I have never felt that being a great "in-game tactician" was among the most important qualities in a manager. I see players generally making manager decisions look good or bad based on good or bad execution, and I see skills like "communication," "leadership," and "managing the rest of the coaching staff," as actually being bigger--if far less visible--aspects of the job.
That being said, today I want to zoom in on Bob Geren as an "in-game tactician," and give my kudos to a manager who I think has done so much right in the season's first 1/3. In particular:
* I like the way Geren has been willing to tweak the lineup, sometimes favoring logic over "conventional wisdom". When Buck's OBP justified it, Geren moved him to the leadoff spot. When Johnson and Cust were swinging the A's hottest bats, Geren batted them #3 and #4 even against LHP. He has dropped Chavez to #5 and Kendall to #9 two years sooner than Macha ever would have considered doing it. Geren's lineups are well thought out and they always make sense.
* Bradley's steal of second (against Joe Nathan) Friday night and Chavez' steal last night demonstrated that Geren's A's are going to take what you give them. The 2007 A's don't bunt all that often, but play too deep and you'll see a bunt dropped down to keep you honest. The A's don't steal all that often, but ignore a baserunner and you'll find him at the next base. Geren is certainly not obsessed with the hit-and-run, but when the hitter and situation are appropriate the hit-and-run is a definite part of the A's arsenal (was Kotsay's hit yesterday not a thing of beauty?).
* I like the way Geren tries to put his relievers in with maximum chance to succeed. He hasn't always had the luxury--for example, he has often had to ask Jay Marshall to pitch to a lot of right-handers because you can't use someone strictly as a LOOGY when all your other pitchers are dead. But he made a smart choice with Embree as "emergency closer," correctly gauging that if sufficiently rested, Embree could close more successfully than any other pitcher, while Calero and Marshall were best served mixing-and-matching (L/R) with each other. Geren refrained from throwing Connor Robertson in over his head, yet he also wasn't overly hesitant to use Flores and Casilla (who have pitched in the big leagues before) in high leverage situations upon arrival. Overall, the bullpen hasn't pitched great, simply because it has been filled exclusively with a combination of struggling, mediocre, and lousy pitchers, but I think Geren has gotten about as much out of it as one could hope.
* Specifically, I really like the way Geren is sticking with Kiko Calero, voicing confidence in him and continuing to use Calero as if he is one of the A's top relievers. Why? Because when you look at the surrounding crew, Calero stands out as the only one with a real track record of major league success, and as such he is the guy most likely to turn it around. The A's don't have the luxury of relegating Calero to mop up duty just because he's pitching like crap--because to do so would mean replacing him with someone who has no business pitching well in high leverage situations, who probably won't, and who probably won't turn that around. I cringe every time Calero takes the mound right now; but if I were in Geren's shoes, Kiko would remain one of my main guys behind Embree. As long as Calero is healthy, I say keep cringing and keep running him out there. Beggars can't be choosers right now and Geren gets that.