Today is the conclusion of my interview with new A's manager Bob Geren. I want to thank him for taking so much time to talk with me on the day before he embarked on his big league managing career. I can't remember ever seeing an interview with a big league manager for a blog, so it speaks volumes about his accessibility and willingness to communicate with the fans. Then again, he's with the organization that understands the importance of speaking to the fans better than any other in the world.
Blez: Do you have a bit of an advantage with this team because you had some of the younger guys when you were managing at Sacramento?
Geren: I have an advantage a little bit because I've been in the organization since November of '98. I know how we teach the baserunning, the outfield play, the infield play. I've managed some of the players and a lot of the players I've managed have moved on. Barry Zito and Eric Byrnes and guys like that. But I had Mark Ellis, Kiko Calero in winter ball. I had Justin Duchscherer with the Red Sox when I was over there and he was a young high school kid. But just being here definitely helps. For example I talked to Farhan and asked him for profiles on all the new players so I could get to know them. I think there was only eight or 10 guys that I didn't know all that well. I've been studying their backgrounds and where they're from so when I get to meet them I'll be prepared. I thought to myself, wow if I had to do this with 60 players that would be quite a challenge.
Blez: Is there a manager that you've seen either close up or from afar that you'd like to model your managerial style after?
Geren: That's an interview question that I remember getting, something like that when I was going for the job. That's a great question.
Blez: So Billy and I were on the same page on that one, huh?
Geren: (laughs) I'm not sure Billy asked that particular question. The questions were coming from all over the room. I like that question because I think it's true that a team takes on the personality of a manager. Every player on the team can take something from the manager. Hopefully it's a positive. I would say that I like Billy Martin's aggressiveness and win at all costs attitude. I love that. I love Bucky Dent's personal side. Bucky was the type of guy who would ask you how you felt at the plate, but he'd also ask you how your wife is doing. He made you feel like you weren't just a player, you were a person. I enjoy that and Jim Riggleman was similar to that. Dallas Green was somewhere more like Billy Martin. I don't remember how tall he was, he was like 6'8" and he had his arms folded at the corner of the dugout and they put a hit and run on, you would just think, I better make contact here because I don't want to walk back in that dugout with that big guy standing there. He had a presence to him that I think is important to try and portray that. I try to portray that presence. So I blend a lot of different guys and tie them all together and find something pretty good about everybody.
Blez: Are you willing to run out and kick dirt on an ump and show your general displeasure if the situation warrants it?
Geren: I don't like to disrespect the umpire. On the other hand, I've had a few...
Blez: Have you ever been ejected?
Geren: Have I? Oh many times, many times. Quite a few, actually.
Blez: I don't mean to bash Ken Macha but I think a lot of A's fans were frustrated because they occasionally like to see the manager sticking up for the team. I go back to the Boston playoff series a few years back when there were a couple of questionable calls that had me going berserk as a fan. People want to see the manager want to do that kind of thing not that it affects the game that much.
Geren: That won't be an issue. That won't be an issue with me. (laughs)
Blez: When it comes to using relievers are you a firm believer in the lefty/lefty and righty/righty matchups or do you look at other things as well?
Geren: I like to use left/right from hitter and pitcher. I like to use runners in scoring position batting averages. I like to use trends over the last seven days. Left and right is just one tool. It's like a golf bag full of clubs. Each statistic is a tool if you live and die by one you probably will be short sighted. There is more to it than that completely. When you look at statistics there have to be some numbers there to be credible any way.
Blez: That leads nicely into my next question. How meticulous are you in preparation with statistics? Are statistics your bible?
Geren: A lot. It's not my bible. But it's just one thing because they can contradict each other. You could have a left-handed pitcher that's better against left-handed hitters but then you have a left-handed hitter coming up that hits lefties pretty well and your right-hander down there is maybe equal and he's been hot the past seven days and the lefty isn't. So which one do you use? You say well he's .190 against lefties but they're hitting .500 off him the last eight games. Or do you use the guy that they hit .270 off of but he hasn't given up a run in his last eight outings? There's more to it than that. I look at them, but I don't make my decisions based on them 100 percent.
Blez: What's your philosophy on closers? Should they be one inning, ninth inning guys or should you use them on occasion in a crucial situation as a game develops?
Geren: In general, you try and use them in the ninth inning but if you need them occasionally earlier in a game to win, you use them. But fortunately, I feel really good about our relievers whether it's the sixth, seventh, eighth or ninth inning guys. So I don't anticipate having to do that very often if I don't have to. It's better in the long run if they're more consistent in their outings.
Blez: And how they're used?
Geren: Yeah if you're used to going a certain number of times and only one inning, it might affect it if you stretch it.
Blez: Did you think there was a problem with Huston Street stretching last year? A lot of fans made the observation that when Street came in the eighth inning to only get an out or two and then sat back down, he often struggled in the ninth.
Geren: That could be coincidence.
Blez: It happened four or five times that I can remember off the top of my head last year.
Geren: The more outs anyone has to get the more difficult it is. Three outs are hard enough and four is that much harder.
Blez: So that's what you think it's a product of?
Geren: It could be anything.
Blez: How thankless is the job of being a major league manager? In other words when the team is going well most people who follow a team tend to give the credit to the players. When the team starts to go really crappy, the blame tends to be on the manager. Oh, it's the manager's fault. He's making this mistake. Why would anyone want this job?
Geren: As far as it being a thankless job, that would be something we'll have to talk about next offseason and I'll let you know. (laughs) As far as right now, it's a great job with a great organization. It's a great city. It's a great challenge in a great city. If something is easy, it isn't worth doing. I like something that's a challenge. The players really do win or lose though. The manager just guides them. If you look at it that way, where you're putting them in the best possible situations to succeed and let them do the work.
