We had some guests over on Sunday for something my wife has dubbed Pie Fight Club. The idea is that we grab four similar pies -- strawberry, in this particular case -- from pie shops and diners from around the area, remove them from their boxes, and hold a blind tasting to determine whose pie reigns supreme. This is a very serious business, I might add, with millions of dollars in pie sales and the reputations of eateries across the Bay Area at stake.
Anyhow, the event was in full swing as the A's went about blowing Sunday's game to the Rangers. And, considering the fact that we had company, I think I held my emotions in check, except maybe for the moment when Nick Swisher struck out looking for the second out of the ninth, and I interrupted the conversations going on around me by shouting out, "Damnit, Nick, you've got to swing the [especially filthy expletive deleted] bat." You can imagine this was quite a shocking thing to hear for one of our guests, also named Nick, who is a lovely fellow who would never, ever strike out with the bat on his shoulder and the tying run in scoring position. I apologized profusely to Nick, explaining that my outburst was not aimed at him, but rather an entirely different Nick playing a game thousands of miles away from my living room, making him unable to hear me, even though my voice carries very well.
So that was kind of awkward, yeah.
But otherwise, Pie Fight Club was a success, with the strawberry pie from Nation's Giant Hamburgers taking top honors, just ahead of Marie Calendar's offering. (You can read the blow-by-blow account here.)
Nation's, as you may or may not know, is a radio sponsor of the A's. Indeed, in an especially appropriate twist, I heard a Nation's commercial on my way to the local Nation's to pick up what turned out to be the winning pie. Which is when I discovered that not only has Bob Geren replaced Ken Macha in the A's dugout, he's also usurped the silver-haired one's role as the Nation's spokesman. In fact the commercial I heard -- not the one linked to in the preceding sentence -- featured the exact same copy Ken Macha used to read in his clipped Western Pennsylvania staccato. ("People say I have a great rotation, but it's nothing like the rotation they've got at Nation's... and just when you think you've got them figured out, they throw you a curve.")
To me, this the cruelest twist of all to Macha's ouster. Yes, you can assail his bizarre pitching moves or his passivity on the bench or his frosty relationships with players. But there is one thing about Ken Macha's managerial career in Oakland that is beyond dispute -- he loved those Nation's hamburgers. In that one ad where he runs through the signs -- "A pat on the stomach means it's time to head to Nation's!" -- you could tell that this was not merely an act. In fact, I bet the A's did have a sign for a Nation's hamburger run when Ken Macha was manager, which would explain all those botched bunts.
It seems cruel to take that away from him now, just because he's not the A's manager. Surely some arrangement could have been made -- Geren gets the manager's gig, but Macha gets to keep the Nation's spots. Yes, you'd have to rewrite the ad copy somewhat ("Hi, I'm Ken Macha. When I'm not cursing Billy Beane's name, I'm biting into a delicious Nation's pie. The only taste sweeter will be my eventual revenge.") but I have confidence that the copywriters can rise to the challenge.
And I hope on the next A's broadcast I don't hear Bob Geren touting the merits of Comcast-on-Demand or Fitzpatrick Hummer -- otherwise, it will just be too humiliating for poor Macha if Geren winds up with every one of his old sponsorships.
And speaking of that Hummer ad... it's my considered opinion that particular radio spot was what fractured the relationship between the former A's manager and Mark Kotsay, who was among the most vocal critics of Macha's interpersonal skills. If you remember, the ad features Macha and Kotsay extolling the virtues of Fitzpatrick Hummer -- Macha notes that he was allowed to drive on the test track, which Kotsay reacts to with a mixture of incredulity and disdain. "They let you drive on the test track, Skip?"
I imagine that the director yelled cut, and, as everyone was congratulating each other on a job well done, Macha turned to his outfielder and demanded, "What the hell was that about?"
"What do you mean, Skip?"
"That business about me being allowed to drive on the test track. How dare you."
"Look, Skip, I'm just reading the script here..."
"You're dead to me, Kotsay!"
And, of course, the situation just deteriorated from there.
So my message to A's advertisers is this -- promote your product however you want, but please stop sowing discord among A's players and management. I sure don't want to be listening to a game in the next few days when an ad for Kaiser Permanente comes on featuring Brad Halsey and Bill Beane. "If you'd only have sent me here in early March, I'd be pitching for the big club by now," Halsey would say. "I sure hope Kaiser has facilities in Durham," Beane would retort. "Because I've just traded you to the Devil Rays." That would be too, too awkward for everyone.