Posts Tagged ‘Manager Search’

Willie Randolph Named Bench Coach

Saturday, November 8th, 2008

Macha and the Brewers have officially named Willie Randolph their bench coach. This could be Doug Melvin’s coaching fantasy come true since he wanted both coaches 6 years ago and this offseason. The Brewers have massively upgraded the coaching experience over Yost/Simmons in less than a month. Randolph was rumored to have drawn interest from the Nationals and the Mariners, but instead chose Milwaukee. As I said when Macha was hired, the fact that big name managers are interested in Brew City really goes to show how much the baseball culture in Milwaukee has changed.

Mini-Brewmors

Melvin, however, won’t feel completely comfortable yet since C.C. and Sheets still haven’t signed anywhere and there’s talk of Jake Peavy coming to an NL Central team. According to Eli, the Cubs are preparing two different offers to the Padres for Jake Peavy and the Brewers are looking at Oliver Perez (WTF?) if they can’t land C.C. or Sheets.

Welcome to Milwaukee, Ken Macha

Monday, October 27th, 2008

Tom Haudricourt of the Journal-Sentinel says the manager job is going to Ken Macha. In an interview today on 540 ESPN Radio, Haudricourt said all of his sources are pointing to Macha and that he believes the Brewers will make the announcement before the end of the week. When a beat writer is that confident something is going to happen, he’s probably right.

Haudricourt added that Dale Sveum will likely be back as bench coach and Mike Maddux, Bill Castro and Ed Sedar will also be retained.

Congratulations, Ken. And welcome to Milwaukee!

Notes: Is Macha the Man?

Sunday, October 26th, 2008
  • Eli at Eli’s MLB Rumors is reporting that an NL executive says the Brewers have picked Ken Macha as the team’s next manager. If true, I applaud the choice. I think he’s the best available candidate. The Brewers will announce the hiring (whether it’s Macha or someone else) after the World Series is over. 

Update: Haudricourt agrees that it looks like Macha is likely the choice.

Update II: The NY Post thinks it’s Macha too:

The perception has been that Bob Brenly is the frontrunner to become the Brewers’ manager. But a person familiar with the process said Brenly’s interview did not go that well and that former A’s manager Ken Macha is now considered the leading candidate. Willie Randolph is the third person currently being considered for the job. He is well liked by Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin and his interview apparently went well. In addition - surprisingly - he has received strong endorsements from Mets officials. Of course, if Randolph is hired by the Brewers some of the $2.25 million the Mets still owe him for 2009 would be removed, which could be a good reason for Met officials to be so positive about Randolph.

 

  • Cecil Fielder continues to drag his feud with Prince out into the public:

“Me and Prince just ain’t talking,” Fielder said yesterday. “We can’t ever be estranged. I’m his father; he’s my son. I gave that boy every opportunity to become who he is today. At some point, he’s going to realize he’s got some great people in his corner. People that are pulling for him.”

It’s sad that it’s come to what it has, but I’m not sure what Cecil gains by making comments publicly about the feud. Prince has not commented on it at all for some time. Hopefully they can work it out at some point and the story ends well.

 

  • The relationship between the Nashville Sounds and the city of Nashville continue to deteriorate. This situation will be one to watch closely…

 

  • ZiPs Projections for the Brewers for the 2009 season are available now. The offense looks to be in good shape, but they could definitely use a third baseman.

Mark Me Down for Macha

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

Ken Macha is the right man for the Brewers’ manager position.

I felt the former Oakland A’s manager was the strongest choice before I started looking deeper into his background. After doing some digging, I’m more convinced than ever.

The Upside

Doug Melvin has emphasized past success in his search for manager. Macha has been nothing but successful as a manager. In four seasons as the A’s manager, he led the team to two division titles. His worst season in Oakland was good for 88 wins and second in the division. And while Yost’s Brewers stumbled in the second halves of seasons, Macha’s A’s thrived. The A’s were 178-116 (.605) after the all-star break in his four years as manager. Macha brings important playoff experience as well, having taken the A’s to the ALDS twice and the ALCS once. Macha’s stint in Oakland was so successful, many wondered out loud why he was let go, including David Pinto of Baseball Musings.

How have the A’s done since Macha was fired? They’ve had two losing seasons in a row.

