Ken Macha -- you've just managed the Oakland A's to an appearance in the American League Championship Series. What are you going to do next?
"I'm stepping down, either by choice or by request!"
Or, at least, that's what Ken Macha will be doing in the next day or so if this San Francisco Chronicle report is to be believed.
One team insider said Sunday that it is unclear if any firm decision has been made about Macha's status, but there is no doubt that Macha is on shaky ground, despite taking the team to the American League Championship Series and despite having two years remaining on his contract.
When reached Sunday evening, general manager Billy Beane would not comment on Macha's future other than to say, "The end of the year is the time for evaluation, not only players, but staff as well. It's a matter of routine this time of year."
To sum up, the signs and portents suggesting a Macha departure this time around are these:
You now need a second hand to count the number of players griping about Macha's communication skills.
Macha's attitude to injured players is apparently something out of a Ben Hur slave galley -- "We keep you alive to serve the ship" -- which is not a way to make millionaires feel all warm and fuzzy about you.
Macha himself does not particularly care for life under the thumb of Billy Beane and his mainframe computer, 20-sided dice, and protractor.
I'm surprised by this rumored turn of events, largely because I had no idea the attitude toward Macha had turned so negative. (Mark Kotsay doesn't get along with Ken Macha? But they seem so chummy in those Fitzpatrick Hummer ads!) My own feelings about Ken Macha as a manager are slightly more nuanced than I've let onin public. I find him to be of questionable value as an in-game strategist, particularly when it comes to summoning relievers from the bullpen. On the other hand, I'm fully aware that on the spectrum of Major League managers, Macha probably falls somewhere in the middle -- there are a few managers who are better than him, there are others who are a wholelotworse. Of course, that assessment was based largely on the belief that, whatever Macha's failings with allocating the resources given to him, he was at least able to keep 25 guys on an even keel for a six-month grind. That doesn't appear to be the case if the Chronicle story has it straight.
We've a ways to go before published reports become certified facts. Firing Macha would mean eating the last two years of his contract, which is something the A's aren't particularly fond of doing. So after whatever hubbub this story causes, chances are that Ken Macha will still be the A's manager when the team re-assembles in Phoenix next spring.
But then there's one paragraph of the story that makes me think Susan Slusser might be on to something here:
Toward the end of the season, one member of the starting lineup was openly critical of Macha in the clubhouse. By the final weekend of the regular season, another prominent member of the team had joined in the criticism. Several players went so far as to take their complaints to Beane, telling him they did not want to return to the club if Macha remained as manager, according to sources.
It's one thing if you have Terrence Long or Adam Piatt or even Adam Melhuse sniping about your communication skills. If those last names of the people described above look anything like "Kotsay," "Thomas," "Kendall," or "Chavez," Bob Geren better start planning on how he wants to decorate the manager's office right now.