At this point, the communication problems between Ken Macha and some of his players have been well-chronicled (pun intended), and the point today is not to minimize those problems or suggest they didn’t exists.
As the players have made abundantly clear since Macha was fired this week as the manager of the A’s, there were plenty of problems and with a lot of players.
But enough is enough, already. The man has been fired. Does his name really have to be dragged through the mud, too? Did his chances of finding future employment have to be diminished by consecutive days of bashing when he’d already been kicked to the curb?
The answer here is no. And it is here that we’ll offer a few reminders that Macha wasn’t as ineffective as a skipper as he’s been portrayed and that his dismissal had as much — if not more — to do with his poor relationship with general manager Billy Beane as it did with his clubhouse relationships.
What’s a big-league manager’s primary objective? Winning games, right? Well, over four seasons, Macha went 368-280 — 88 games over .500 and the fourth-best record in the game over that span. His .568 winning percentage was the second-best in franchise history.
And here’s this, pulled directly from the A’s postseason media guide:
“The A’s won their second American League West championship under Macha in 2006, compiling a 93-69 record despite using the disabled list 15 times. Four players from the Opening Day starting lineup (Milton Bradley, Bobby Crosby, Mark Ellis and Frank Thomas), two members of the starting rotation (Rich Harden and Esteban Loaiza]) and four pitchers from the Opening Day bullpen (Justin Duchscherer, Joe Kennedy, Huston Street and Jay Witasick) all spent time on the DL in 2006.”
What are the other measures of a good manager? How about, “Does his team play hard?” And “Is his team prepared?” If you don’t think the answer to both of those is yes, you haven’t been paying attention to the A’s at all.
Ditto if you think Beane would have fired Macha if the two men were pals. Yes, part of a manager’s job is to communicate effectively with his players, and the players have made it clear that this was Macha’s primary weakness. But nowhere does it say a manager has to be liked by all of his players.
Being liked by his GM, however, is almost imperative.
Bottom line: Beane and Macha are two very different men who simply couldn’t stand working together. They never should have gotten back together after last winter’s odd 10-day divorce and both men will be happier apart.
Macha’s legacy in the Bay Area should not be that of a man despised in his own clubhouse. That’s not entirely true and altogether unfair. He should be remembered as a winner and a good and decent man.
Mychael Urban is the author of “Aces: The Last Season On The Mound With The Oakland A’s Big Three — Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito” and a writer for MLB.com.