New A’s manager Bob Geren knows you think he’s a puppet. He knows youthink he got the gig only because he’s best-man tight with general manager Billy Beane.
And he knows you think he’ll be wearing a wireless earpiece in the dugout, through which Beane will be telling him what to do, what not to do, what to say and how many pieces of bubble gum he’s allowed to take out of the big white bucket at the end of the bench before it starts coming out of his paycheck.
How does he feel about it? Fine. The way he sees it, you’re the puppet — manipulated by popular perception.
He’s not mad at you, though. He understands. This perception has been taxiing on the runway for a long time, and it took off in full flight when the A’s promoted him from bullpen coach to bench coach for the 2006 season — against the wishes of then-manager Ken Macha, who derisively referred to Geren as "MIT" from that point on.
As in manager-in-training.
Macha was right, of course. But in seething over the situation, he ignored (a) the irony of it all, and (b) that almost every bench coach under 60 in the big leagues — whether or not they’ve quaffed 12-packs of Mickey’s Big Mouth with the GM at the senior bonfire back in the day — is a manager in training.
Here’s the irony: In spring 2002, when Macha was Oakland’s bench coach, Beane denied him the opportunity to interview for the vacant Boston Red Sox manager’s job. Macha had cut his teeth as a minor-league manager in the Boston organization and had been endorsed by several of his former players there, including Nomar Garciaparra and Trot Nixon, and he wanted that job very badly.
Called it his dream job, even, and he never got over Beane saying no.
But Beane, contrary to another public perception, isn’t even close to that big of a bully. He can be a cutthroat cuss, no question, but he didn’t make that decision to crush Macha’s spirit. He made it because he was growing tired of then-manager Art Howe, and he wanted Macha to be his next skipper.
So he kept him around. As his MIT.
And when Beane started growing tired of Macha, whose resentment morphed into misery and paranoia over the years, he identified Geren as the logical successor — based on the same kind of things that drew the Sox to Macha. Geren had been a minor-league manager in the A’s organization for several years, and he’s been heartily endorsed by several of his former players.
Bay Area favorite Eric Byrnes, in fact, called Geren the best manager for whom he’s ever played.
That might not be enough to convince you that Geren’s not a puppet, but you’re wrong. He deserves this, and it has nothing to do with being Beane’s boy.
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 http://www.MLB.com.