Now that the dust has settled on the A's managerial announcement, I think most of us are ready to give him a chance; Geren is a good choice, and we look forward to seeing how he manages the team this year. It seems that already most of the fan angst has subsided, in stark contrast to last year's announcement of Macha's rehiring.
So why the consternation at the announcement of Geren? It wasn't like we were surprised, or really had our hearts' set on a different candidate; I think most of us figured out early on that Geren's only real competition was Ron Washington, and he obviously wasn't wanted by Billy Beane as a manager. But from the initial reaction at Geren's announcement, you would have thought that Macha had been rehired; people were angry.
I think this quote by ZeroIndulgence sums it up pretty well:
We do like to be entertained, and much in the same way that we are always hoping for the "F'in A" trade, we applied that hope to the managerial search as well. We, as fans, are always looking for the new, exciting option; the flashy choice; something different to talk about, not the status quo.
But I believe there is more to it than that.
I've certainly defended Billy Beane more than my fair share against Ray Ratto. Ratto wrote a particular scathing piece about the trade of Hudson and Mulder, when he famously picked the A's to win 60 games in 2005. But as Nico said yesterday, much more eloquently than I ever could, that Beane is running close to 100% in choosing to let go of players before they can depreciate. If you were betting inclined, what would be the over/under on Frank Thomas games played next season, let alone in 2008, or unbelievably in 2009? And more importantly, even if he does play, will his production equal that of last year? Obviously, Beane was not willing to take the risk.
Predictably, Ratto has an opinion on the manager hire, and actually does a good job of tapping into some of our initial feelings:
By hiring Geren, Beane has:
-- Validated those who think Geren being the best man at Beane's first wedding gave Geren an advantage he hadn't otherwise earned.
-- Angered those (some of them important players) who thought the job should have been offered immediately to third-base coach Washington.
-- Baffled those who wonder why Beane waited so long to name someone already on the staff to replace Macha.
-- Showed that in his mind the manager's role is so secondary that it may as well be tertiary.
None of these ideas can be proven, of course. The problem, though, is that they also cannot be refuted, and because this is Geren's first major-league managing job, he has no way to fight off the accusations because he has no record to use as a shield.
In other words, Beane has given Geren the job, and with it a raft of doubters inside and outside the clubhouse who will put Geren on the defensive when most managers are given a honeymoon. It is a time Geren cannot get back, either, so he has to be a brilliant tactician, superb communicator, and able to dispel the notion that he got the job because he was the general manager's pal -- all at once.
Other sources acknowledge this as well, saying that "the monthlong pretense that failed to create any kind of convincing illusion that this was actually a competition, that somebody other than Geren actually might get the job", and relaying a story of Macha calling Geren 'M.I.T', short for Manager-In-Training, long before the position was ever officially open.
And in the same article, the conspiracy theory that we all secretly believe is put to words:
Is that an insinuation that this whole search saga was rigged? Look, extend the conspiracy theories as far as you want. The fact is Washington was the only other serious challenger to Geren, and that was primarily because of his popularity with players and fans, not so much because the A's wanted to hire him.
Once he was out of the way, Geren was a virtual inevitability.
Here's why: As much as the A's are portrayed as cutting edge and free-thinking adventurers, they are ultraconservative structurally. Their entire operation is composed of organization men, not just the coaches at the big-league level but throughout their player development and scouting staffs.
I agree, and it all makes complete sense, and yet, that still doesn't stop me from thinking that there could have been a better way to hire Geren for the job. But while this may be true, it doesn't mean that he is not, in fact, the best man for the job. None of that should rest on Geren.
In fact, from many accounts, Geren's personality alone will fix a lot of the problems that festered in the clubhouse during the last few seasons.
For starters, Geren may be as chatty as Swisher:
Geren has already called all of his players (hopefully starting with Adam Melhuse), showing the beginnings of good player/manager communication, something that Macha had repeatedly been knocked for lacking.
In addition, one of the great criticisms of Ken Macha, and a concern I have long shared, was the perceived sense that while Macha was carrying out Beane's orders, he never fully bought into his philosophy. This means that in moments of crisis, he found himself torn between making his own decision, and making the decision that Beane would have made. In contrast, while Geren has been given the lip-service of the freedom to make his own choices, it is likely that his philosophy will line up better with Beane's; after all, if Beane cannot manage the team himself, who better to fill this role than someone who not only knows intimately the A's organization, but the leader, as well?
And Geren will have some help. The above article also reports--calling them 'leftover coaches', a heartwarming title, to be sure--that Curt Young, Rene Lachemann and Brad Fischer will all be back with the A's in 2007.
And let's be realistic; once the chance for a flashy, new manager has passed and we're left with the usual suspects, minus one Ron Washington, we have to admit that it isn't only Billy Beane that wants it this way. If we really believe that Beane is onto something with his philosophy on winning baseball games, then the best thing possible for the A's has happened; Beane has chosen exactly who he wants for the A's manager. And now, for personal and professional reasons alike, he is going to have to work on securing some players for 2007.