It’s official! Monday brought reports that the Oakland A’s are hiring Mark Kotsay to be their new manager, and Tuesday morning the team made their announcement. Kotsay signed a three-year contract to be the skipper for 2022-24, with a club option for 2025.
Kotsay becomes the 19th different manager in Oakland history, though one of those individuals took two turns on the job. In Athletics franchise history he’s the 31st different manager, and the 35th administration overall thanks to four repeats.
Here’s the Oakland list! Including the years of their tenures and their win percentages.
- Bob Kennedy, 1968, .506
- Hank Bauer, 1969, .537
- John McNamara, 1969-70, .554
- Dick Williams, 1971-73, .603 (two championships!)
- Alvin Dark, 1974-75, .580 (one championship!)
- Chuck Tanner, 1976, .540
- Jack McKeon, 1977, .491 (and again, 1978, .366)
- Bobby Winkles, 1977-78, .415
- Jim Marshall, 1979, .333
- Billy Martin, 1980-82, .497
- Steve Boros, 1983-84, .456
- Jackie Moore, 1984-86, .462
- Jeff Newman, 1986, .200 (only 10 games)
- Tony La Russa, 1986-95, .542 (one championship!)
- Art Howe, 1996-2002, .530
- Ken Macha, 2003-06, .568
- Bob Geren, 2007-11, .470
- Bob Melvin, 2011-21, .524
- Mark Kotsay, 2022-present
The Athletics manager position has alternated between periods of extreme stability and extreme chaos. For the first 50 years in Philadelphia, Connie Mack did the job, with just a pair of brief interim stints by his son Earle Mack in the 1930s.
After a half-century of Connie, the next 17 years saw a turnstile of a dozen different managers through the rest of the Philadelphia era and their whole time in Kansas City. Upon the move to Oakland in 1968, the team enjoyed great success on the field but still cycled through 14 managers in 19 years, including McKeon twice, plus returns by Bauer and Dark who had each previously appeared in Kansas City.
During those nearly four decades of high turnover, nobody stayed more than three full seasons, and most did only one or two summers. Even during the good times changes came, like when Williams quit after winning two straight World Series titles. Later, in 1977, McKeon was replaced midseason by Winkles, who then abruptly resigned partway into 1978 after a hot start and was re-replaced by McKeon. Yikes. Whatever follow-up questions you have about this paragraph, the answer to most of them is probably team owner Charlie Finley.
The arrival of La Russa began a new trend. He was the club’s third skipper of 1986, after Moore was fired and Newman did a quick interim spell, but Tony stayed long-term for an entire decade. The A’s had been averaging six or seven managers per decade since 1950, so that was quite the change.
After La Russa left, Howe took over for seven years, then Macha and Geren combined for nearly a decade, and Melvin did more than a decade on his own. That group of five accounted for 35 seasons, after the previous 36 seasons had seen 26 managers (including repeats).
That brings us to Kotsay, and the first time we’ve seen a new leader in Oakland since 2011. What can we expect from him, beyond what we’ve already seen from his four years as an A’s outfielder and six years as an A’s coach?
In Kotsay’s own words, via Matt Kawahara of the S.F. Chronicle:
“I’m an open book. I may have some emotion that comes across at times, good and bad, but I think the players understand that I’m there for them.”
More from Kotsay, per insider Martin Gallegos:
“Bob [Melvin] laid the foundation of the culture here the last 10 years and it’s about winning. We’re gonna carry that forward. Bob had a level of expectation of how the game is played and I’ll continue that. The relationships, I learned a great deal from Bob. ...
“I do have some differences, and those differences will probably show themselves through my tenure. But if I can have half the success that Bob had here as a manager, I’d be excited about that.”
Former teammate and current A’s Double-A manager Bobby Crosby added the following, via Kawahara:
“He’s not going to go in and be the hard, grizzled type of manager, I don’t see that. He’s going to be a guy that the players can go and talk to, that they can lean on.”
Plus an anecdote from play-by-play announcer Josh Suchon:
“When the A’s traded for Kotsay [as a player in 2004], somebody (probably Susan Slusser) asked what fans should expect from him. I’ll never forget his answer. Something like, ‘I may not impress you Day 1, or Week 1, but I’ll grow on you over the season. I just want to win.’”
At 46 years old, Kotsay is the sixth-youngest manager in the majors right now, notes Gallegos:
- Oliver Marmol, STL: 35 years, 172 days
- Rocco Baldelli, MIN: 40 years, 87 days
- Kevin Cash, TBR: 44 years, 15 days
- David Ross, CHC: 44 years, 277 days
- Chris Woodward, TEX: 45 years, 177 days
- Mark Kotsay, OAK: 46 years, 19 days
Whatever happens, recent history suggests Kotsay should get enough leash to prove himself one way or other. Granted, a three-year contract for a manager is only a financial commitment, as MLB coaches are fired all the time — even rookie managers sometimes, early in rebuilding projects if the teams don’t like how things are going. But Oakland hasn’t done business that way lately, as nobody has lasted fewer than four seasons since the mid-80s, and their latest pick is somebody they’re already fully familiar with as he’s spent substantial time in the organization.
On that last note, Kotsay joins Williams, Martin, La Russa, Bauer, and Newman as the only Oakland managers who also played for the A’s, although McNamara spent time in their minor league system. Expand to all of franchise history and Earle Mack, Jimmy Dykes, and Eddie Joost all played for and later managed the Philadelphia A’s, and Haywood Sullivan did the same with the Kansas City A’s. (Joost did both jobs simultaneously in 1954 as a player/manager.)
Welcome Kots, the 19th manager in Oakland history!
The 19th manager in Oakland A's history. pic.twitter.com/m1Le5vHnDy— Shayna Rubin (@ShaynaRubin) December 21, 2021