Macha proved in Oakland that he can manage a young team in a small market and have success. His philosophies — not utilizing many “small ball” tactics and using the individual strengths of his players to win as a team — would suit Milwaukee’s power-hitting approach well:

You manage to your players and that’s really what you try to do. When I managed in Oakland, we didn’t have many runners. We didn’t steal bases. Why bunt when you’ve got a guy who may hit a home run? You know, you hear what I’m saying? Maybe that doesn’t endear you to fans because the fans want to see more bunting and hit-and-runs and action and things like that, but as a manager, what you need to do is have your players do what they do best and win the game.

And he became known for his level-headed, even-tempered approach:

My philosophy was always try to remain calm at all times because it’s tough to make good decisions when you do have calm in your brain. To not be calm, it makes it even tougher to make good decisions. My philosophy is to try to remain calm at all times and I was hoping that my players would reflect the same thing because it’s tough to play angry. You’ve got to be under control.

Macha’s Midwest background and down-to-earth personality should also appeal to Brewers fans and the local media, who would not have to put up with a surly, short-tempered manager anymore. While Macha has been criticized for being a bit dry at times, he is friendly, personable and honest (sometimes to a fault). He even has something in common with Mark Attanasio. In a strange coincidence, the Pittsburgh native’s birthday is the same as the Brewers’ owner’s — Sept. 29.

Melvin was confident enough in Macha in 2002 to offer him the manager’s position over Yost. Macha declined and went to Oakland, but it’s hard to imagine he did anything there but reinforce Melvin’s confidence in the man he believed in six years ago.  If anything, Macha has established himself as an above-average manager and one that is ready for a second chance.

The Downside

There’s a downside to every candidate and Macha is no exception. In fact, after reading the opinions of hundreds of posters on BrewerFan.net concerning the manager debate, it became clear to me that if Macha did not have this one perceived blemish, he would likely be the number one choice in the eye’s of many, if not most, Brewer’s fans.

The perceived knock on Macha is that there was a “disconnect” between him and his players. A handful of those players were very vocal following his dismissal after the 2006 season. They used words like “friction,” “negative cloud,” a lack of protection, disrespect, a lack of trust, deteriorating relationships and “callous attitude” to describe the environment under Macha during his final season as manager (San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Chronicle (Pre-Firing), MLB.com, ESPN.com).

Brewers’ catcher Jason Kendall, who played under Macha in Oakland, even weighed in:

I know that the one thing any player wants from his manager is to be protected. If there’s a bang-bang play at first, even if you’re out, if you’re arguing, you want someone there behind you. If you argue a pitch, even if you’re wrong, you want someone joining in. And I’m not sure Macha did that.

What was lacking from those articles, however, was the whole story. That story surrounded a feud between Macha and Oakland’s brilliant but over-controlling and egotistical general manager Billy Beane:

“The reason I was fired, there was too much interference with the job I was trying to do,” Macha said.

He elaborated on that in a 2007 interview with WEEI radio in Boston, calling Beane a “tough guy to work for”:

The manager has a job to write the lineup out, to set the rotation. He has to be able to handle these players and when somebody gets put on the bench, for whatever reason it is, that player comes in and asks the manager. The manager has to be the one responsible for putting him on the bench and handling the player afterwards. And when you’re not working together (with the GM) in that type of situation, it puts you as a manager in a tough situation because the GM wants someone to play and you might not want that person to play… You hear what I’m saying? And now you have to bring somebody in and explain to them why they’re not playing. That makes for a difficult situation.

Macha said all he wanted was to “work together” with Beane and get on the “same page,” but he was never able to do that. He was not the only one that saw the relationship that way. In fact, one source marveled at how long Macha put up with Beane’s meddling:

I don’t know how he put up with it for that long. Everybody has to answer to their general manager and you want feedback and suggestions from the organization. The best organizations are the ones who do things together and are on the same page. But in the end, it’s the manager’s decision who to play, when to play them.

Nico of Athletic’s Nation even took it a step further:

So if you’re wondering how the same Ken Macha who seemed to be a “good enough” communicator, personality and overall manager through 2005 could suddenly not be “good enough” with mostly the same players and actually more on-field success, the answer is simple: It was not the same Ken Macha. It was the neutered, resentful version that Beane crafted. Macha may never have been the best manager available, but he is the victim this time — the victim of an evolution that was so inevitable, anyone but the boss’ boss could have seen it coming a mile away.

And Tim Kawakami of The Mercury News summed up the shattered relationship with one story:

So I saw Billy after a game and asked to talk to him. He said fine, but he had some food and wanted to sit down during the interview.

Where did we go for the talk? Billy zipped right into Macha’s office, which was empty for the time being, plopped down and started eating.

