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Ken Ponders Kens
2006-10-23 17:49
by Ken Arneson

Kenny Rogers, Ken Macha, blah blah blah. All we ever hear about these days is Kenny, Ken, Ken. Somebody should hold a Ken fast. I'd do it myself, but I'm afraid I'd end up like that kid in that Gary Larson Far Side strip who accidentally sucks himself into a bottle.

So let's take a breath, and contemplate some non-Ken news. Guillaume Latendresse of the Montreal Canadiens just became the first person in the history of the NHL to wear uniform #84. It was the last unused number in NHL history. This got me curious about A's uniform numbers. There's a list of uniform numbers over at Baseball Almanac. Which leads us to:

Ken's Non-Ken Fact of the Day:

The lowest number that has never been worn by an Oakland A's player during the regular season is 62.

Ken's Non-Ken Addendum of the Day to Ken's Non-Ken Fact of the Day:

Only four numbers above 62 have been worn by Oakland Athletics players: 64 (Joe Blanton), 73 (Ricardo Rincon), 75 (Barry Zito) and 99 (Willie Crawford).

And now, back to your regularly scheduled Ken programming.

OK, so Kenny Rogers used pine tar. I don't care. I don't like Rogers, but I'm not going to jump on the "Get Kenny Rogers" bandwagon just so I can feel a little schadenfreude.

I don't think the pine tar explains why he beat the A's in the ALCS or the Yankees in the ALDS. On the levels of cheating scale, this ranks just beyond stealing signs. Stealing signs is fully preventable. If you lose because someone cheated you that way, blame yourself. Stopping pine tar abuse is a little harder than that, but once you know someone's done it, you don't let him do it again. You check every time. Rogers won't have that advantage anymore. If he beats you again because of it, blame yourself. Move on.

As for Ken Macha, I don't feel a bit sorry for him. He knew exactly what he was getting into when he signed that contract. He probably didn't want to stay in Oakland and work for Billy Beane, but it turned out to be his best option, so he took it. Now he can sit at home in Pittsburgh for two years, and collect $2 million for services already rendered. Good for him.

The person to blame here is Billy Beane. He obviously micromanages his managers. But anyone in business knows, if you have to micromanage an employee, you have hired the wrong employee. Any business thrives best when you hire people you can trust to leave alone to do their jobs. Which leaves one of three possibilities:

  1. Billy Beane is incapable of trusting anyone enough to leave alone to do their jobs;
  2. Billy Beane made the mistake of retaining someone whom he couldn't trust enough to leave alone to do his job; or
  3. There is nobody in organized baseball who is both qualified to lead a team as manager, and who also understands and agrees with the Moneyball philosophy of risk management. As a result, there is nobody out there he can fully trust to do the job, so he hired someone who was not what he wanted, but someone who was "good enough" for now.

One way or another, Beane is accountable for the error. Let's hope it's error #2, and Beane can learn from it and do better next time.

If it's error #3, then Beane is guilty of not preparing someone for the job. Somebody within the organization should be groomed for the job under the current management philosophy, and be ready to go if called upon.

If it's error #1--yikes. If Beane is a hopeless micromanager, this scene will just repeat itself over and over. As a part-owner, Beane is now essentially GM for life, or at least, until the team is sold. Ugly things happen when you can't get rid of an evil or incompetent dictator. Checks and balances are a good thing.

2006-10-23 19:19:59
1.   Linkmeister
"Ugly things happen when you can't get rid of an evil or incompetent dictator. Checks and balances are a good thing."

Lessee...16 days till a national elec...Nah. Ken wouldn't inject politics into this blog.

2006-10-23 20:33:01
2.   joejoejoe
Somewhere in baseball there must be a former platoon player working as a coach who had exaggerated splits versus righties and lefties and embraced the reality of his talent. That's who Billy Beane needs to hire as manager - somebody who lived his system.
2006-10-23 21:32:44
3.   Ken Arneson
1 I never specified which dictator...let's just say that I was thinking about a documentary I saw on IFC about The Last King of Scotland, the new movie about Idi Amin.
2006-10-23 21:43:03
4.   Bluebleeder87

who should tell Bellie Beane that his system is flawed??

better yet who should tell him that there's no such thing as systems in baseball.

2006-10-23 23:24:06
5.   joejoejoe
4 Ken had it right the other day. Beane should just manage the team himself.
2006-10-24 00:21:36
6.   chuie
Wallechinsky's new book just came out--Tyrants: the World's 20 Worst Living Dictators (already out-of-date because one of them died). I won't tell you how it ends.
He did not include Billy Beane.
More good news--not a single Ken on the list.
2006-10-24 00:25:50
7.   Ken Arneson
5 That must have been another Ken. I don't think Beane has the right kind of personality to make a very good manager. I think he needs the distance from individual games that the GM position affords him to give him the emotional distance to handle the ups and downs the game. He'd be a bad manager for the same reason he was a bad player.
2006-10-24 07:27:52
8.   Milo13
My favorite botched NY Post headline from The Gambler's tenure: "This Can't Ken-Continue"
2006-10-24 07:28:40
9.   joejoejoe
7 I'm sorry Ken. I was conflating two things I read on the blog.

You wrote: "Billy Beane is incapable of trusting anyone enough to leave alone to do their jobs"...and I misremembered another comment in the last thread, "Billy Beane as manager would kill two birds with one stone. Or hadn't you heard about Billy's recent promotion?" as your remark. It was actually Ghostof64.

Sports teams waste a lot of time and money by not addressing the disconnect between manager and front office. Think about the NY Knicks last year and the battles between Isiah and Larry Brown. Unlike Thomas, Beane is good at his job but he's not any better at trusting his coach/manager. He should just do the job himself, even if he's ill-suited for it, because at this point he seems to be repeating the same mistakes. Repeating things that don't work makes your team worse, not better. Being an part owner, Beane is the A's to some extent. If he can't progress, neither can the team.

2006-10-24 19:41:01
10.   scareduck
7 - I don't think Beane has the right kind of personality to make a very good manager.

Not to mention the chairs in the dugout are all affixed to the floor.

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