Blez: Two part question. First, should a manager ever use a "gut feeling" as the reason for making a decision? And second, would that ever fly in the front office as a valid reason?
Geren: Gut feeling only? I would say no. If you have a decision that's really difficult because statistically it's a toss up and you have a feeling that this guy can get it done...well, if it's used with other tools then I can see it's OK to do that. If you have a guy that has no business in a certain situation and your gut just says, I think he's going to get him out, I don't think that would be a good idea.
Blez: Here are some quick questions as I want people on Athletics Nation to get to know you a little better. Who is your favorite ballplayer?
Geren: You mean current or all time?
Blez: All time and current.
Geren: I was a big Johnny Bench fan growing up because in high school I was a catcher and I grew up in San Diego. He was probably my favorite catcher. And my favorite player was Dave Winfield so it was unbelievable I got to play with him after that. That was a thrill. Favorite player right now? I have to pick someone on the A's or it wouldn't be fair. I can't pick one of my guys as a favorite.
Blez: It'd be like picking a favorite child.
Geren: Yeah it would be like having to pick between my two boys I'd like to go watch play or something.
Blez: All right we'll just get that answer off the record. (laughs)
Geren: I never thought of that. You know you really can't do that any way because is a pitcher a player? You can't really compare them.
Blez: I guess that's true. They're kind of two different animals. What's your favorite sports memory?
Geren: As a player I would say hitting a home run off of Nolan Ryan. I didn't have a ton of highlights as a player. But hitting a home run off a Hall of Famer and it was his first bid at his 300th win and it was Sunday night on ESPN when it was the only game on in the country. All my family and my wife's family was from San Diego so they hardly ever got to see me play. Back then they didn't have the packages they have now so just about everyone I knew saw that game and it was a big thrill. As a manager, it was winning the championship in the Dominican Republic and it was literally like a movie I saw last night called Facing the Giants. We had no chance on paper to win that game. They were stronger in every way, offensively, defensively and pitching. They were stronger and we beat them in a seven-game series where every single game was decided by one run. It was just amazing. An absolute thrill.
Blez: What is your favorite movie?
Geren: That's a hard one too because I categorize them differently. The one that comes to mind is Caddyshack because I'm a big Rodney Dangerfield fan. That's not really a movie. I'll just go with that because I can laugh at it and I know every line in it by now.
Blez: Favorite TV show?
Geren: I don't watch TV hardly at all any more. I guess I'd have to say, and this kind of sounds weak, but Sportscenter. I do watch that and Baseball Tonight every night. I have to give you a TV show cause that's really weak.
Blez: Yeah, all the players say Sportscenter and Baseball Tonight.
Geren: I'm kind of liking Donald Trump's show a little bit.
Blez: The Apprentice?
Geren: Yeah, that's it. It's pretty funny and entertaining.
Blez: (points at Geren) You're fired!
Geren: (laughing) That's probably not a good show to like as a manager, right? That's not the line you want to hear.
Blez: Favorite book? Please don't say you don't read much because that's what a lot of players say.
Geren: Oh wow. I don't know. Of all time?
Blez: Or even something you read recently that you might've enjoyed? Have you read Moneyball?
Geren: I have actually. Twice.
Blez: Did you enjoy it?
Geren: I did. I think that it was an interesting portrayal and well written.
Geren: Yeah, it's embellished a little bit as it's more entertaining that way. It was a good book. The most recent one I enjoyed was a couple of leadership books I enjoyed. I might get the title wrong here. You have to be heard to be believed. That's a really good book. There's a baseball book I like called Winners by Dayn Perry. I read that one last summer. There was a lot of statistical analysis in it.
Blez: He's the guy who writes for Baseball Prospectus, right?
Geren: Yeah, I enjoyed that. It was about RBIs and stats that...
Blez: People hold in high regard?
Geren: Yeah like the RBI stat and what does batting average really tell you. It gave me as a baseball person for so many years that has heard all the clichés about offensive, well, it gave me a fresher look at things. It's pretty interesting.
Blez: Favorite kind of music?
Geren: I would say classic rock and roll now. It's been going back and forth between classic rock and country and lately it's been more classic rock.
Blez: Swisher and Blanton will change you back on that.
Geren: No, I like country, I do. If you look at my CD collection, it'd be pretty close to 50/50. But in the last year or two, it's been more 75/25 classic rock to country.
Blez: Favorite singer or band?
Geren: I'm going to have to say Led Zeppelin. How old are those albums, 30 years old now and they're still classics.
Blez: If you were to have one super power, what would it be?
Geren: I'd like to know what people were thinking. A mind reader, I guess. That's the hard part.
Blez: It could help the relationships too. Just imagine how good a marriage could be.
Geren: (laughing) Yeah it would be. It would certainly cut down on a lot of time. You wouldn't have to ask where you're going for dinner, you'd know EXACTLY where she wants to go.
Blez: I've never heard anyone say that before. It's always been like flying or invisibility. That's a good answer.
Geren: I never thought about the other ones. Just think of how good a manager you could be if you what every player was thinking. You'd turn down the bench and you'd think, he's thinking I better get in the lineup soon. You know what I'm saying?
Blez: Or on the other hand, take me out of the lineup? I really need a day off!
Geren: (laughs) Yeah, I really don't want to face Bonds. Then you could just look down in the bullpen and see which one really wants to face him. That would be a tremendous asset right there.
Blez: Well, I really appreciate you taking out so much time to talk with me today. It's good to get the A's fan community to get to know you.
Geren: Oh it's nothing, this was great.