October 16, 2006

The Oakland A's Fire Manager Ken Macha

Well, that certainly didn't take very long. Only two days following the A's elimination from the playoffs at the hands of a four-game sweep by the Detroit Tigers, manager Ken Macha was fired from his post, for the second consecutive season, and this time, it looks like the canning will stick. You might remember that he was similarly let go in 2005, only to resurface a few days later as the A's "new" manager, but this time around it seems that General Manager Billy Beane is ready to move on and give an opportunity for a new face to guide the team, who reached the ALCS for the first time in 14 years.

Ken Macha has never been a flashy, energetic manager.  In his time as the A's leader, he had a complacent, laid back attitude, and this often led fans to think he didn't care or wasn't as involved in the games as he should have been - especially in stark contrast to managers who were as commonly seen on TV as their own players, like the Angels' Mike Scioscia, the Tigers' Jim Leyland or the Yankees' Joe Torre. He also tended to make decisions a lot less quickly than fans wanted - whether it was leaving pitchers in way too long, until a game was out of hand, or sticking with ridiculous lineups that didn't take advantage of the players' skills. Even when those lineups would fail, you could bet your bottom dollar they would be trotted out the following day.

Yet, somehow his teams tended to win, at a 57% clip (4 of every 7 for years), which isn't a bad mark. Every season, his A's were above the break-even .500 mark. Following a disastrous May, Macha helped lead the team to the division title, and there has been talk of his being a candidate for Manager of the Year (behind the favorite, Leyland). I believe that a team's success is more indicative of the players' talent than the manager's slight of hand, but it didn't look as if Macha was all that strategic, and reports have said that Macha rapidly fell out of favor with a number of his players, both backups and regulars, some of whom said they did not want to return to the A's if he were still in charge. When a manager has lost the respect of his players, it is very hard to regain it. Sports history is littered with managers who ran afoul of the players and didn't last long.

Macha's failures have been a longtime running joke at Athletics Nation, where seemingly every poll included an option to "Fire Macha Now", as if that rash decision would fix everything. Now that he has been fired, a new era will start for the team, who in large part will come back to 2007 intact. As the cold winter months move on, and Spring Training looms in the horizon, a new man will be running things in Oakland, and you won't have Macha to kick around any more.

Related Links:

The ANtics, Issue 8: Ken Macha - Kung Fu Master!
The ANtics, Episode 2.27: The Mind of Ken Macha
Athletics Nation: The Internal Candidates
Athletics Nation: FIRED MACHA NOW!!!

Listening to ''The Misterons Mix'', by Underworld (Play Count: 5)