first place.
He has a team atop the division that has been devastated by injuries and that has had several key players underperform.
Specifically: no Bradley; no Harden; no Ellis; Duke and Kennedy gone for a long time; Street, Chavy, and Thomas out for a while--and yet he has the team in first place.
2) Riding out the storm
These injuries and the horrible performance of many key players in April and May (DJ, Thomas, and Crosby, being the best examples) meant that Macha had to do much, much more than just fill out the lineup card every night. That's what Ozzie Guillen and others have done. Macha had to react almost weekly to the loss of players, to horrendous slumps, to disastrous outings by starters. And he reacted well in terms of Blanton, Loaiza, DJ, Crosby, and Street--being patient when he needed to, tough when he needed to.
Today with Loaiza was a perfect example. He let him hit in the 5th when many of us were likely hoping he'd be hit for and yanked. Then, he kept Halsey up, clearly sending the message that the game was Loaiza's to win but that there would be no charity if he showed signs of coughing up another lead. The result: a complete game that helps the pen, restores some confidence in Loaiza himself, and likely builds the team's confidence in him. I thought Macha was brilliant in how he handled Loaiza today.
3) Juggling the outfield/1st base situation.
We'd all have to agree, I think, that Macha's handling of DJ/Payton/Kielty has been excellent. He's been patient, and he's mixed them all in so well that we and they all feel they're integral to the team's success.
And this point can extend to the team as a whole. I know many complain on this site of the underuse of Melhuse, or even Perez. But I think Macha has used the whole bench very well. He's put out lineups--like today's maybe--that many of us have likely looked at and thought we had little chance to win with. And yet we've won many of those games, and everybody seems to be making a contribution.
4) Handling the pitching staff
Faced with the losses of Harden, Loaiza, Duke, Kennedy, and Street for a time, Macha has patched things together well. I think he's found the right roles for Halsey and Gaudin. I think he's taken the right approach with his LOOGY's--even if it hasn't always led to success. I think his use of Street is superb. He'll put him in with the game tied, or even down a run (Colorado last week)--which is the right thing to do. He'll bring in Street in the 8th--also the right thing to do (best example Minnesota game when Street, who had been struggling, got a brilliant 6-out save). He adjusted to having to use Calero as more than a righty-specialist, and Calero has flourished.
I feel good about this bullpen and about how Macha will use it the rest of the season. I also feel good about how long he's willing to let our starters work. I like his decision with Zito in Cleveland, with Loaiza today, with letting Blanton take a shot at some complete games. My guess is that the whole staff has a good sense of their roles and of their manager's confidence in them. My guess is they feel good about both.
5) In sum, then, I think that Ken Macha has been excellent this year in a very tough situation. He doesn't get nearly the credit he deserves for the success the A's are having.