Looked at me, said, “Go ahead, ask.” Usually, everybody stays out  of the manager’s office, by the way, unless the manager is there and is fine with it. Not the A’s way, though.

I started asking, but a few minutes later Macha and Curt Young came back, with plates of food and just in their underwear, obviously looking to eat, change clothes and relax.

They stared at us, I stared at them, Billy just kept eating and talking.

Macha tenatively sat down behind his desk for a few seconds. Very uncomfortable. Shot another glance at Beane. Glared at me. I shrugged, said to Beane, “Umm, maybe we should do this somewhere else.”

Beane looked up like this was the first he’d noticed Macha was there — or cared that he was there — dropped his plate, then just waved at Macha, pointing him out the door. Remember, this was Macha’s own office. After winning for something like the 33rd time in 40 games.

“Ken, you can let us do this, right?” Beane said as he waved.

Beane turned back to me and never looked at Macha again as Macha and Young sighed, got up, and moved out.

That was the relationship. Right there. Beane is the man. Macha always knew it, even when he was in his own office.

Many of the player’s frustrations that came out following the season were rooted in the battles that Macha was having with Beane. For example, Beane and Mocha argued about whether Bobby Kielty and Mark Kotsay should be platooned and about the makeup of the postseason pitching rotation. Those disagreements were microcosms of the larger issues the overbearing Beane was creating:

“Billy wanted Kielty in the postseason, and I play Kotsay, and then Kotsay comes out and says bad things about me while I basically got fired because I played him,” Macha said. “It’s kind of sad. That’s one instance, but it happened a lot.”

Macha decided to take the high road and did not make any of these battles with Beane public until after the season, when he was being attacked in the media. Still, he reserved his criticisms and was largely complimentary of Beane.

There is no question that there were issues in the clubhouse, but how many of those issues were Macha’s fault? And were those issues blown out of proportion by a frustrated team shortly after getting swept in the ALCS? A Boston Globe story offered a very different view of the Oakland clubhouse under Macha:

Macha is blunt and my experience with him is that he tells his players what’s expected of them, and he doesn’t coddle them. He took three players with troubled pasts — Jay Payton (who clashed with Terry Francona), Frank Thomas (considered a bad clubhouse influence with the White Sox at the end) and Milton Bradley (incidents everywhere he’s played) — and guided them to productive seasons. He got them playing together. The team thrived.

And, as late as Sept. 24, only a few weeks before Macha was let go, a San Francisco Chronicle blogger said, “The clubhouse mood and atmosphere are partly dependent on the ‘tude of the manager, and the A’s clubhouse has a good vibe.”

Macha also contended the notion that he was not available to his players:

I’m on the field (before games) everyday. I’m on the airplane with them. In my office with the door open. If anyone wants to talk to me about something, I’ll give them an answer. Maybe people didn’t want to hear the answers I was going to give them, and maybe that’s why they didn’t want to come in. But I was available.

For anyone, like myself, who has read “Moneyball,” it’s hard not to admire Beane. He is a visionary and his aggressive — some would say destructive — personality will not allow him to rest until he builds a winner. It’s that same personality, however, that leads him to belittle his managers and create conflict in his own clubhouse, as is well documented in “Moneyball.”

Macha was caught in the environment Beane created and he still finished with at least 88 wins every season and took his team to the playoffs twice in four years, including a trip to the ALCS. He deserves another opportunity, one where he can work with management to establish a winning franchise. Milwaukee is the perfect place for him to get that second chance, a fact illustrated by a telling quote Macha made in May 2007 as he pondered his future as a manager:

I’m hoping that if I do manage again that I’m going to be able to have a relationship with the GM that is going to be a real good, positive relationship.

I was watching the Sunday night game the other day. The Cardinals were playing the Brewers and Doug Melvin came on. He was talking about his relationship with Ned, how much respect he has for the job that Ned does and how much trust he has in him. Really, to build your relationship with your manager on trust and respect is something I’d be looking for if I do get another job.

Doug said, “I back this guy 100 percent. I only had one manager when I was with the Texas Rangers as the GM. I had Johnny Oates there and we built a tremendous relationship and it wound up being a terrific, terrific experience down there in Texas.”

So, just listening to his words, they kind of resonate with me. Hopefully, as I said, if I do get another job, I’ll be able to have a relationship with the GM similar to that.

I think the relationship can be more similar to that than Macha ever dreamed. Make it happen, Doug.


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